bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 11: The Group Hallucinations Historical Claim

WHERE WE ARE
On page 187 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft presents his second of fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7 of this series,  I clarified, analyzed, and evaluated Peter Kreeft’s Objection #2 (Witnesses Were Qualified) against the Hallucination Theory, and in Part 7  I concluded that this objection FAILS.
On page 186 of HCA, Kreeft presents his first objection against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 8 of this series, I clarified Peter Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 9 of this series, I clarified the group-hallucination principle that is a key premise of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
In Part 10 of this series, I argued that we have good reason to doubt the group-hallucination principle that is a key premise of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses), and thus we have good reason to reject Objection #1.
In this post, I will examine the historical claim that is another key premise of Objection #1.
 
THE KEY HISTORICAL CLAIM IN THE ARGUMENT  CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1
Here is the core argument in the larger argument that constitutes Peter Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

This is a SOUND argument only if the group-hallucination principle in premise (B) is true AND the historical claim in premise (3a) is true.  I have previously argued that we have good reason to doubt that premise (B) is true.  It is now time to examine the key historical claim in Objection #1, namely premise (3a).
 
KREEFT’S ALLEGED EXAMPLES OF GROUP EXPERIENCES OF APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
In Part 3 of this series, I pointed out that the examples provided by Peter Kreeft of alleged experiences of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus include both individuals and groups:
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

The argument constituting Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) is based on a principle concerning GROUP hallucinations, specifically where more than two people have an experience at the same time that seems to them to be an experience of the risen Jesus.  Individual experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus are thus IRRELEVANT to Objection #1.   That is why I have used strikethrough font for the examples of individuals who allegedly experienced an alleged appearance of a risen Jesus.  I have also used strikethrough font for the example of the “two disciples at Emmaus” because the argument constituting Objection #1 is about when more than two people have an experience at the same time that seems to them to be an experience of the risen Jesus.  So, that example is also IRRELEVANT to Objection #1.
The example of five hundred people allegedly having an experience at the same time, an experience that allegedly seemed to them to be an appearance of the risen Jesus, obviously satisfies the requirement of being an experience where more than two people have such an experience at the same time.  However, I am excluding this example for now, because Kreeft uses this “evidence” as the basis for his Objection #3 (Five Hundred Witnesses), and it is UNFAIR and UNREASONABLE for him to use this same “evidence” twice, making basically the same objection twice.  Since Kreeft clearly wants this “evidence” to be considered a third objection, I will exclude consideration of this “evidence” in evaluating his Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
 
PREMISE (3a) IS DEAD ON ARRIVAL
That leaves us with just THREE alleged group experiences of the risen Jesus that are based on THREE different passages from the 4th Gospel:

  • the disciples minus Thomas (John 20:19-25)
  • the disciples including Thomas (John 20:26-28)
  • the fishermen on the shore (John 21:1-14)

Because all three alleged examples of group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus are based on the 4th Gospel, premise (3a) is DEAD ON ARRIVAL.  The 4th Gospel is the least historically reliable of the four gospels.  It was written in the closing decade of the first century, about sixty years after Jesus was crucified.  Most mainstream NT scholars conclude that it was NOT written by an eyewitness, but was likely written by an unkown disciple of an unknown disciple of Jesus, and that, at best, it contains some bits and pieces of historical data from the sermons of an unknown disciple of Jesus (who was NOT one of “the Twelve”).  Most of this gospel is fictional, and until recently the 4th Gospel was ignored by scholars who were interested in studying the historical Jesus, because it is so historically UNRELIABLE.
Apart from some careful scholarly arguments in defense of these particular stories from the 4th Gospel, one should be VERY SKEPTICAL about the historical reliability of these stories.  Since Kreeft only provides us with four fucking sentences on Objection #1, there is clearly no scholarly argument presented about any of these passages being an exception to the general unreliability of the 4th Gospel.  So, one could reasonably conclude at this point that premise (3a) is either FALSE or DUBIOUS, and this gives us a good reason to reject Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).

Ending of Luke and Beginning of John on the same page of Codex Vaticanus (c. 300–325)

KREEFT’S FIRST TWO EXAMPLES OF GROUP EXPERIENCES ARE PROBABLY FICTIONAL STORIES
The fact that the 4th Gospel is generally UNRELIABLE gives us a good reason to doubt the story about the alleged group experience of “the disciples minus Thomas”  and to doubt the story about the alleged group experience of “the disciples including Thomas” because both stories are found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel.  However, this is not the only good reason to doubt the historicity of these two stories.
No other Gospel has the “doubting Thomas” story that constitutes Kreeft’s second example of an alleged group experience of the risen Jesus.  So, this second example is without confirmation by any other Gospel.
Luke does have a story about an alleged appearance of Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday, so that is a partial confirmation of “the disciples minus Thomas” story found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel.  But there are inconsistencies between Luke’s story and the story found in the 4th Gospel.  Luke, for example, talks about “the Eleven” being present, which directly contradicts the claim that Thomas was absent for this alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”
35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
(Luke 24:33-36, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

If Luke’s account is accurate, then Thomas was present during this group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday, because Thomas was one of “the eleven”.  But if Luke’s account is accurate, then the whole “doubting Thomas” story in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel is clearly fictional, and the story of “the disciples minus Thomas” in that same Chapter of the 4th Gospel is at least mistaken on the important detail of whether Thomas was present or absent during the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
There are other details that differ between Luke’s account of this event and the account in the 4th Gospel.  For example, in Luke Jesus shows his hands and his feet to his disciples, but in John Jesus shows his hands and his side to his disciples.  Showing his side to the disciples is a reference to an alleged wound in Jesus’ side, a wound that is ONLY mentioned in the Gospel of John.  No other Gospel account of the crucifixion mentions a soldier stabbing Jesus in the side with a spear.  No other Gospel account of an appearance of the risen Jesus mentions a wound in the side of Jesus.  Those details about a wound in Jesus’ side are found ONLY in the 4th Gospel.   So, it looks like the spear wound in Jesus’ side is a fictional element in the 4th Gospel that is carried through to the fictional story of “doubting Thomas” which is also found ONLY in the 4th Gospel.
The contents of what the risen Jesus allegedly says to his disciples on Easter Sunday differs between Luke’s account and the account in the 4th Gospel, so that is another reason to doubt the historical reliability of the stories in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel. In Luke’s account Jesus tells his disciples that he will send the Spirit of God upon them in the near future:

46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”                                   (Luke 24:46-49, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

But in the 4th Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples the promised Spirit of God right on the spot:

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.
(John 20:21-22, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

In Luke’s account of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, Jesus makes a big deal about eating some fish in front of the disciples, to prove that he is not a ghost:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate in their presence.  (Luke 24:46-49, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

According to Luke, the disciples were “terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”  Furthermore, Jesus explicitly speaks about their being “frightened” and shows his hands and feet BECAUSE he wants to PROVE to them that he is NOT a ghost.  Nobody who was a disciple of Jesus who had such a terrifying experience, where Jesus explicitly talks about NOT being a ghost and takes steps to PROVE that he was NOT a ghost would have forgotten this very emotional event.  Yet the account given in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel says NOTHING about the disciples being “terrified”,  NOTHING about the disciples thinking Jesus was a ghost, NOTHING about Jesus eating a piece of fish “in their presence”, and NOTHING about the actions of Jesus being motivated by the purpose of PROVING that he was NOT a ghost.  So, the absence of these closely-related details in the 4th Gospel’s account of this alleged appearance of Jesus is clearly inconsistent with the account in Luke’s Gospel, and raises doubt about the historical reliability of both accounts of this alleged appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday.
The Gospel of Luke gives us a good reason to reject the “doubting Thomas” story from Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel as fictional, and thus to reject “the disciples with Thomas” example of an alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus from the 4th Gospel, and the Gospel of Luke partially corroborates “the disciples without Thomas” example from the 4th Gospel, but also casts doubt on the accuracy and reliability of both versions of this story, because of various inconsistencies in important details between Luke’s account and the account in the 4th Gospel.
But the most serious problem here is that both Mark and Matthew agree that Jesus did NOT appear to his disciples in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, but appeared to them for the first time in Galilee a week or more after Jesus was crucified, and thus his first appearance to his disciples was NOT in Jerusalem and NOT on the first Easter Sunday.  Because Mark is the earliest of the Gospels, and because both Matthew and Luke use Mark as a primary source of information about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus, Mark’s account of what happened on the first Easter Sunday should be given preference over the accounts found in Luke and John.
In terms of objective historical investigation, IF some of the disciples of Jesus actually did experience an alleged appearance (or appearances) of the risen Jesus, THEN the most likely scenario is that the experience(s) of the alleged appearance (or appearances) of the risen Jesus first took place in Galilee a week or more after Jesus was crucified.  (NOTE: Jesus and his twelve disciples had walked from Galilee to Jerusalem prior to Jesus being crucified in Jerusalem, and it would take a number of days for the disciples to walk back to Galilee from Jerusalem.  So, if the disciples started walking back to Galilee from Jerusalem on Easter Sunday or on Monday after that Sunday, then they would not have arrived back in Galilee until about a week after the crucifixion.)
The problem is not merely that the 4th Gospel has been found by NT scholars to be historically UNRELIABLE, but that the other Gospel accounts of what happened on the first Easter CONTRADICT the accounts of alleged group experiences of alleged appearances of Jesus found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gopsel.   The CONTRADICTIONS are not limited to details (like Luke’s account implying that Thomas was present with the other disciples on Easter Sunday), but concern basic historical claims, like that there was a group experience by several of Jesus’ disciples of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.  The earliest Gospel, Mark, clearly implies that this DID NOT HAPPEN, and the Gospel of Matthew agrees with Mark on this basic historical question.  Therefore, the stories about alleged group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem found in the 4th Gospel are not just questionable or dubious, they are PROBABLY FICTIONAL; they are PROBABLY FALSE.  They certainly cannot be used to PROVE premise (3a), or even to provide solid evidence for premise (3a).
 
ONE EXAMPLE OF A GROUP EXPERIENCE OF AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE IS INSUFFICIENT
Kreeft’s first two examples of group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were DEAD ON ARRIVAL, because the 4th Gospel is historically UNRELIABLE, and we have just seen that a more in-depth examination of those two particular stories reveals that they are PROBABLY FALSE and that IF some of the disciples of Jesus experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, this probably first occurred in Galilee a week or more after Jesus had been crucified.  So, we are left with ONLY ONE alleged example from Kreeft about an alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

  • the fishermen on the shore (John 21:1-14)

This example can be challenged on the basis of the view of most NT scholars that the 4th Gospel is historically UNRELIABLE, and thus, apart from a careful scholarly argument that this particular story is an exception to the rule, we have good reason to doubt the historicity of this story.   However, this appearance story takes place in Galilee at least a couple of weeks after Jesus was crucified, based on the 4th Gospel.   So, this appearance story, unlike the first two examples from Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel, does not directly contradict the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.  Furthermore, advocates of the Hallucination Theory agree with Kreeft on the following point:

A disciple (or some disciples) of Jesus experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at some time after he was crucified, and that experience (or experiences) led them to believe that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.

The disagreement they have is NOT that such experiences occurred, but is over the nature of those experiences, whether they were actual sensory experiences of an actually present living and embodied Jesus or hallucinations about Jesus or dreams about Jesus (without a living and embodied Jesus being present).  So, some advocates of the Hallucination Theory might be willing to accept the historicity of “the fishermen on the shore” example of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
It should be noted, however, that ONE EXAMPLE of such a group experience is NOT SUFFICIENT to support the key historical claim made by premise (3a):

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

This premise asserts that such group experiences took place on “multiple occasions”.  One example of such a group experience is NOT ENOUGH to prove that this happened on multiple occasions.  So, because two of Kreeft’s three examples of alleged group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus have been shown to be PROBABLY FALSE, the ONE questionable example that remains FAILS to establish his key historical claim.  Because Kreeft has only provided us with ONE questionable example of such a group experience, we have good reason to doubt premise (3a) and to reject Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
 
THERE ARE NO WITNESSES TO GROUP EXPERIENCES OF AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF THE RISEN JESUS
The word “witnesses” does not appear anywhere in the clarified version of the core argument of the argument constituting Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).  But note that this objection is labeled “Too Many Witnesses”.  So, if there are actually ZERO “witnesses” related to the alleged group experiences that are asserted to have occurred in premise (3a), then that should give us another good reason to doubt or reject Objection #1.  It seems to me to be the case that there are ZERO “witnesses” related to the alleged group experiences specified in premise (3a), so I will now attempt to argue for this view, and then see whether this thinking does provide us with another good reason to reject Objection #1.
In Part 2 of this series, I argued that the term “witness” as used by Kreeft in his case against the Hallucination Theory, should be understood one of two ways:

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.  

In Part 4 of this series, I argued that definition (6a) will not work for Kreeft to make his case, because his focus is on the credibility of the testimony of various people.  In order for the credibility of the testimony of various people to be of any help to his case, there must BE actual TESTIMONY that we now possess from some “witness”.  The fact that someone merely had the POTENTIAL to furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of an event is of no significance if that person NEVER ACTUALLY PROVIDED any testimony about that event.  So only a “witness” in the strong sense spelled out in definition (6b) will be of use for Kreeft to make his case against the Hallucination Theory.
But there is no account of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus that constitutes a firsthand account of that event.  The ONLY firsthand account that we have of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus comes from Paul, who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament.  The Gospels were NOT written by eyewitnesses to a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  The authors of Mark and Luke do NOT claim to be disciples who traveled with Jesus and do NOT claim to have ever laid eyes on the historical Jesus, and they do NOT claim to have seen an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  NT scholars don’t believe that Mark and Luke traveled around as disciples of the historical Jesus, nor that they personally experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
The author of Matthew does NOT claim to be a disciple who traveled with Jesus, does NOT claim to have ever laid eyes on the historical Jesus, and does NOT claim to have seen an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  There are very good reasons to doubt that “Matthew the tax collector” was the author of the Gospel named “Matthew”, one such reason being that there was probably no such person.  Jesus probably had a disciple named “Matthew” but that disciple was NOT a tax collector.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew borrows a story from the Gospel of Mark about Levi the tax collector and makes it into a story about “Matthew” one of the twelve disciples in the inner circle of the followers of Jesus.
Clearly, the real Matthew would not borrow a story from another Gospel about another person and make it into a story about himself.  The real Matthew would be able to tell lots of stories about himself and his relationship with Jesus, without having to borrow material from an author who never even met the historical Jesus.  Since the author of the Gospel named “Matthew” borrows a story from Mark about the disciple Matthew, that is a powerful reason for rejecting the view that the disciple of Jesus named Matthew was the author of the Gospel named “Matthew”.   Since the author of Matthew never claims to have been a direct disciple of Jesus, and never claims to have been an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel, and since there are good reasons to doubt that the disciple named “Matthew” was the author of this Gospel, there is good reason to doubt and to reject the view that the account of the alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus found at the end of this Gospel is an eyewitness account.  The author of Matthew was NOT an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel.
The author of the 4th Gospel was traditionally believed to be John the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  But most NT scholars do NOT accept this traditional view, and even some Evangelical NT scholars doubt that John was the author of the 4th Gospel.  A common view, argued by the great Catholic NT scholar Raymond Brown is that the 4th Gospel was composed by an unknown disciple (or disciples) of an unknown disciple of Jesus.  On this view, there may be bits and pieces in the 4th Gospel that are based on sermons given by an unknown disciple of Jesus (not one of the twelve).  But the material in the 4th Gospel has been strongly shaped by dramatic and theological and ideological purposes, and it has been significantly revised by a second or third-generation Christian believer (or believers) who was NOT an eyewitness to the events described in the 4th Gospel.
The strong shaping of the 4th Gospel by dramatic, theological, and ideological purposes, combined with the fact that the author and revisers of this Gospel were NOT eyewitnesses to the events described in the Gospel explains why this Gospel is so historically UNRELIABLE, and why it would contain stories about alleged group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus that are FICTION.
In short, the Gospels do NOT provide us with any eyewitness accounts of any alleged appearance of Jesus.  The one possible exception to this is the story of “the fishermen on the shore” found in Chapter 21 of the 4th Gospel.  But the problem with that story is that the 4th Gospel is in general historically UNRELIABLE, and was NOT composed by an eyewitness, so this is at best a secondhand telling of this story by an unknown disciple of a disciple of Jesus, and there is no way of telling, with any degree of certainty, whether this particular story originated with a disciple of Jesus or if it came from the imagination of an unknown disciple of an unknown disciple of Jesus.
The ONLY firsthand account of an alleged appearance of Jesus found in the NT is in the letters of Paul.  Paul claims to have had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  But Paul was NOT a disciple of the historical Jesus, and so far as we know Paul NEVER SAW the historical Jesus in person prior to having an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Since Paul had NOT previously seen the historical Jesus, Paul was in no position to identify anyone as BEING Jesus, so Paul’s experience has no real significance as EVIDENCE for the resurrection of Jesus.  Furthermore, Paul was NOT part of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, so his individual experience is IRRELEVANT to Kreeft’s key historical premise in Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory.
 
CONCLUSION
Two out of three of the alleged examples provided by Kreeft of group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus are PROBABLY FALSE.
That leaves only ONE example of a group hallucination (experienced by more than two people at the same time), but ONE example is INSUFFICIENT to show that the key historical claim of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) is true.
Furthermore, the ONE remaining alleged example provided by Kreeft of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus is DUBIOUS, because it comes from the historically UNRELIABLE 4th Gospel, and because that Gospel was NOT composed by a disciple of Jesus nor by someone who was an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel.
There are NO ACCOUNTS in the NT of a group experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus that are provided by an eyewitness who was actually present during that event.
For these reasons premise (3a), the key historical premise of Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses), is DUBIOUS.
I previously argued in Part 10 that premise (B), the group-hallucination principle, which is another key premise of Kreeft’s Objection #1, is DUBIOUS.
Since both key premises of Kreeft’s Objection #1 are DUBIOUS, we have good reason to reject that objection, and thus Kreeft’s Objection #1 FAILS.

bookmark_borderEvidence that Doesn’t Demand a Verdict

I am a left-wing atheist who hates Donald Trump and who is disgusted with every White Evangelical Christian SHITHEAD who supports Trump and his evil racist, sexist, anti-immigrant basket-of-deplorables.
I spend much of my time critically examining the arguments of Evangelical Christian apologists like Norman Geisler, Peter Kreeft, and Josh McDowell.  I have come to the conclusion that the intellectual efforts of these apologists amount to stinking piles of dog shit.  They present mountains of unclear, illogical, ignorant, dubious, and false BULLSHIT as if they were presenting intelligent arguments, thus polluting the minds of millions of Christians by presenting paradigm examples of IDIOCY and STUPIDITY as if they were presenting examples of intelligent reasoning.  I have little respect for these Evangelical Christian apologists and significant contempt for them.
NEVERTHELESS, the recent criticisms of Josh McDowell as being a “racist” strike me as UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED.  So, although I have significant contempt for McDowell and for White Evangelical Christians in general, I am going to BRIEFLY DEFEND McDowell against what seems to me to be UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED criticism.  Even IDIOTS like McDowell can be good-hearted people who are decent and morally upright in character.  In any case, the EVIDENCE presented fails to justify the strong moral condemnation of McDowell.
Part of my strong reaction to recent criticisms of McDowell concerns the sloppy use of the word “racist” and “racism”.  These terms are at least ambiguous and so when used to criticize and to morally condemn a person should be CLARIFIED, at the very least.  Furthermore, since one of the meanings of these terms is particularly odious, to fling these words around in a sloppy and careless way is offensive and is counter-productive in the battle against racism and racial prejudice.

In my view, nobody should be morally condemned as being a “racist” simply on the grounds that he/she has said or done something that indicates racial prejudice.   Racial prejudice is wrong and should be called out whenever it occurs, but the reality is that virtually ALL white people have some degree of racial prejudice which on occasion influences the words and actions of a white person.
Furthermore, racial prejudice is generally NOT as evil and as harmful as the conscious belief that one race is superior to other races or that one race is inferior to other races or that some races are inferior to other races.  One of the meanings of the word “racism” is the belief that some particular races are inferior to other particular races (e.g. the belief that black people are morally and intellectually inferior to white people by nature, because of their race).
When people say that Josh McDowell is a “racist” this is a very strong moral condemnation of him because ONE meaning of “racist” implies a person who holds the belief that some particular races are inferior to other particular races.  But there is NO EVIDENCE that McDowell holds such a belief or advocates such a belief.  So, the use of the word “racist” about Josh McDowell is SLANDEROUS because it suggests a claim about McDowell that IF TRUE would justify strong moral condemnation, but this is a claim for which there is NO EVIDENCE.
 
THE OFFENDING WORDS OF MCDOWELL
Here is a tweet that provided a quote from McDowell that led to the moral criticism and condemnation:

Another person who was present provides a bit more extensive quote of McDowell:

 
MY VIEW OF MCDOWELL’S OFFENDING STATEMENT
First of all, it is patently OBVIOUS to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together that McDowell’s comment is about NURTURE rather than NATURE.  This is clearly NOT a comment about the genes or inherited traits or the natural character of black people.  This is CLEARLY a comment about how black children are generally RAISED or SOCIALIZED.  So, it is clear and obvious that this quote has NOTHING to do with “racism”; that is to say, there is NO EVIDENCE here that McDowell believes that black people all belong to a race that is intellectually or morally inferior to white people who belong to a superior race of humans.
To use this quote as the basis for condemning McDowell as being a “racist” is SLANDEROUS because ONE clear meaning of this term is that the person in question consciously believes that some races are inferior to other races, and in this context, that means holding the belief that black people all belong to a race that is morally and intellectually inferior to the race to which white people allegedly belong.
Second, it is NOT clear that McDowell’s statement is FALSE.  IF McDowell’s statement is in fact TRUE, then we ought to be cautious about morally condemning McDowell for making this statement.   Do we really want to go around morally condemning people for making TRUE statements?  Before people get too bent out of shape, they need to study the relevant FACTS and DATA about how black children are raised in the USA and about how white children are raised in the USA.  Perhaps McDowell’s statement is TRUE, or perhaps it is partially TRUE and partially FALSE, or perhaps it is totally FALSE.  Until one studies the relevant sociological FACTS and DATA, one should not presume to know what those FACTS and DATA show to be the current social reality in the USA.
Third, McDowell probably does deserve some degree of chastisement and criticism, because he probably made this statement on the basis of PREJUDICE and STEREOTYPE, rather than on the basis of sociological FACTS and DATA.  If McDowell had studied the sociology of black families and of the rearing of black children (in the USA), and also studied the sociology of white families and of the rearing of white children (in the USA), then he might have had FACTS and DATA that supported his statement.
However, McDowell has quickly apologized for making this statement, and I think it is very unlikely that he would apologize for making this statement if he made the statement on the basis of FACTS and DATA that he learned from studying the sociology of black families and child-rearing vs. white families and child-rearing.  So, it seems very likely that his statement was NOT based on FACTS and DATA, and thus it was likely made on the basis of PREJUDICE and STEREOTYPE.  In short, it does seem to me that McDowell should be chastised and criticized, but that he is guilty of racial prejudice in his thinking and speaking, and NOT guilty of RACISM.  There is NO EVIDENCE here that McDowell is a racist.
Fourth: “There but for the grace of God go I”.   I am a left-wing atheist, and I HATE racism and racists.  I hate NAZIs.  I hate the KKK.  I hate the alt-right.   I hate skinheads.  I hate yahoos who wave the Confederate flag (particularly the SHITHEAD who waved the Confederate flag in the Capitol Building during the Trump-inspired insurrection). But I am a white guy, and I am aware that us white guys (and white gals) all have some degree of racial prejudice.  Our culture in the USA is saturated with racial prejudice.
So, I might one day say (or write) something STUPID that comes from a PREJUDICE or STEREOTYPE about black people (or about some other people of color).  I don’t want a FREE PASS if that happens.  I hope that I would be called out and criticized for speaking or writing something that arises from racial prejudice in my thinking.  But I would OBJECT to being called a “racist” and to being accused of “racism” and to being morally condemned for the sin of “racism” on the basis that I manifested some racial prejudice in my thinking.  I would view such a strong moral condemnation as being UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED and SLANDEROUS because I do NOT believe that some races are inferior to other races, and I am firmly opposed to such a belief or ideology.
This is the standard that I would insist upon for how other people treat me, so this is the standard I will insist upon for how people treat Josh McDowell.  Yes, he made ONE statement that reflects PREJUDICE or STEREOTYPE about black people, and this does reflect racial prejudice in his thinking.  But that is NOT equivalent to being a “racist”.  This is NOT EVIDENCE that McDowell believes that black people belong to an inferior race of humans, nor that white people belong to a superior race of humans.  Making a statement that reflects racial prejudice in one’s thinking is NOT as bad and as evil as holding (or promoting) the evil belief that some people belong to an inferior race of humans.
 
MCDOWELL’S APOLOGY FOR HIS STATEMENT
Here is McDowell’s apology for his offending statement:

I see nothing wrong with this apology.  It is a clear and straightforward apology.  If I had made a stupid statement like McDowell did, based on racial prejudice or stereotypes, then I would apologize in a similar manner.
McDowell could have gone a bit further by admitting that he made a statement that “does not reflect reality” BECAUSE of his own racial prejudice, because of prejudice and stereotypes in his own thinking about black people.  But he did identify the specific problematic statement as being WRONG, and he affirms his opposition to racism.
I think in this context McDowell is using “racism” in the weaker sense of “racial prejudice”, which makes it harder for him to admit that his statement arose from racial prejudice in his own thinking (because that would be admitting that he was involved in and was promoting “racism”).    Racism is indeed one reason why equality for blacks has not yet been achieved, but another important factor is racial prejudice, such as we see in the thinking and words of Josh McDowell.
This apology would have been a bit better and a bit clearer if McDowell had drawn the distinction between the evil of RACISM and the evil of RACIAL PREJUDICE, and confessed to having made a statement that came NOT out of RACISM but out of RACIAL PREJUDICE in his own thinking.
NOTE: Given the general sloppiness and unclarity of McDowell’s thinking, it is not a surprise to me that he failed to notice this important distinction, and failed to make use of it in his apology.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 10: Evaluation of the Group-Hallucination Principle

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 9 of this series I began to examine the core argument of Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

I pointed out that it is natural for skeptics to raise objections to the historical claim made in premise (3a), but that premise (B), a generalization about group hallucinations, is in need of further clarification, and that I suspected that when the meaning of (B) became clear, it too would turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS.  So, I worked on clarifying the meaning of premise (B).  Probably the most important bit of clarification is that the term “hallucination” should be understood in a broad way, such that it includes DREAMS as being examples of hallucinations.  Here is the definition of “hallucination” that I proposed:

An apparent sensory experience S that seems to be of a person or object is a hallucination IF AND ONLY IF
there is no corresponding external object or actual person present during apparent sensory experience S.

Kreeft needs the term “hallucination” to be understood in this broad manner, otherwise, his case for the resurrection of Jesus immediately FAILS, because if “hallucination” is understood more narrowly, in a way the excluded DREAMS, then Kreeft would have no objection against, and thus no refutation of, the skeptical theory that one or more disciples had a DREAM about Jesus that they mistakenly believed to be experiences of a real and embodied risen Jesus, and that these dream experiences became the basis for their belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
 
KREEFT’S ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (B)
Here is the argument that was given in support of premise (B):

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

THEREFORE:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

Neither Josh McDowell nor Peter Kreeft provides a clear argument in support of premise (2a).  However, McDowell mentions the “details” of hallucinations as being a key idea in support of premise (2a) and that suggests a line of reasoning that I will now spell out.
 
THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
Even just a few “details” about a dream or hallucination can imply a huge number of possible alternative DESCRIPTIONS of that experience.  For example, a person might describe a portion of a dream this way:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

Each element of this sentence describing the dream could be replaced by some alternative possibility.  Instead of a full-grown cat, one could have dreamed about a kitten.  Instead of an orange cat, one could have dreamed about a black cat.  Instead of a tabby cat, one could have dreamed about a hamster or a puppy dog.  Instead of the cat walking slowly, one could have dreamed that the cat ran quickly.  Instead of the cat walking across the foot of a bed, the dream could have been about a cat walking across the floor or across the top of a table.
For the simple description “a full-grown orange tabby cat slowly walking across the foot of my bed” we can abstract various general categories:

  • AGE (newborn, infant, young, full-grown, old)
  • COLOR (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, gray, black, brown)
  • TYPE/ANIMAL (tabby cat, Shetland pony, pointer dog, rattle snake, Angus cow, etc.)
  • LOCOMOTION (walking, skipping, hopping, running, tumbling, crawling, etc.)
  • SPEED (very slowly, slowly, moderately, quickly, very quickly, at full speed)
  • LOCATION (the foot of, the middle of, the top of, underneath, along the side)
  • OWNERSHIP (my X, your X, Our X, Sam’s X, Mary’s X, etc.)
  • FURNITURE (bed, couch, dresser, table, easy chair, nightstand, bench, shelf, desk, etc.)

The possible permutations exceed five possibilities for each of eight categories, so the possibilities exceed 5 to the 8th power or 25 to the 4th power or 390,625 different possibilities.  If we identify six different alternatives for each of the eight categories, then the number of different possible scenarios would be 6 to the 8th power or  36 to the 4th power, or 1,679,616 different scenarios.  Therefore, the description “a full-grown orange tabby cat walked slowly across the foot of my bed” suggests well over a million different alternative scenarios, with just a little bit of thought about different possibilities concerning each of the eight categories referenced in that brief description.
This thinking is what I believe is behind McDowell’s reference to “great detail” in the “descriptions of the appearances” in his presentation of his “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory:

Christ appeared to many people, and descriptions of the appearances involve great detail… (TRF, p.84)

Detailed descriptions of experiences are significant because they suggest millions of possible alternative descriptions, and thus millions of alternative possible experiences/hallucinations/dreams.  Because there are millions of alternative possible dreams/hallucinations relative to a brief detailed description of one such experience, it seems highly unlikely that more than two people would experience the “same dream” or the “same hallucination” at the same time.
 
FACTUAL PROBLEMS WITH THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
It seems, at first thought, that because the following brief description suggests well over a million alternative scenarios, that it would be very unlikely for more than two people to have a hallucination or dream that fits this description:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

However,  as I have argued elsewhere, people in fact often do have similar dreams, and it is quite possible for two people to have the “same dream” at the same time:

The above example of two people dreaming about a full-grown orange tabby cat shows not only that it is possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, but that there is a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this happening.  There might be a full-grown orange tabby cat living in the house with this couple, and that cat may sometimes walk slowly across the foot of their bed.  In fact, the tabby cat might have slowly walked across the foot of their bed just before they went to sleep on the night in question, and thus it would not be a huge coincidence if both of them happen to dream that night about their cat slowly walking across the foot of their bed.  So, it is not merely possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, there is also a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this actually happening, from time to time.     (from my post on McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection)

Although more than two people having the same dream at about the same time is less likely than just two people having the same dream at about the same time, there is still a significant chance for this to happen (for example, if three people were in bed together and saw the tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of the bed, then it would be quite possible for all three people to dream of this happening that night).
Because dreams are based on our experiences, beliefs, and memories, and because the memories, beliefs, and experiences of groups of people can be similar, the contents of dreams by different people can be similar:

The subjects of the studies by Zadra and Nielsen were STUDENTS.  Note that some of their most common dreams involved common experiences and fears of students:  school, teachers, or studying,  and arriving too late, and failing an examination.  This is a strong indication that the contents of dreams are often related to the sorts of emotions and events that the dreamers have commonly experienced in their waking lives.
It is also important to note that according to one study of dream contents one of the more common types of dreams that people report is “A person now dead being alive”!!

 
Jesus was a religious preacher and teacher.  The word “disciple” basically means student.  So, people who devote their lives to following a particular religious teacher, are people who are likely to have dreams about that person and dreams about being taught by that person.  Furthermore, if their beloved teacher dies, then there is a good chance that some of the students or disciples of that religious teacher will experience dreams about that teacher who was then dead being alive.
So, the chance that some of the disciples of Jesus had dreams about Jesus being alive and about Jesus teaching people is quite good, and thus the possibility of two people having the “same dream” about Jesus at about the same time after Jesus died is much greater than one might initially think.  Although there are billions of different possible descriptions of different dream contents that we can imagine, the dreams people actually have are NOT random combinations of people and events; they are based largely on the past experiences and memories of the dreamers.  If a group of people share many common experiences, beliefs, and memories about a particular person (like Jesus), then the chances that two of these people will have a similar dream or even the “same dream” about that person are significant.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (2a) and PREMISE (B)
I have previously argued that the term “hallucination” must be interpreted broadly so that it includes DREAM experiences, otherwise the cases for the resurrection of Jesus presented by Josh McDowell and by Peter Kreeft will immediately FAIL.   Here is premise (2a):

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

This premise is TRUE only if the following claim is TRUE:

2b. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same DREAM at the same time.

But we have seen that premise (2b) is initially plausible because we are aware that there are billions of different possible alternative descriptions of dream experiences, and because we are tempted to assume that all of these billions of possible descriptions of the contents of a dream are equally likely to occur in a dream, and that each different dream description has only a very tiny probability of actually occurring in a particular dream.  But we have seen that people do in fact often have similar dreams because dreams are based largely on the experiences, beliefs, and memories of the dreamers and because groups of people can have very similar experiences, beliefs, and memories (e.g. college students or devoted followers of a religious teacher).  Therefore, claim (2b) is FALSE or at least DUBIOUS.
But if claim (2b) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (2a) is also FALSE or DUBIOUS.  But (2a) is the reason given in support of premise (B) in the argument for Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).  So, the reason given in support of premise (B) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, and thus we have good reason to doubt premise (B), and a good reason to reject the core argument for Objection #1 against the Hallucination Theory.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 9: Clarification of the Hallucination Principle

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 8 of this series, I focused on Peter Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument constituting his Objection #1 (“Too Many Witnesses”) against the Hallucination Theory.    I argued that this was a brief and UNCLEAR version of Josh McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory (found in his book The Resurrection Factor, hereafter: TRF).  On that basis, I was able to make sense out of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument.
The core argument constituting Kreeft’s Objection #1 in my clarified version of his argument goes as follows:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

This is a modus ponens argument; it has the form:

 IF P, THEN Q.   

 P. 

THEREFORE:

Q.   

So the logic of this core argument is fine (assuming that the meanings of the key terms don’t change between the premises or between the premises and the conclusion).  We only need to evaluate the truth or falsity of the two premises in order to determine whether this argument is a strong and solid argument against the Hallucination Theory (although there is one further inference required to arrive at the ultimate conclusion that it is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.)
 
INITIAL EVALUATION OF THE PREMISES
Premise (B) states a principle about hallucinations, particularly about “group” hallucinations.  Initially, this principle seems plausible and reasonable.   So, it is natural to focus on premise (3a), which asserts a historical claim about alleged experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.  I will argue that Kreeft FAILS to show that premise (3a) is true, and thus that this premise is DUBIOUS.  However, there is still some UNCLARITY in premise (B), and when that premise is further CLARIFIED it will cease to be plausible and reasonable.  So, I expect that in the end, I will argue that both premises of this core argument should be rejected, and thus that Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) FAILS to refute the Hallucination Theory,  just like Josh McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection (upon which Kreeft’s Objection #1 is based) FAILED.
 
UNCLEAR  TERMS IN PREMISE (B)
There are at least three UNCLEAR terms in premise (B):

  • the same experience
  • extremely unlikely
  • hallucination

Because premise (B) contains these UNCLEAR terms, it cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands.  These expressions need to be CLARIFIED before one can rationally evaluate the truth or falsehood of premise (B).
 
WHAT DOES “THE SAME EXPERIENCE” MEAN?
Conceptual vs. Empirical Claims about “the same experience”
First of all, “the same experience” cannot be had by even two people, in the sense that any experience, like a hallucination, is a SUBJECTIVE event.  My experiences are MINE, and your experiences are YOURS, and you CANNOT literally have “the same experience” that I just had.  Josh McDowell confuses this conceptual point about experiences and hallucinations with an empirical claim about experiences and hallucinations.  You CAN have experiences that are similar to mine, in that my DESCRIPTION of my experience can closely match your DESCRIPTION of your experience, and my DESCRIPTION of my hallucination can closely match your DESCRIPTION of your hallucination.
For example, a man can experience a dream and describe the contents of the dream this way: “I saw a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.”  If that man’s wife also has a dream, and she describes the contents of her dream this way: “I saw a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.”, then we can reasonably conclude that the man and his wife both had “the same dream” or “very similar dreams”.
In other words, I can give detailed descriptions of my own experiences, dreams, and hallucinations, and if those detailed descriptions match up with a detailed description that someone else gives of his/her experience, dream, or hallucination, then we have good reason to conclude that my experience, dream, or hallucination is “the same” or “very similar to” the other person’s experience, dream, or hallucination.  This is so, even though my experience CANNOT be someone else’s experience, because MY experiences occur in MY mind and CANNOT occur in anyone else’s mind.
An Experience vs. a Description of an Experience
A second important point of clarification is that experiences, especially visual experiences, cannot be fully captured in words or DESCRIPTIONS.  At any rate, the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is actually an extreme UNDERSTATEMENT.
A photographic image on my PC monitor has a resolution of 3840 by 2160.  That means that the color image on my monitor consists of 3,840 pixels across and 2,160 pixels vertically, and thus that this image consists of 8,249,400 individual pixels.  Each pixel can be a different color.  Because my monitor is 4K Ultra High Definition, each subpixel is 10 bits, and each pixel is 30 bits, which means there are over 1 billion different possible colors for each pixel. If we think of the 10 bits per subpixel as a “word” describing the type of RED or GREEN or BLUE that is part of the overall color of one pixel, then three “words” are used to define the color of each pixel.  Based on this analogy, there would need to be 3 “words” to define each of the 8,249,400 pixels = 24,748,200 “words” to define one high-definition color image on my PC monitor.  So, we need about twenty-five million words to fully define one high-definition color image.
But when we see an event, the visual data is more like a video or movie.  We see objects moving through space, changes in shadows, colors, shades, brightness, and shapes.  For a movie to look realistic you need between 30 frames per second and 60 frames per second.  So, ten seconds of a  60-frame-per-second movie would require 600 frames or images.  If each frame or image was of the 4K Ultra High Definition kind (like on my PC monitor), then each frame or image would require about 25 million “words” to define, so a ten-second portion of a 60-frame-per-second movie in Ultra High Definition would require 600 frames times 25 million “words” per frame = 15 billion “words”.  So, a picture, especially a moving picture, is worth a hell of a lot more than just 1,000 words.
Normally, when we DESCRIBE what we saw and experienced during an event, we do NOT use millions or billions of words.  So, the information contained in verbal DESCRIPTIONS of an experience, dream, or hallucination normally captures only a tiny fraction of the information contained in the original experience, dream, or hallucination.
Because when we compare experiences, dreams, or hallucinations between different people, we are actually comparing the DESCRIPTIONS of those experiences, dreams, or hallucinations, and because descriptions are almost always given in dozens of words, or hundreds of words, or in some cases thousands of words, and NOT in millions of words, nor in billions of words, we are comparing only a tiny fraction of the information contained in the original experiences, dreams, or hallucinations.  Therefore, it is virtually impossible to prove that an experience had by person A was “exactly the same” as an experience that was had by person B.  It is, of course, theoretically possible that person A had “exactly the same” experience as person B had, but verbal DESCRIPTIONS of these experiences only give us a high-level summary of the experiences, which does not allow us to compare experiences at the lowest level of details.
Point of View Affects Experiences
There is one more important point about the experiences of two people being “the same”.    Things look different from a different point of view.  The following images are of the same object but from different points of view:

BOWL VIEWED FROM ABOVE

BOWL VIEWED FROM THE FRONT

BOWL VIEWED FROM BETWEEN ABOVE AND THE FRONT

 
The image of the bowl is very different depending on the point of view one has of it.   The same is true of people, plants, animals, and physical objects.  How they look depends on the point of view one has while observing the person or thing in question.
If John is standing behind Jesus, and Peter is standing in front of Jesus, and Thomas is standing to the side of Jesus, on Jesus’ left, then if Jesus is looking straight ahead, John will see the back of Jesus’ head, Peter will see Jesus’ full face, and Thomas will see only the left side of Jesus’ face.  They will all have different visual experiences of Jesus even if they are all looking at a physically present Jesus at the same time.
So, having “the same experience” of Jesus at the same time does NOT mean having the exact same visual experiences of Jesus at the same time.  What it means is that the people in question have visual experiences of Jesus that we would expect them to have IF Jesus was actually and physically present, given their different points of view.   In other words, we understand that in three-dimensional space, different points of view of actual physically present people or objects produce different visual experiences, but the variations between those different visual experiences coordinate with each other in predictable ways.
 
WHAT DOES “EXTREMELY UNLIKELY” MEAN?
At the very least “Extremely Unlikely” means SIGNIFICANTLY MORE UNLIKELY than events that are just “Very Unlikely”.  But what does “Very Unlikely” mean? and exactly how much MORE unlikely does something have to be in order to be SIGNIFICANTLY MORE UNLIKELY?  In short, the expression “Very Unlikely” and the expression “Extremely Unlikely” are both VAGUE.  Furthermore, it makes a big difference what the precise meanings of these terms are because Kreeft is NOT merely trying to show that the Hallucination Theory is somewhat improbable; he is trying to DISPROVE the Hallucination Theory; he is trying to PROVE it to be FALSE.  One might reasonably argue that the qualified conclusion of the clarified version of Kreeft’s argument is TOO WEAK, given that his goal was to DISPROVE or REFUTE the Hallucination Theory:

A1.  It is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

If “very likely” means, for example, that there is an 80% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE, then Kreeft’s argument is TOO WEAK to be considered a REFUTATION because it leaves open a 20% chance (or one chance in five) that the Hallucination Theory is TRUE.  I would take that as a victory for skepticism.  If each of the four skeptical theories that Kreeft attacks have a 20% chance of being TRUE, then the disjunction of those theories could potentially have an 80% chance of being TRUE!  If there is an 80% chance that either the Hallucination Theory or the Conspiracy Theory or the Apparent Death Theory or the Myth Theory is TRUE, then skepticism about the resurrection is clearly the most reasonable position.
This is why Kreeft and other Christian apologists NEED to REFUTE or DISPROVE each one of the various skeptical theories about the resurrection.  There are a number of skeptical theories (actually many more than Kreeft realizes) and if each skeptical theory has some significant chance of being TRUE, then the disjunction of those skeptical theories can potentially be probable, or even “very likely”.
However, it is NAIVE and UNREASONABLE to expect that any historical argument about alleged events in the life of Jesus (or alleged events related to Jesus’ death) could be PROVEN or KNOWN to be TRUE.  Given the nature of ancient history in general, and the generally poor quality and the limited quantity of historical evidence available about the life (and death) of Jesus, we can only reasonably expect to arrive at conclusions that are PROBABLE, not conclusions that are CERTAIN.  So, Kreeft has a very narrow range of probabilities that will allow him to be successful in his apologetic quest.  Showing that a skeptical theory only has a 20% chance of being true is NOT GOOD ENOUGH!  But he has no reasonable hope of showing that a skeptical theory only has a 1% chance of being TRUE (or a 99% chance of being FALSE).
How close to showing that there is a 99% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE does Kreeft need to get in order to be successful?  Would showing that there is a 90% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE be good enough?  That would mean that there might well be a 10% chance that the Hallucination Theory is TRUE.  Once again, if each of the four skeptical theories has a 10% chance of being true, then that leaves open the possibility that the disjunction of the four skeptical theories that Kreeft rejects has a 40% chance of being TRUE.  That hardly amounts to PROVING that the Christian Theory is TRUE, and so this would NOT be good enough for Kreeft to obtain his apologetic goal.
Thus, Kreeft needs to show that the chance of the Hallucination Theory being FALSE is at least 95% (greater than 90% but less than 99%).   There is NO WAY that the weak dubious evidence available on this subject (mostly from the biblical Gospels) will support such a high level of probability.  I don’t think that ANYONE can even show that there is a 95% chance that Jesus actually existed, so showing that there is a 95% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE is a wild fantasy.
In any case, neither McDowell nor Kreeft give us any indication of what they mean by “very unlikely” or “very likely” or “extremely unlikely” or “extremely likely”.  So, in order to evaluate claims in their arguments that use these terms, we need to make educated guesses (like I’m doing here) about what these terms NEED to mean in order for their apologetic arguments to be successful.
 
WHAT DOES “HALLUCINATION” MEAN? 
In his book The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell quotes three different definitions of the word “hallucination” and then provides a similar definition of his own:

…a hallucination is an apparent act of vision for which there is no corresponding external object.   (TRF, 1981 edition, p.84)

This is a fairly BROAD definition of “hallucination” and, although McDowell probably did not realize this, it includes DREAMS.  We have visual experiences when we dream, and “there is no corresponding external object” to the visual experiences of people, animals, and objects that we “see” in our dreams.  So, on McDowell’s definition of “hallucination”, every dream anyone experiences (that involves visual experiences) is a hallucination.
But what does “hallucination” mean to Kreeft?  Unfortunately, because Kreeft’s presentation of his objections against the Hallucination Theory is ridiculously brief, Kreeft provides NO DEFINITION of this key term.  However, since Kreeft appears to have borrowed Objection #1 from Josh McDowell, namely from McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection in The Resurrection Factor, it is reasonable to assume that Kreeft accepts McDowell’s broad definition of “hallucination”, and thus that the term “hallucination” correctly applies to DREAM experiences, as well as to other more typical kinds of hallucinatory experiences, like when a person who has taken LSD and “sees” a fire-breathing dragon is sitting in the middle of a freeway.
McDowell’s definition is, however, clearly wrong because many hallucinations do NOT involve vision or visual experiences.  One of the most common sorts of hallucination is audio, hearing sounds or voices that are not actually present.  But we can easily fix this problem with McDowell’s definition so that it includes other senses besides sight:

An apparent sensory experience S that seems to be of a person or object is a hallucination IF AND ONLY IF
there is no corresponding external object or actual person present during apparent sensory experience S.

This definition is still a broad one that includes DREAMS as being a subset of hallucinations.
As I pointed out when critically evaluating McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory, it is important that “hallucinations” include DREAMS, because if they don’t, then McDowell’s argument for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.  The same is true of Kreeft’s short and unclear version of McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection.
If “hallucinations” does NOT include DREAMS, then there is a significant skeptical theory that both McDowell and Kreeft have FAILED to address and thus FAILED to refute:  the theory that some disciples of Jesus had a DREAM about Jesus and mistakenly believed that the dream was a real experience of an actually present Jesus who had risen from the dead.  Neither McDowell nor Kreeft explicitly considers such a theory.  So, in order for their cases for the resurrection of Jesus to be successful, their objections against the Hallucination Theory must work against this DREAM theory.
Given that McDowell defined the word “hallucination” in a way that includes DREAMS, his argument ought to apply to the skeptical DREAM theory.  Given that Kreeft presumably accepts McDowell’s definition of “hallucination”, particularly for his “Too Many Witnesses” objection (since that objection was borrowed from McDowell), Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) also ought to apply to the skeptical DREAM theory.
If Kreeft wants to define “hallucination” more narrowly than McDowell, so that it excludes DREAMS, then his case for the resurrection of Jesus will immediately FAIL, because Kreeft has provided no objections against, and thus no refutation of, this skeptical DREAM theory.  So, if Kreeft’s case for the resurrection is to be successful as it stands, then Kreeft NEEDS to define “hallucination” in the broad manner that McDowell did so that DREAMS will count as examples of “hallucinations”.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 8: Too Many Witnesses

WHERE WE ARE
In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli; hereafter: HCA), 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 (see HCA, p.182).  If Kreeft FAILS to disprove the Hallucination Theory, like McDowell FAILED to disprove it (see my series of posts on McDowell’s objections to the Hallucination Theory), then Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.
Kreeft 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)

I started my critical examination of these objections with the first set, the “Witnesses” Objections, specifically with Objection #2: The Witnesses were Qualified.
In Part 4 of this series of posts, I argued that premise (1a) in the argument constituting Objection #2 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.
In Part 7 of this series of posts, I argued that a key inference in the argument constituting Objection #2 is ILLOGICAL.  Clearly, premise (3b) in the argument constituting Objection #2 does NOT FOLLOW from premise (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.
Because Objection #2 is based on a DUBIOUS premise and also relies on an ILLOGICAL inference,  I concluded that we ought to reject Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.

OBJECTION #1: TOO MANY WITNESSES
Kreeft states his first objection against the Hallucination Theory in one paragraph:

(1) There were too many witnesses. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective. Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples minus Thomas, to the disciples including Thomas, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the fishermen on the shore, to James (his “brother” or cousin), and even to five hundred people at once (1 Cor 15:3-8).  Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry; over five hundred is about as public as you can wish.  And Paul says in this passage (v. 6) that most of the five hundred are still alive, inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses—he could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true.   (HCA, p. 186-187)

I have used strikethrough text to indicate parts of this paragraph that are concerned with an alleged group of five hundred witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Kreeft has a separate objection concerning those alleged five hundred witnesses (Objection #3: Five Hundred Witnesses), so he is attempting to use that objection TWICE, which is unfair and unreasonable.  I will consider Objection #3 later, but for now, we should ignore Kreeft’s attempt to insert his third objection as part of presenting his first objection.  The strikethrough text should be considered to be part of his presentation of Objection #3, not part of his presentation of  Objection #1.
Because Objection #2 references the “witnesses” previously mentioned in Objection #1, in my analysis and evaluation of Objection #2 I have previously (in Part 4 of this series) spelled out the people that Kreeft is talking about in Objection #1.  I won’t repeat those lists of names here, because we need to clarify Kreeft’s argument first, and later when we evaluate premises about the “witnesses” we will need to spell out who those people were.
 
KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1
Here are some key claims in Kreeft’s argument that constitutes his first objection against the Hallucination Theory:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2. Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry.

3. There were too many witnesses.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

As with Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2,  I have provided the conclusion, based on the context.  This is an objection raised against the Hallucination Theory in order to REFUTE the Hallucination Theory, so the context strongly suggests that the UNSTATED conclusion is that “The Hallucination Theory is FALSE.”
Premise (1) makes three general claims about hallucinations.
Premise (2) asserts a general principle concerning situations where there are at least “three different witnesses” of an alleged event.
Premise (3) asserts a factual or historical claim about the quantity of witnesses who allegedly had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
Also, as with Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2, this argument is ridiculously brief and VERY UNCLEAR.  What does “psychological trigonometry” mean?  Kreeft does not bother to explain or clarify that idea.  Why are there “too many” witnesses?  What constitutes “too many” and why?  How does the subjectivity of hallucinations support premise (2) about “psychological trigonometry”?  Kreeft makes no effort to explain or clarify this messy and confusing argument.
However, I was able to clarify Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument constituting Objection #2 by referencing the likely source of that objection: a defense of the resurrection of Jesus by Humphrey Ditton, so I will once again identify the likely source of Kreeft’s Objection #1.  That way we can try to make some sense of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument above.
It seems fairly clear to me that Kreeft borrowed his Objection #1 from Josh McDowell.  McDowell presents seven objections against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF) which was originally published by Here’s Life Publishers in 1981, thirteen years before Kreeft published his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Intervarsity Press, 1994).
McDowell’s second objection against the Hallucination Theory is the “Very Personal” objection, and that objection references all three of the concepts in premise (1) of Kreeft’s argument above.  Here is Kreeft’s claim:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

Here are similar statements made by McDowell in presenting his “Very Personal” objection:

…hallucinations are linked to an individual’s subconscious and to his particular past experiences(TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

A “hallucination” is a very private event — a purely subjective experience… (TRF, p.85, emphasis added)

The third premise of Kreeft’s argument is also very similar to statements McDowell makes in his “Very Personal” objection.  Here is Kreeft’s third premise:

3. There were too many witnesses.

Here are similar statements made by McDowell in presenting his “Very Personal” objection:

Christ appeared to many people(TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

The many claimed hallucinations would be a far greater miracle than the miracle of the resurrection. (TRF, p.85, emphasis added)

Premise (2) of Kreeft’s argument focuses on the idea of “three different witnesses” having an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, and this can be explained in relation to a key statement that McDowell makes in presenting his “Very Personal” objection.  Here is Kreeft’s second premise:

2. Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry.

Here is a key claim McDowell makes in his “Very Personal” objection that is closely related to Kreeft’s second premise:

…making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time. (TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

Kreeft has focused on the idea of “three different witnesses” experiencing an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time because that is “more than two persons” having such an experience at the same time, which according to McDowell would be “very unlikely” to occur if these experiences were hallucinations.  Kreeft’s UNCLEAR premise (2) thus appears to be BASED UPON McDowell’s clearer principle concerning hallucinations.
ALL THREE of the key claims in Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #1 correspond with statements made by McDowell in the presentation of his “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory, and  McDowell’s book The Resurrection Factor was published 13 years before Kreeft published Handbook of Christian Apologetics, so it is reasonable to conclude that Kreeft borrowed this objection from McDowell.
 
 
CLARIFICATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1
If we assume that Kreeft’s Objection #1 is basically a shortened and less clear version of McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory, then we can make sense out of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

THEREFORE:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

D. IF it is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations, THEN it is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

THEREFORE:

A1.  It is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

Premise (1) is Kreeft’s summary of three key claims made by McDowell in McDowell’s  “Very Personal” objection.
Premise (2a) is McDowell’s claim that apparently was the BASIS for Kreeft’s UNCLEAR premise (2).  So, we can clarify Kreeft’s argument by replacing his UNCLEAR second premise with the clearer related claim from McDowell’s statement of this objection.  Premise (2a) provides the specific “principle” about hallucinations that is essential to this argument.
Premise (B) is an inference from McDowell’s principle to a principle that applies to the circumstances Kreeft has in mind, namely that there are MULTIPLE instances when more than two people had the same experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus at the same time.
Premise (3a) is a significant revision and clarification of Kreeft’s VAGUE and UNCLEAR premise (3), and this clarification is needed so that this key historical premise logically connects with the clarified principle about hallucinations that is asserted in premise (B).  The principle about hallucinations must closely correspond to the historical claim about witnesses to alleged appearances of the risen Jesus so that the logic of the argument will work.
The UNSTATED sub-conclusion (C) is a logical inference from (B) and (3a), and the UNSTATED assumption (D) allows us to infer the desired conclusion (A1), which is a qualified version of our initial interpretation of Kreeft’s UNSTATED conclusion.
Here is a diagram of the logical structure of this argument:

 
 
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

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_borderRalph Reed Tries to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes

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NOTE: This post was contributed by Gregory S. Paul, who is an occasional contributor to Free Inquiry, and who published an important article called “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”.  Here is how Michael Shermer summarized that article:

Is religion a necessary component of social health? The data are conflicting. On the one hand, in a 2005 study published in the Journal of Religion & Society–“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”–independent scholar Gregory S. Paul found an inverse correlation between religiosity (measured by belief in God, biblical literalism, and frequency of prayer and service attendance) and societal health (measured by rates of homicide, childhood mortality, life expectancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen abortions and pregnancies) in 18 developed democracies. “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD [sexually transmitted disease] infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies,” Paul found. Indeed, the U.S. scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies.

from “Bowling for God” by Michael Shermer
in Scientific American on December 1, 2006

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Ralph Reed Tries to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes About the Popularity of Prayer and Religion in America on Bill Maher’s Real Time

I was watching Bill Maher’s Real Time on 8/27 when I realized that prominent hard right-wing evangelical political operative Ralph (Christian Coalition) Reed, who Maher seems to like, was trying to profoundly mislead viewers about the level of religious practice in this country. I am not sure how prevalent his misuse of survey data is among theoconservatives – a web search did not find anything – but he managed to slip a bogus item of information out to the few million who see Real Time every week. So I am sending this out in an effort to try to nip this theocon anti-fact in the bud. Plus this scientist is annoyed by the slick pol’s brazen yet sly misuse of statistics.
 
Reed used the classic tactic of lying by telling the truth while leaving out the pile of contrary data that shows he is lying. First, he acknowledged that rates of nonreligion are indeed rapidly expanding in these United States as church membership and attendance decline with amazing speed – after a slow decline from the 1950s Gallup has recorded a membership decline of about 70% at the turn of the century to under 50% these days (https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx), in line with other surveys as well as reports of closing churches. The seemingly reasonable Reed then offered the logical explanation that the general societal detachment of people from social groups, driven in part by digital media, has something to do with that. Reed then began his verge off into misinformation land when he said all that did not matter all that much because rates of belief in and worship of God remain persistently high because people are becoming increasingly private about it.
 
Here is where being truthful can be a lie. Reed correctly claimed that in 1990 Gallup asked respondents if they pray often, sometimes, hardly ever, or only in times of crisis, or never.
 
Before proceeding, we need a digression about the statistical and other requirements of competent polling. Particularly regarding longitudinal surveys that track levels of and changes in opinions and practices over time. First, such polls must be sufficiently quantitative to give meaningful results that can be compared over the years. In the 1990 poll Gallup blew it – the only quantitatively reasonably useful possible answers were “hardly ever” or “never.” As for “often” and “sometimes” those values are pretty much useless. How often is often? How sometimes is sometimes? Each respondent would have a different notion on that, and will inevitably respond in inconsistent ways. Gallup should have known better and never posed such an ambiguous query. And to track changes the same questions need to be asked every one or a few years to generate an opinion level timeline. It’s basic stuff.
 
In 1990 half of respondents told Gallup they pray often. Which other than telling us what we already know that lots of Americans are religious has no scientific value. What they should have asked was something along the lines of do you pray multiple times a day, once a day, a few times a week, once a week, once a month or so — you get the statistical drift. I mean really, what were they thinking over at Gallup? Demographic dolts. Fortunately, Gallup then did not repeat the query, possibly and hopefully because they did a demographic dope slap and realized their error and good statistical riddance, since asking it again would risk giving misleading longitudinal results.
 
Alas, apparently inspired by the pandemic, in 2020 a Gallup that again should have known better did ask the same dam bogus query. And lo and behold now 55% say they pray often. Reed used this one pair of statistically valueless figures to try to sell Maher and his audience a demographic bill of goods that Amerotheism is not really in decline after all. Bill, and his other guest, understandably not being up on the minutia of recent Gallup results, were not able to perceive or counter Reed’s clever deception (I had to look it up and see what was really going down myself, even though this is an area of my research – for an extensive 2019 analysis of the subject discussed here and beyond see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf).
 
The degree to which Reed was being deliberately deceptive by selectively picking Gallup data, or did not realize or understand the critical caveats and contra stats, I do not know for certain but am very suspicious. In any case, he was grossly misinforming Real Timewatchers one way or another.
 
First, Gallup itself admits that their little trend line on prayer is not statistically meaningful (https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/309638/update-virtual-worship-during-covid.aspx), which Reed did not mention — saying that would have negated his claim right there on the air. Obviously.
 
And here is what Reed did not offer up because it directly disproves his propaganda line that American God belief and worship is not in decline. In a location where Gallup offers up the useless prayer result they also present a number of more properly posed and frequently repeated polls they have been executing and posting for decades. Ones that do a much better job telling us what is really happening in this country a/theism wise (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1690/religion.aspx). So how about let’s check those fascinating and very telling stats out —
 
Those who say that religion is very important in their life went from, well let’s see here, ~60 in the 1990s to under 50% these days in a nice, fairly steady downslope (as also is true of the rest of the results). Meanwhile, those who say theism is not very important rose greatly from 10-15% to a quarter (see below discussion on why levels of rationalism measured in polls are probably on the low side). Gosh, Ralph, you did not bring up that one on Real Time. Because you are too lazy and ill-informed to know it — which seems a stretch since it is right there on the web? Or because you knew it would blow your superficially clever lie out of the water?
 
How about this one. Back in the 1990s, almost two-thirds told the fine folks at Gallup that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems. Now it is heading toward and below half. The rationalists who think religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date? Rose like yeast dough from one-fifth to over a third of the respondents (check out season 1, episode 25 of I Love Lucy for a classic laugh on that bread baking item).
 
Here’s a good one that shows that the days in which the hardcore devout religious right that Reed is a leading fellow traveler of was doing pretty good, while it was the mealy mushy mainline faiths that were taking it on the demographic chin, are no longer operative. In the 2000s those saying they were born-again or evangelical were in the broad area of the lower 40s percentage-wise (which was a little above the values observed in the 1990s). Now is in the mid-30s, hello Ralph. Might you mention that next time you are on the telly?
 
Next up is an oldie but goodie. In the 70s one in four thought the Bible is literally true. Now it’s a quarter or so. So are those who are of the opinion that the Bible is supernaturalistic fantasy mixed with some history, which is impressive because those good people were a mere one in ten back when Jimmy and Ronnie were POTUS. And while support for the creation of humans by God has been slipping, support for evolutionary science is on the way up. Sorry Ken Ham, Philip Johnson, and Michael Behe.
Time for the BIGGIE. One Mr. Reed somehow again failed to chat about as he misled Bill on his own show. Convinced God exists? In 2005 80%. In 2017 64%. A decline of a sixth of the national population in a dozen years. How about God probably does not exist or convinced there is not one. Doubled from 7% in 2005 to 13% in 2017.  And if the fast-shifting trendlines have continued since then, probably still lower for the first and higher for the second here in 2021. But wait, there are more godly Gallup longitudinal deity queries. From 2001 to 2016 God belief sank from nine in ten to eight in ten, those who don’t opt for the supernatural rose to over one in ten. Gallup’s venerable simplistic yes or no on God belief question got virtually all to say yes in the 1950s and 60s, and after a yawning data gap has shown no results similar to the above surveys in the last decade. This is a good place to explain that it is well documented that persons are often reluctant to say they hold an unpopular opinion even when doing so privately by phone or online. A technical effort to use standard sociodemographic techniques to correct for this factor estimates that American atheists as broadly defined make up a quarter of the population (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170516143411.htm), matching or outnumbering a number of major religious sects. Likewise, other studies indicate actual church attendance is about half that claimed to Gallup (and other pollsters). It follows that all the Gallup (and other pollsters’) results for not praying, thinking religion is not societally important, attending church, are not Born-Again, thinking the Bible is not the word of God, understanding we are big-brained apes, are nonreligious, etc., are very probably markedly higher than Gallup, Pew, Harris, GSS, WVS, et al. results seem to indicate.
Gallup points out something interesting. One of their queries indicates that the number of Americans who think religion is having a major influence on America is currently on the high side. But they point out that is directly contrary to their own measures showing the opposite is true
(https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/310397/religion-paradox.aspx). So what gives? Although the query has its uses, it is not a direct measure of how much influence religion is actually having on America, which is not practical to measure, one would think, but what people think it is having. Which may well not be the same thing. That is why, unlike most longitudinal questions, over time the results for this query have fluctuated wildly. Apparently, the rise of the hard right under the aegis of secular hedonist Trump, which has had a strong evangelical component to it, has caused many to presume that religion has revived as a major influencer. Which it has not because even among Republicans theism is on the decline (https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace).
 
So. Only one very unreliable Gallup result that the organization itself does not take all that seriously seems to support political operator Ralph Reed’s patently absurd pretension that polls show that Americans are remaining privately as Godly as ever over time, despite fleeing institutionalized religion. That when all of the more scientifically constructed and frequently asked Gallup queries show that while organized Christianity is declining faster than personal theism, the latter is going down fast too. One can and probably should presume that a data cherry-picking Reed knew that. Such is common among theists – it’s called lying for the church (or mosque or whatever; a young Muslim initially pretending to be uncertain about his beliefs showed up at a local atheist meetup not long ago and proceeded to try to convince the women to convert by quoting inane Quran lines ad nauseam). And if per chance he did not he has not the slightest excuse for not knowing the real and easy to find facts. Ergo, Godly, Born-Again evangelical Reed profoundly lied either deliberately or out of gross negligence and ignorance to a national audience.
 
The dire demographic reality is a big factor behind the push by many theoconservatives to rule this republic via minority votes at the presidential and Senate and state levels, and by packing the Supreme Court. What they should do is use persuasion via free speech to try to get the American majority to go along with their conservative supernaturalistic ways. But that effort has been failing big time for decades with no realistic hope for success. So they are trying to capture the government by electoral hook and crook and use sheer political power to remake America into the kind of right-wing Christian land this nation was back when the government was a bastion of traditionalist values. Remember Comstock Laws? They bemoan the onset of the unprecedented cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1900s that are helping drive the withering of theism. And that’s why the right continues to embrace a chronically dishonest and irreligious Trump who in turn depends on the religious right for the political success he has enjoyed. That makes twisted electoral sense since Trump lost the electoral college by just 45,000 votes in three states – interestingly, I have not found evidence that Reed has either supported or rejected the claim that Trump did not lose in 2020, seems he is trying to avoid entirely ruining his credibility with either side.
 
So how about it Ralph? Will you publicly and prominently retract your claims and acknowledge that Americans have become markedly less Godly over recent decades? And apologize to the host of the show you with your boyish grin tried to snooker?
 
Got to say, I am not holding my breath on that.
 
But you should.
 
Now, being a data-following scientist who really does my best to be objective — which is why I am not a theist – I note that the PRRI has released new results that while confirming the broader trends of recent decades, suggest that the deChristianization of the US may be plateauing out (https://www.prri.org/research/2020-census-of-american-religion). That is possible, but looking at their rather internally contradictory data I am not convinced. All the more so because the PRRI results do not look to be in line with those of other organizations. So we shall have to see over the coming years what the assorted surveys turn up and go from there.
 
And Bill. When you have Reed, and others of his ilk, on your program in the future and they make one of those that sounds kinda dubious claims, do one of your classic yeah like I (don’t) believe that one looks, and warn your audience to take what they just heard with a large load of salt. Really large.
 
You have to watch out for those theocons. They can be sneaky.

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…