bookmark_borderHinman’s Replies to My Objections to ABEAN and REMEC

I. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO ABEAN
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS ABEAN:
Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
 
B. MY MAIN OBJECTION: ABEAN IS VERY UNCLEAR
My contention is not merely that ABEAN is a bad or defective argument; rather, it is so unclear that it is unworthy of serious consideration.   It cannot be rationally evaluated in its current form, because it is VERY UNCLEAR.
An excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response to my objections to ABEAN [bold font added]:
=========================

The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR

The main problem with the ABEAN argument is that it is UNCLEAR.  This is the same problem that I encountered repeatedly in my analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s case for God in his book When Skeptics Ask.  The problem is not so much that ABEAN uses false premises or invalid inferences.  The problem is that nearly every claim in the argument is unclear, making it nearly impossible to rationally evaluate the argument.

what is he calling unclear?: he does not say!!!!

============================
What am I calling unclear?  According to Hinman I don’t say what I’m calling unclear.
This complaint by Hinman is FALSE, as one can see by simply reading the very passage that Hinman just quoted:
…nearly every claim in the argument is unclear…
That is what I am calling unclear.
Since I don’t say that EVERY claim in the argument is unclear, Hinman might think that the expression “nearly every claim” is vague.  But Hinman knows that I have specified exactly which premises were problematic.  Here is another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response [bold font added]:
============================

I judged premises (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) to be VERY UNCLEAR because they each contain at least two different unclear words or phrases, which Hinman failed to adequately define or explain.

He’s going to repeat the numbers,  He has nothing to say,he has made no argument
============================
Clearly, I have specified exactly which premises are VERY UNCLEAR.    Hinman says that I have “nothing to say” and that I “made no argument”.
Once again, if Hinman had simply read the sentence that he just quoted, he would have known that his reply was FALSE.  Here is my argument, spelled out so that even a child can understand it:

1. IF a claim in ABEAN contains at least two different unclear words or phrases, THEN that claim is VERY UNCLEAR.

2. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which contain at least two different unclear words or phrases.

THEREFORE

3. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which are VERY UNCLEAR.

This is what we here on planet earth refer to as an “argument”.  The sentence that he just quoted refutes his own complaint.
OK.  I specified exactly which claims in ABEAN were VERY UNCLEAR, and I specified WHY I believe them to be VERY UNCLEAR, but Hinman still might continue to complain: But what exactly about each of those specific claims makes them unclear?
Hinman, however, knows exactly what about those specific claims makes them unclear, because I listed out the specific words and phrases in those claims that are the main cause of the unclarity of ABEAN.   Another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response shows he was aware of this list [bold font added]:
============================

(2) list of terms he finds unclear
 .
 The unclarity that I based this chart on is the unclarity of the meaning of several problematic words and phrases:
 .
[of course I have defined each of these terms…
============================

Hinman then walks step-by-step through my list of unclear words and phrases from ABEAN.  So, Hinman was perfectly well aware of the exact words and phrases that I believe are unclear and that are the basis for my conclusion that his ABEAN argument is VERY UNCLEAR.  His definitions are, in general,  less clear than the words he attempts to define, and thus they FAIL as definitions.
 
C. TWO EXAMPLES OF HINMAN’S INTELLECTUAL BLINDNESS
I think it is obvious to most readers of my posts and Hinman’s posts about ABEAN, that this argument is unclear and that many words and phrases in this argument are unclear.  But Hinman has some sort of intellectual blindness that prevents him from seeing what is obvious to most of the rest of us, and this blindness comes across loud and clear with his initial comments about two of his unclear terms:
============================

  • naturalistic phenomena
This is obvious,self evident, it;s a common term…
 
[…]
  • temporal
another self evident term that everyone understands…
============================

The meanings of these words are “obvious” and “self-evident”  and “everyone understands” what they mean, according to Hinman.
These are problematic philosophical and theological concepts that REQUIRE clarification and definition.  The fact that Hinman cannot understand this obvious point shows that he is not intellectually ready to argue intelligently for the existence of God, or for any other philosophical claim.
First of all, “naturalistic phenomena” presumably has the same meaning as “natural phenomena”.   We understand the word “natural” in relation to the contrasting word “supernatural”.  These two words represent categories, categories that presumably constitute a dichotomy.  Everything is either natural or supernatural.
I suppose there could be composite things that have both natural components and supernatural components.  Most Christians, for example, believe that humans are composed of a physical (natural) body and a non-physical (supernatural) soul. But human bodies are completely natural things, and human souls are completely supernatural things, so at the level of the basic components that make up human beings, there are no quasi-natural things, and no quasi-supernatural things.
If one does NOT have a clear understanding of what the word “supernatural” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “natural” means.  But the word “supernatural” is highly problematic, and it should be obvious to anyone with some degree of intellectual sophistication that the meaning of “supernatural” is highly problematic.
We have argued about the meaning of the word “supernatural” on more than one occasion here at The Secular Outpost.  In fact, I and others have argued with Mr. Hinman about the meaning of the word “supernatural” here at The Secular Outpost!  He has no excuse for thinking that the meaning of the word “supernatural” is clear and unproblematic.  Thus, Hinman has no excuse for the idiotic belief that “naturalistic phenomena” is a clear and unproblematic term.
The word “temporal” contrasts, as Hinman himself points out, with the word “eternal”.  Once again, if one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “eternal” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “temporal” means.  But the word “eternal” is obviously problematic.  First, it is obviously ambiguous between at least two different senses:
DEFINITION 1:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X has always existed in the past, and X exists now, and X will always continue to exist in the future. 
DEFINITION 2:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X exists outside of time.
I suspect that Hinman takes “eternal” to mean something like what it means in DEFINITION 2.  But this understanding of “eternal” is inherently problematic.  DEFINITION 2 is itself unclear and problematic.  What does it mean for something to be “outside of time”?  How can we tell whether or not something is “outside of time”?  Is this idea logically coherent, or does it contain a logical contradiction?
Furthermore, how can something CHANGE if it exists “outside of time”?  If something that exists “outside of time” cannot change, then how can something “outside of time”  communicate with people who are “inside of time”?  How can something “outside of time” make decisions and take actions that affect people who are “inside of time”?  Unless there are clear answers available to such questions, we don’t clearly understand what the word “eternal” (as used by Hinman) means, and thus we don’t understand what the word “temporal” means either.
This is NOT the sort of thing I expect to have to explain to an intellectually sophisticated person.  These points should be obvious to anyone who has some degree of intellectual sophistication in matters of theology and philosophy of religion.  Hinman’s inability to see and understand these obvious points is astounding to me.
The meanings of these words and phrases are NOT “self-evident” nor are they “obvious” nor are they words that “everyone understands”.  Such comments reflect the thinking of a person who is lacking in intellectual sophistication, of a person who is not yet ready to present an intelligent argument for the existence of God.
I am not going to bother addressing all of the various points Hinman raises about my list of unclear words and phrases, nor about my objections to some of the specific claims in ABEAN.   My main objection to ABEAN stands firm, and Hinman’s responses to my main objection are pathetic: he doesn’t understand my objection because he is clueless about what it means for a word or phrase to be CLEAR.
ABEAN is a VERY UNCLEAR argument, and that made the argument Dead On Arrival, and unworthy of serious consideration.  Those who are intellectually capable of understanding my  objections will be persuaded by them and will not find anything of significance and substance in Hinman’s many and various responses to my objections.  The ABEAN argument was DOA when Hinman first presented it, and it remains cold and dead, despite Hinman’s long-winded posts attempting to resuscitate it.
 
II. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS REMEC:
Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
 
B. MY THREE MAIN OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
OBJECTION #1:
Neither God nor existence are mentioned ANYWHERE in REMEC.
OBJECTION #2:
The central concept of REMEC (i.e. “religious experience”) is left UNDEFINED and VERY UNCLEAR.
OBJECTION #3:
The contents of the key epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based are left UNSPECIFIED.
 
C. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #1
Hinman has nothing intelligent to say in reply to my Objection #1.
So, I will simply re-state the objection in a way that even a child could understand.
Hinman’s REMEC Argument:
(1) we trust perceptions that work for us in navigating the world
(2) we judge by criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared (inter-subjective)
(3) RE fits this criteria
(4 ) enables “navigation” (the point of the criteria)
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
The conclusion of this argument is claim (5):

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (5).

Claims (1) through (4) are the premises of the REMEC argument:

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (1).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (2).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (3).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (4).

Now I will draw an inference that even a child could understand and follow:
There is NO MENTION OF GOD ANYWHERE in the REMEC argument.
The REMEC argument is about “religious experience”; it is NOT an argument about God, and therefore it is NOT an argument about the existence of God.
NOTE:
If Hinman had provided an actual definition of “religious experience”, he could have defined it as an “experience that seems to the experiencer to be of the presence or activity of God.”  (I believe William Alston has a definition along those lines).  In that way, he could have linked the concept of “religious experience” directly to the concept of “God”. I would have objected to such a definition, but it would have at least created a logical connection between claim (5) and the issue of the existence of God. But Hinman failed to provide a legitimate definition of “religious experience”, so no such conceptual connection was established.
 
D. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #2
REPLY #1:
No, first of all I said religious experience (RE) is the umbrella term.
Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to clarify the meaning of this phrase. Hinman considers “mystical experience” to be one kind of “religious experience” and that there are other kinds of “religious experience”. I am aware of that, and my objection showed that I was aware of that. But that does almost nothing to define the term “religious experience”.
REPLY #2:
Secondly, the charge that I’m being unclear is empirically disproved because there is a huge body of academic work from which I researched to write my book.
This is completely irrelevant. Even if we grant the assumption that “there is a huge body of academic work” that is considered in Hinman’s book, this has no relevance to the clarity or lack of clarity in his blog post where he presents the REMEC argument. Hinman’s book might be filled with dozens of crystal clear arguments and definitions, but that doesn’t show that his blog post is clear, and it certainly does not in any way show that he clearly defined the key concept in REMEC (which is “religious experience”) in his blog posts in this debate.
REPLY #3:
Bowen refers to the problem of other kinds of experiences being called RE, yes that is why I called RE an “umbrella term” but ME (mystical experience)is very specific and clear. It’s clear in it’s definition we know exactly what is produced and how to determine a valid mystical experience.
Hinman then quotes various definitions and explanations of the term “mystical experience”. This is, once again, irrelevant to my objection, which is that the phrase “religious experience” is the key concept in the REMEC argument, and that Hinman failed to clearly define what this phrase means. The conclusion of the REMEC argument is this:
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
There is no mention of “mystical experience” in the conclusion of REMEC. The conclusion is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “RE” which is an abbreviation for “religious experience”. Therefore, this argument is about “religious experience”, but Hinman failed to provide a clear definition of this key concept. Hinman literally does not know what he is talking about.
Hinman’s replies above to my objection are all irrelevant to the objection. Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to provide any significant information about what this phrase means. The alleged massive academic content and merits of Hinman’s book are completely irrelevant to the question of whether his blog post on REMEC is clear, and is certainly irrelevant to whether or not his blog post provided a clear definition of the key phrase “religious experience”. Finally, even if we grant the claim that Hinman clearly defined “mystical experience” in his blog post, the REMEC argument is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “religious experience”, and providing a clear definition of “mystical experience” is obviously NOT the same as providing a clear definition of “religious experience”.
Hinman has completely failed to provide a relevant reply to my Objection #2.
 
E. HINMAN’S REPLY TO MY OBJECTION #3:
====================
The criteria is what we use to determine the reliability of our experiences and perceptions, Thomas Reid suggests that criteria, true he does not use the phrases “regular,” “constant.” and “shared,” but the process he describes is best summarize in that way,he gives three examples:
(1)A solider on the battlefield notices all those stuck with bayonets tend to die so he does not ask bunch of Cartesian questions about reality while waiting to be stabbed he get’s out of the way;
(2) A man making love to a woman does not stop in the middle to quiz her about the reality of her existence,
(3) Common people living their lives going about their tasks don’t refrain from putting bread on the table until they they sort out the epistemology,even Descartes waited for retirement.
=========================
Examples are often helpful in explaining or clarifying a general principle, but it is very sad that Hinman takes the giving of these three examples to be sufficient to specify the content of his three key epistemic principles. This illustrates the unclarity and confusion that buzzes around inside of Hinman’s head.
Providing one example of a principle doesn’t even come close to specifying the actual contents of the principle. The fact that Hinman confuses the giving of an example with the clear statement of an epistemic principle is, by itself, sufficient to firmly establish the correctness of my Objection #3.  Given that the above UNCLEAR CRAP is what we get when Hinman has a second opportunity to clearly state his key epistemic principles, I strongly suspect that Hinman is not intellectually sophisticated enough to provide a clear statement of any epistemic principle.
Hinman’s pathetic second attempt at specifying the content of his key epistemic criteria shows that the answer to the question “Where’s the beef?” is: There ain’t any beef here!  Underneath all the bullshit that Hinman spews in the REMEC argument is just more bullshit, more confusion, more unclarity.
All three of my main objections to REMEC stand firm, and each one is sufficient by itself to justify my view that REMEC was Dead On Arrival, and that REMEC is not merely a defective argument, but is an argument that is not worthy of serious consideration.
NOTE:
This is my last and final post on the ABEAN and REMEC arguments (Thank you Jesus!).

bookmark_borderHinman’s REMEC Argument: DOA

Joe Hinman has (allegedly) posted a second argument for the “existence of God”:
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
Although Hinman believes that the claim “God exists” is NOT literally true (but is only “metaphorically true”, whatever that means), he has included the phrase “existence of God” in the title of this latest post, implying that his second argument is an argument in support of the existence of God:
Bowen-Hinman Debate (Existence of God) my argument 2
But his second argument is NOT an argument for the existence of God, nor for the “reality of God” (whatever that means), nor for the rationality of “belief in God” (whatever he means by that phrase).
Rather, Hinman’s second argument, which I call REMEC (Religious Experience Meets Epistemic Criteria), is an argument for an UNCLEAR claim about the UNCLEAR notion of “religious experience”, and so Hinman has attempted to pull a huge bait-and-switch move, and has failed to even attempt to argue for the existence (or reality) of God.
HINMAN’S REMEC ARGUMENT

(1) we trust perceptions that work for us in navigating the world

(2) we judge by criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared (inter-subjective)

(3) RE fits this criteria

(4 ) enables “navigation” (the point of the criteria) 

(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative

 

 REMEC IS DEAD ON ARRIVAL

You can tell that this is NOT an argument for the existence of God by the fact that the word “existence” (or “exists”) does not appear in the conclusion, and because the word “God” does not appear in the conclusion.  Furthermore, the word “existence”, and the word “exists”, and the word “God” do not appear in any of the premises of this argument!!  Because the words “God” and “existence” and “exists” appear nowhere in this argument, I judge this argument, which was supposed to be an argument for the “existence of God”, to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL, just like the first argument (the ABEAN argument) that was presented by Hinman.
There is nothing so sad and so pathetic as an argument for the “existence of God” that never once mentions God or existence.  An argument for the existence of God cannot possibly FAIL any faster or more completely than such an argument.  It is the all-too-common presentation of such sad and pathetic arguments for God that convinces me that theism is unworthy of belief.  Norman Geisler’s pathetic case for God by itself is sufficient to warrant serious doubt about the existence of God.  Hinman’s pathetic ABEAN and REMEC arguments provide more reason for skepticism about God.
I’m tempted to say that the REMEC argument is a SPODS (a Steaming Pile of Dog Shit), but some of the readers and contributors here at The Secular Outpost do not like me to make such harsh criticisms, so I will refrain from doing so now.  However, I will be making some strong criticisms of this so-called “argument”.
Like the ABEAN argument, REMEC is VERY UNCLEAR, too unclear to seriously and rationally evaluate.  Because this is NOT an argument for the existence of God, and because this argument is VERY UNCLEAR,  I’m not going to attempt to evaluate the truth of the premises or the logic of the argument.  I’m just going to point out problems of unclarity, and hope that someday Mr. Hinman will learn how to present a clear and intelligent argument for his views.
PREMISE (1) IS VERY UNCLEAR
“We trust perceptions that…”
What does the word “trust” mean in this premise?  There is no definition or explanation by Hinman of what this means, but it is crucial for the success of this argument that we know precisely what “trust” means in this premise.
What does the word “perceptions” mean in this premise?  Is it possible to “perceive” something that does not exist?  If it is not possible to perceive something that is non-existent, then the use of the word “perception” is question begging in this context.
that work for us in navigating the world”
What does this phrase mean?  This is a very vague idea.  Miracle diets and bogus natural remedies are sold to millions of naive consumers on the basis of testimonials about how some powder, elixir, or pills are ones  “that work for us”.  I wouldn’t spend one nickel on such bogus products without a good deal more clarity and specificity than that.  The phrase “navigating the world” is more poetry than science, and is hardly the sort of phrase that allows for confident judgments and conclusions, apart from provision of a definition or a clear explanation of this concept.
PREMISE (2) IS VERY UNCLEAR
“we judge by…”
This is a very sloppy start to this sentence.  What Himan means here is this:
We judge some unspecified aspect of religious experience by…
Some aspect of religious experience is apparently going to be evaluated, but the aspect is left unspecified, making this sentence UNCLEAR.
Furthermore the concept of “religious experience” is problematic, so this phrase is in need of definition or clarification.  Hinman makes an attempt to clarify the meaning of this problematic phrase:
RE: Religious Experience. umbrella term including mystical experience, born again experience and others.
Hinman gives us one general category of religious experience (i.e. “mystical experience”) and one specific type of religious experience (i.e. “born again experience”), and then adds the open-ended phrase “and others”.
This is NOT a definition of “religious experience”.  Hinman leaves us completely in the dark as to WHY “mystical experience” and “born again experience” should both be categorized as “religious experiences” and as to WHY we should treat these two kinds of experiences as being similar or related to each other.
Furthermore, the addition of the phrase “and others” leaves the door open to a wide variety of other kinds of experiences being categorized as “religious experiences” even though we have been given NO HINT as to how to determine whether some specific experience is or is not properly considered to be a “religious experience”.
So, Hinman leaves the central concept of this argument, namely “religious experience”, VERY UNCLEAR.  This gives us sufficient reason to declare REMEC to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL, even if we ignore the fact that REMEC is clearly NOT an argument for the existence of God in the first place.
According to Hinman, some unspecified aspect of “religious experience” (whatever that means) is to be evaluated in terms of
“...criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared…”
But Hinman makes no attempt to define or clarify what these “criteria” consist of, and that makes an already UNCLEAR premise VERY UNCLEAR, because he is now basing his argument on a set of UNSPECIFIED criteria.  There is a footnote attached to this premise, and so I expected to find some definition or clarification of these UNSPECIFIED criteria in the article that the footnote pointed to:
http://hume.ucdavis.edu/mattey/phi102kl/tkch4.htm
I took a look at this article and discovered the following important facts about it:

  • There is NO MENTION OR USE  of the word “regular” in this article.
  • There is NO MENTION OR USE of the word “consistent” in this article.
  • There is NO MENTION OR USE of the word “shared” in this article.

In other words, not only is Hinman too intellectually lazy to provide clarification of these key “criteria” in his presentation of REMEC,  but he sends us on a wild goose chase to read a long article on epistemology that does not mention or use any of the words Hinman uses to specify his key epistemological criteria!  If these criteria are false or faulty, then Hinman’s REMEC argument FAILS.  But we have no way to evaluate these epistemic criteria because Hinman doesn’t bother to spell out any of his epistemic criteria.
This failure to specify the epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based is sufficient reason by itself to judge REMEC to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL, and to declare premise (2) to be VERY UNCLEAR.
THREE STRIKES, SO HINMAN’S REMEC ARGUMENT IS OUT
Given that Hinman’s REMEC argument never mentions God or existence, and given that Hinman fails to define the central concept of the REMEC argument (i.e. “religious experience”), and given that Hinman fails to specify the content of the three key epistemic criteria, upon which REMEC is based, we now have three good reasons to declare REMEC to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL:

  • Neither God nor existence are mentioned ANYWHERE in REMEC
  • The central concept of REMEC (i.e. “religious experience”) is left UNDEFINED and VERY UNCLEAR
  • The contents of the key epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based are left UNSPECIFIED

There is no point in me continuing my critique of REMEC.  It is a sad and pathetic bit of reasoning that is VERY UNCLEAR and that fails to address the main question at issue. I will not waste another minute of my time examining and thinking about this argument.
As with Norman Geisler’s sad and pathetic and VERY UNCLEAR case for God, Hinman’s arguments provide us with a good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.  Theists have had thousands of years to perfect their case(s) for God, and yet it is all-too-common to find really bad arguments and cases for God, even by educated people who ought to know better than to present such crap to the public.

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN & REMEC Arguments: INDEX

1. Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
2. My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
3. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
4. Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
5. My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
6. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
7. My Rebuttal to Hinman’s Replies to My Objections about ABEAN and REMEC arguments
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2017/08/05/hinmans-replies-objections-abean-remec/

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 3: More Objections

ABEAN Contains Twelve Statements
Although I cannot provide a comprehensive critique of Hinman’s ABEAN argument in just two blog posts (of reasonable length),  I can at least briefly touch on each of the dozen statements in that argument.
[NOTE: ABEAN is an acronym that refers to the claim that “some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary”.]
The statements in ABEAN are numbered (1) through (11), but there is an additional statement that Hinman should have made, but that he did not make clearly and explicitly.  There is a little bit of text in brackets following premise (4):
[=GOB]
There is a similar notation following premise (6):
[=SON]
The notation following premise (6) merely indicates an acronym that will be used as shorthand for the phrase “a Sense Of the Numinous”, a term that was already being used in premise (6).  So, the notation following (6) does not assert anything or add anything to (6).
However, the notation following premise (4) asserts a substantive claim, which Hinman ought to have spelled out as a separate premise:
(A) The Ground of Being is identical with any aspect of being that is eternal and necessary.
The notation “[=GOB]” does NOT merely specify an acronym for a term already present in the argument; rather, it introduces a new and additional concept into the argument, a concept that is very unclear.  Since premise (A) includes at least three unclear terms (“The Ground of Being”, “any aspect of being that is…”, and  “eternal”), I judge this premise to be VERY unclear.
 
The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR
The main problem with the ABEAN argument is that it is UNCLEAR.  This is the same problem that I encountered repeatedly in my analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s case for God in his book When Skeptics Ask.  The problem is not so much that ABEAN uses false premises or invalid inferences.  The problem is that nearly every claim in the argument is unclear, making it nearly impossible to rationally evaluate the argument.
In my view, ten out of the twelve statements that make up ABEAN are VERY UNCLEAR.  Only one statement in ABEAN is clear, and there is one statement that is somewhat unclear (but less than very unclear).  So, in my view, more than 80% of the statements in ABEAN are VERY UNCLEAR, and less than 10% of the statements in ABEAN are clear (only 1 statement out of 12).  Given the prevalence of VERY UNCLEAR statements, it is reasonable to characterize the whole argument as being VERY UNCLEAR, and thus for all practical intents and purposes it is impossible to rationally evaluate ABEAN.  As it stands, ABEAN is little more than a heap of words without much intellectual or philosophical significance.
If Mr. Hinman were to provide clear definitions for the many problematic words and phrases in his ABEAN argument, then it would be possible to rationally evaluate this argument, but I suspect that if he could have provided such definitions then he would have done so already.  So, I’m doubtful that he will be providing clear definitions for all of the many problematic words and phrases in ABEAN.
Here is my view of the general unclarity of Hinman’s ABEAN argument (click on image below for a better view of the chart):
ABEAN CLARITY TABLE
 
 
 
 
 
The unclarity that I based this chart on is the unclarity of the meaning of several problematic words and phrases:

  • naturalistic phenomena
  • temporal
  • some aspect of being
  • eternal
  • the Ground of Being
  • being itself
  • a sense of the numinous
  • God (Hinman has an idiosyncratic understanding of this word)
  • the transcendental signified
  • universal truth at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy
  • believing in… (Hinman has an idiosyncratic understanding of this phrase)

The terms “necessary” and “contingent” are also problematic words, but Hinman provides fairly clear definitions of these two words, which in turn made it possible for me to evaluate the inference from premises (1) and (4) to premise (5) as being an INVALID inference (see Part 2 of this series).  The one time that Hinman provides clear definitions, makes it clear that ABEAN is a bad argument.  This is why, I suspect, that Geisler and Hinman are so unclear and fuzzy-headed when they argue for God.  When they think and reason clearly, their arguments for God fall apart.
I judged premises (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) to be VERY UNCLEAR because they each contain at least two different unclear words or phrases, which Hinman failed to adequately define or explain.
I judged premise (6) to be UNCLEAR, but not to be VERY UNCLEAR, because of the use of the phrase “a sense of the numinous” in that premise.  Given the subjective nature of that concept, it would be difficult for anyone to provide a clear definition of that phrase, and Hinman did make a brief attempt to provide some clarification of this term, but his attempt was inadequate in my judgment.  As it stands, this phrase is too vague to allow one to make a rational evaluation of the truth or falsehood of premises (7) or (8) with any degree of confidence.
 
How Many Possible Interpretations are there of ABEAN?
The easiest sort of unclarity to fix is ambiguity.  There are eight different unclear words or phrases used in ABEAN. (NOTE: some of the unclear words and phrases in the list above are not used in the ABEAN argument, but are used in definitions of terms.)  Most of these unclear words or phrases have MANY different possible meanings, not just two.  So, most of these unclear words or phrases have a more serious problem than that of being ambiguous between two alternative meanings.
But, for the sake of illustration, let’s assume that all eight unclear words or phrases each have only two alternative meanings.  Let’s also assume that these words or phrases are consistently used with the same meaning in all premises where they occur.  How many different possible interpretations of ABEAN would there be, based on those assumptions?  There would be 2 to the 8th power different interpretations of ABEAN:
2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 =  4 x 4 x 4 x 4 = 16 x 16 = 256 Different Possible Interpretations
There are well over two hundred different possible interpretations of ABEAN if the unclear words and phrases in the argument each have only two possible meanings.  But most of the unclear words and phrases have a more serious problem of unclarity than this, so it would not be unreasonable to estimate that there is an average of three different possible meanings for each of the unclear words and phrases.  How many possible interpretations of ABEAN would there be on that assumption?  There would be 3 to the 8th power different interpretations of ABEAN:
3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 =  9 x 9 x 9 x 9 =  81 x 81 = 6,561 Different Possible Interpretations
Given these two estimates of the number of different possible interpretations of ABEAN, it is reasonable to conclude that it is very likely that there are more than 200 but less than 7,000 different possible interpretations of ABEAN.   So, I would need at least 200 blog posts to adequately evaluate all of the various possible interpretations of ABEAN.  Not gonna happen.  Wouldn’t be prudent.  I have better things to do with my time.
 
One Premise in ABEAN is OK
I’m OK with premise (3):
3. Something did not come from nothing.
The wording and clarity could be slightly improved:
3a. It is NOT the case that something came from nothing.
I accept this premise as true, although I’m not entirely certain that it is true.  I think it is based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and I’m inclined to accept that principle (i.e. “Every event has an explanation.”)
 
A Couple of Other Problems with ABEAN
I have many objections and concerns about ABEAN in addition to the basic problem of unclear words and phrases.   But I will just mention two of those problems here.  One objection concerns the statement that Hinman failed to make clearly and explicitly:
(A) The Ground of Being is identical with any aspect of being that is eternal and necessary.
Premise (4) asserts that “Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.”  The word “some” is ambiguous here, just like the word “something” as used by Aquinas and by Geisler in their arguments for God.  What premise (4) actually means is this:
4a.  Some aspect or aspects of being are eternal and necessary.
There is no reason or justification given for limiting the relevant aspects to just ONE aspect.  So, we have, yet again, an ambiguity in quantification that leads to confusion and illogical inferences.  If there are many aspects of being, and if more than one aspect of being is eternal and necessary, then that casts doubt on premise (A).  If there are multiple aspects of being that are eternal and necessary, then it is doubtful that we ought to identify “the Ground of Being” with that collection of aspects.
This is particularly the case if an “aspect” of being is an individual thing or event.  The concept of an “aspect of being” is VERY UNCLEAR, so it is not at all obvious that we can rule out the possibility that individual things or events could count as aspects of being.  Clearly, Mr. Hinman would NOT accept the idea that “the Ground of Being” is composed of various individual things or events (that would lead us in the direction of Polytheism or Pantheism), so the identification of “the Ground of Being” with “some aspect or aspects of being” might well turn out to be an incoherent claim, a claim that contradicts the implications of Hinman’s concept of “the Ground of Being”.
This is one more example that illustrates the need for clear definitions of problematic words and phrases such as “an aspect of being” and “the Ground of Being”.  Without such definitions, we may well be stumbling over various logical errors and incoherent claims.
I also have a problem with premise (9):
9. GOB = God.
First of all, this premise needs to be spelled out in a clear sentence of English:
9a. The Ground of Being is identical with God.
Although Hinman fails to provide a clear definition of “the Ground of Being” or of the word “eternal”, I strongly suspect that by “eternal” he means “outside of time”, and it is clear that Hinman believes “the Ground of Being” to be “eternal”.  Given these assumptions, it follows that “the Ground of Being” cannot change.
But God is a person, or at least a being with personal characteristics like “can think”, “can communicate”, “can make choices”, and “can perform actions”.  But only a being that can change can have such personal characteristics.  Therefore, given the assumption that “the Ground of Being” is something that is “outside of time” it follows that “the Ground of Being” is NOT identical with God.  Premise (9) appears to be false.
So, premise (A) might well, for all we know, be an incoherent statement, and premise (9) appears to be false.

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 2: Objections to (11) and (1)

I. The Conclusion of the ABEAN Argument is UNCLEAR.
(ABEAN is an acronym for: “some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary”, which is premise (4) of Hinman’s argument.)
The first thing that I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Here is the conclusion of Hinman’s ABEAN argument:
11. Therefore, some people are warranted in believing in God.
This might not seem to be unclear at first glance, but the meaning of the phrase “believing in God” is indeed unclear.  One might think this means “believing that God exists”, but Hinman apparently does NOT believe that it is literally true that “God exists” (this is only metaphorically true in Hinman’s view), so this otherwise plausible interpretation of (11) is presumably incorrect.
The biggest problem here, though, is that Hinman defines the word “God” in a way that makes this concept completely unclear and obscure:
God: The transcendental signified, Universal truth at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy
If you want to make an already unclear concept even more unclear, then there is no better way to make things murky and incomprehensible than to go fishing around in the sewer consisting of the writings of the literary theorist Jacques Derrida.  If you aren’t familiar with Derrida’s notion of the “transcendental signified” don’t worry,  I found this brief and very helpful explanation that is sure to give you a firm grasp of this concept:
Upholding the notion of decentering, Derrida asserts that a “fixed” structure is a myth, and that all structures desire “immobility” beyond free play, which is impossible. The assumption of a centre expresses the desire for a “reassuring certitude” which stands beyond the subversive or threatening reach of any play which might disrupt the structure. The centre, that which gives stability, unity and closure to the structure, can be conceived as an “origin”, or a “purpose” — terms which invoke the notion of presence or logos that guarantee such stability and closure.
Now that we are all straight about what Derrida means by the “transcendental signified”, is anyone interested in buying a bottle of my Dr. B’s Amazing Elixir?  It cures baldness, AIDS,  acne, indigestion, and all forms of cancer, and I only charge $50.00 for an eight ounce bottle of it.  What a bargain, right?
I swear to GOB that I did not make up the above quoted paragraph.  You can read it for yourself on the LITERARY THEORY AND CRITICISM NOTES web page.  WARNING: The bullshit is so deep on that page, that you may want to put on a pair of hip waders before clicking on the link.
In short, I have no clue what Joe Hinman means by  the phrase “believe in God”.  I seriously doubt that Hinman has much of a clue either, and I would rather not immerse my mind into the raw sewage that spews out of the books and articles of many modern literary theorists, especially NOT those by Derrida.  So, the ABEAN argument as it stands is DOA.  It has no clear and intelligible conclusion.
The ABEAN argument is a FAILURE even before I examine any premises or any inferences in the argument. An argument cannot possibly FAIL any faster than this one has.
II.  Various Problems with Premise (1) of the ABEAN Argument
Since I have no clue what the conclusion of ABEAN asserts,  I’m just going to start from the start, and work my way through the argument, step-by-step, noting any problems I discover along the way.
The first premise of the argument, like the conclusion, is unclear, at least initially:
1. All naturalistic phenomena are contingent and temporal.
In a philosophical argument, when there is a premise of the form “ALL Xs  ARE Ys”, a premise that is a universal generalization, one needs to determine whether this is supposed to be an inductive generalization based on experience, or (alternatively) an a priori claim.  If it is supposed to be an a priori claim, then is it an analytic truth (like “All triangles have three sides”) or  some other sort of a priori claim (like a synthetic a priori claim)?  More on this point later.
All three concepts in this premise are unclear, at least initially: “naturalistic phenomena”, “contingent”, and “temporal”.
However, Hinman does provide a fairly clear definition of the characteristic of being “contingent”:
Contingency:  That which can cease or might have failed to exist.
The characteristic of being “contingent” contrasts with the characteristic of being “necessary”:
Necessity: That which cannot cease or fail to exist.
Here are standard-form definitions of “contingent” and “necessary”, based on what Hinman says about these concepts:

DEFINITION OF “CONTINGENT”:

X is contingent IF AND ONLY IF either (a) X can cease to exist, or (b) X can fail to exist.

DEFINITION OF “NECESSARY”:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF either (a) X cannot cease to exist, or (b) X cannot fail to exist.

These two concepts are supposed to create a dichotomy, a set of two categories which are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive of all possibilities.  But Hinman’s definitions do NOT create a dichotomy.  That is because something can “fail to exist” that cannot “cease to exist”. (There may be other problems as well.  This is just the problem that I noticed right away.)
For example,  a four-sided triangle CAN “fail to exist” (since it is impossible for such a thing to exist), but a four-sided triangle CANNOT “cease to exist” (because it can never exist–not even for a fraction of a second–it can never cease to exist).  Based on Hinman’s definition of “contingent”, a four-sided triangle is “contingent” because it CAN “fail to exist”.  Based on Hinman’s definition of “necessary”, a four-sided triangle is “necessary” because it CANNOT “cease to exist”.  Thus, based on Hinman’s definitions, a four-sided triangle is BOTH “contingent” AND “necessary”.  Therefore, the categories of “necessary” and “contingent” do NOT constitute a dichotomy.  These two categories overlap each other; they are NOT mutually exclusive concepts.
The fact that something is contingent, therefore, does NOT imply that it is not necessary.  The fact that something is necessary, does NOT imply that it is not contingent.  Thus, even if I granted, for the sake of argument, that ALL “naturalistic phenomena” were contingent, that does NOT imply that no “naturalistic phenomena” are necessary.  Given Hinman’s definitions, these categories are NOT mutually exclusive, so the fact that something falls into one category does NOT exclude the possibility that it ALSO falls into the other category.
Hinman’s inference from premise (1) and premise (4) to the sub-conclusion (5) is logically invalid, because this inference ASSUMES that the categories of “contingent” and “necessary” constitute a dichotomy, that they are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive, but this assumption is FALSE, so the the inference to (5) is INVALID.
What does Hinman mean by the term “temporal”?  The category of “temporal” contrasts with the category of “eternal”.  Once again, it appears that Hinman takes these two concepts to be a dichotomy, to be mutually exclusive categories, and to be jointly exhaustive categories.
But Hinman fails to provide a definition of either “temporal” or “eternal”, so we have no reasonable way to determine whether these concepts really do constitute a dichotomy, or if Hinman is just as confused in this case as he was in the case of the false dichotomy between “contingent” and “necessary”.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  We should presume that Hinman is just as confused and unclear about this set of categories as we have seen him to be about the previous set of categories.  Unless and until he puts forward clear definitions of “temporal” and “eternal”, we should remain doubtful about the assumption that these concepts constitute a dichotomy, and thus we should remain doubtful about any inferences that Hinman makes based on either of these UNCLEAR concepts.
What does Hinman mean by the phrase “naturalistic phenomena”?  This phrase is obviously problematic and in need of clarification.  Hinman does discuss this concept, but does NOT provide a clear definition of this term.  What he says is summed up in this one sentence:
Thus I equate naturalistic with nature and nature with S/TC and phyiscal [sic] law. 
(S/TC  means: Space/Time Continuum)
The term “nature” is hardly much clearer than “naturalistic” and reference to the space/time continuum and physical law might provide a clue about what he means, but this is an inadequate clarification of a key concept in the argument.  Without providing a clear definition of this key term, I don’t see how anyone can rationally evaluate premise (1) as being true or false.
One might assume that because this sounds like other cosmological arguments, that this argument is based on an empirical claim, and that premise (1) is at least one of the empirical claims in this argument.  However, Hinman makes a comment that casts doubt on that reasonable assumption:
The very concept of nature is that of a contingent temporal realm. 
This comment comes very close to asserting that premise (1) is an analytic truth, and thus NOT an empirical claim.  So, Hinman needs to be clearer on this crucial point.  Is premise (1) to be interpreted as an inductive generalization based on experience? or is it an a priori claim?  If it is an a priori claim, then is it supposed to be an analytic truth? or some other kind of a priori claim?  This is yet another problem that makes premise (1) an UNCLEAR statement.  We need to know what sort of claim it is, in order to properly evaluate this claim.  But it is less than clear whether this is supposed to be an empirical claim or an a priori claim.
Premise (1) is hopelessly unclear and confused.  The meaning of the word “contingent” is clear, but is confused, because Hinman mistakenly believes that the categories of “contingent” and “necessary” constitute a dichotomy.  Because of this confusion, the inference from (1) and (4) to (5) is INVALID.  The meaning of the word “temporal” is unclear, because this is a problematic word that is left undefined.  The meaning of the phrase “naturalistic phenomena” is unclear as well.  Hinman makes an effort at clarifying the meaning of this phrase, but his effort falls short; he needs to provide a clear definition of this problematic phrase.  There is also some ambiguity as to the type of claim that Hinman intends to be making.  Is this premise an empirical claim or is it an a priori claim?
III. A Counter Argument from a Skeptical Point of View
Hinman has taken on the burden of proof, which is as things should be.  I made no promise to put forward an argument against the existence of God.  However, in reflecting on the ABEAN argument, I do have some thoughts that constitute an alternative way of thinking about the alleged “contingency” of the universe or of natural phenomena, so I’m going to give Hinman (and the other readers of this post) something to consider (and to criticize) other than my objections to his ABEAN argument:

1. A true explanation of an event requires a true claim of the form “A change in X caused a change in Y”.

2. The Big Bang can be thought of as an event, as “a change in Y”.

3. There is a true explanation for every event, including the Big Bang.

THEREFORE:

4. The Big Bang was caused by a “change in X”, by a change in something. (from 1, 2, and 3)

 5. God, if God exists, is eternal (meaning “God is outside of time”).

 6. Something can undergo change ONLY IF it exists in time.

THEREFORE:  

7. God, if God exists, cannot undergo change. (from 5 and 6)

8. God caused the Big Bang ONLY IF God can undergo change. (from 4)

THEREFORE:

9. It is NOT the case that God caused the Big Bang. (from 7 and 8)

Another way of expressing basically the same point is that the mere existence of God is NOT sufficient to explain the coming into existence of the universe.  There must be an EVENT that caused the universe to come into existence.  If God caused the universe to come into existence, then God did this by creating the universe, by willing the universe to come into existence.  But “creating” and “willing” are activities that require God to undergo change.  So, God CANNOT be the cause of the coming into existence of the universe unless God can undergo change.
But Hinman’s concept of God, as with Norman Geisler and Thomas Aquinas, is that God is outside of time and completely unchanging.  Hinman’s God, and the God of Geisler and of Aquinas, does NOT exist, because their concept of God is incoherent, it contains a logical contradiction: “God caused the universe to begin to exist AND God cannot undergo change”.
NOTE:
There are many more premises and inferences to analyze and evaluate in Hinman’s ABEAN argument, and I’m fairly certain that I will not be able to get to all of the remaining premises and inferences in my next post on ABEAN.  I have agreed to limit myself to just two posts containing my initial objections to ABEAN, so I do not expect my critique to be comprehensive.  However, there are enough problems with just the conclusion and the first premise to sink this argument, so I expect that a second post will be more than enough to justify rejection of the ABEAN argument.

bookmark_borderHinman’s Opening Argument for God

Joe Hinman has published his opening argument for God on his blog site:
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
Here is his argument in summary form:

1. All naturalistic phenomena are contingent and temporal.
2. Either some aspect of being is eternal and necessary unless or something came from nothing (creation ex nihilo)
3. Something did not come from nothing.
4. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary [=GOB]. (from 2,and 3)
5. Some aspect of being does not consist of naturalistic phenomena. (from 1 and 4)
6. Some people experience a sense of the numinous [=SON].
7. The SON is not evoked by any naturalistic phenomena.
8. The SON experienced by some people is evoked by GOB.
9. GOB = God.
10. If 8 and 9, then some people are warranted in believing in God.
11. Therefore, some people are warranted in believing in God. (from 8, 9, and 10)

In future posts I will refer to this as Hinman’s ABEAN argument (some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary).

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 1: “Eternal and Necessary”

Joe Hinman wants me to seriously consider two arguments for the conclusion that “God is real”.  I’m going to focus on his ABEAN argument for a number of posts, before I examine his argument from religious experience.
I have attempted to summarize Hinman’s  first argument in a brief standard form argument:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real.

5. IF there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real, THEN there is good reason to believe that God is real.

THEREFORE:

6. There is good reason to believe that God is real.

I think of this argument in terms of three steps or phases:
THREE STEPS OF THE ABEAN ARGUMENT
   Step 1            Step 2          Step 3
—->ABEAN—->GOBIR—->GIR

ABEAN:  Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

GOBIR:  The Ground of Being is real.

GIR: God is real.

Each of these three key conclusions is unclear, at least they are unclear to me.  Perhaps Hinman has a clear idea of what these three assertions mean, but before I can have any hope of rationally evaluating his ABEAN argument, I need to have a better understanding of what these assertions mean, what they imply and what they don’t imply, what they rule out, and what they don’t rule out.
The Meaning of ABEAN
The first step or phase of Hinman’s argument is to show that ABEAN is true:

ABEAN: Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

But meaning is prior to truth.  We must first understand the meaning of ABEAN before we can assess whether it is true or false, coherent or incoherent.
Here are some other similar assertions with different subjects that should be understood in relation to the meaning of ABEAN:

ATEAN:  Some aspect of TIME is eternal and necessary.

ASEAN:  Some aspect of SPACE is eternal and necessary.

AMEAN:  Some aspect of MATTER is eternal and necessary.

AJEAN:  Some aspect of JELLO is eternal and necessary.

Here are some other similar assertions with different predicates that should be understood in relation to the meaning of ABEAN:

ABBAY: Some aspect of being is bright and yellow.

ABCAR: Some aspect of being is curved and round.

ABSAP: Some aspect of being is strong and powerful.

ABAAA: Some aspect of being is alive and aware.

If the meaning of ABEAN is clear to someone, then the meanings of the above similar statements should also be clear to that person.  If Hinman understands the meaning of ABEAN, then he ought to be able to explain the meaning of these similar statements, and comment on their coherence or incoherence, and their truth or falsehood.
Some of the above statements may be incoherent. but a person who understands the ABEAN assertion should be able to understand and explain why such an incoherent statement was incoherent.  For example, it might be incoherent to assert ABBAY, the assertion that some aspect of being is bright and yellow, because there is a category mistake in applying the properties of “bright and yellow” to being.  The same might be said about ABCAR, and the application of the properties “curved and round” to being.  But if we are to reject ABBAY and ABCAR as incoherent because they apply inappropriate properties to being, how can we be confident that ABSAP and ABAAA are not also incoherent statements?  And if ABSAP and ABAAA are incoherent statements, then how could we be confident that ABEAN was not similarly incoherent?  What sorts of properties can we coherently apply to “being”?
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NOTE:
We are much more familiar with describing physical objects, plants, animals, people, human activities, historical events, etc.  People don’t generally go around describing “being”.  So, the rules or logic and language concerning how to talk about “being” are unfamiliar at the very least, and are presumably unclear, at least to most of us.
However, we do sometimes talk intelligently and coherently about abstractions like “gravity” and “integers” and “science” and “logic” and “time” and “morality”,  so it is possible to make coherent statements about abstractions.  We cannot simply rule out the possibility that there are coherent and true statements that can be made about “being”.
I, for one, would be more comfortable talking about the properties of “being” if there was a collection of several statements ascribing properties to “being” where those statements have a fairly clear meaning and also were obviously true, or at least seemed to be true.  (Mr. Hinman or anyone else reading this post: Can you provide some examples of clear statements about being that are clearly true or that at least seem to be true?  I’m looking for statements about being that are less controversial than ABEAN.)
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Furthermore, if ABSAP and ABAAA are incoherent statements, then it is hard to see how it would be coherent to make similar assertions about the Ground of Being, namely that the Ground of Being was strong and powerful, and that the Ground of Being was alive and aware.  But if we cannot coherently make these assertions about the Ground of Being, then how can we coherently make these assertions about God?  But surely any God who is worthy of worship must be (at the least) strong and powerful and alive and aware.  So, if we cannot coherently make these sorts of assertions about the Ground of Being, then the ABEAN argument falls apart.
Let’s consider what Hinman has to say about the meaning of ABEAN, and whether his comments and attempts at clarification help to answer these questions and concerns:
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BB:
What does it mean to say that an “aspect of being is eternal”?
Joe:
There are only three alternatives for origin of all things given the assumption of cause and effect. They are             (1) reality began in a state of nothing and something emerged from nothing, (2) There is an Infinite Causal Regression (ICR) that just happens to always be as a brute fact. (3) Something exists eternally that gives rise to all that is. for various reasons I reject 1 and 2. From the premise that something cannot come from true absolute nothing, something must be eternal and thus able to give rise to all that is not eternal. So at this point we have a distinction between the eternal which I might call “primordial being;” the first form of being, or “ground of being,”  and temporal being or “the beings.” McQuarrie makes the distinction between primordial being and the beings.
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Joe provides three alternatives and attempts to eliminate two of the alternatives.  Joe rejects the option that something came from nothing (hereafter: SFN), and he rejects the option of an infinite causal regress (ICR).  That leaves the third alternative: “Something exists eternally that gives rise to all that is.”
But “all that is” would include the “something that exists eternally”, so this option can be ruled out, since it is logically impossible for something to give rise to itself.  However, I think Joe unintentionally incorrectly stated the third option.  Here is a revised version of the third option that avoids the logical contradiction of a self-caused being:

SEE: Something exists eternally that gives rise to everything else that has ever existed.

This is more like the language of traditional arguments for God, and I have no problem with the meaning or coherence of SEE (unless Hinman understands the meaning of this sentence in an odd and idiosyncratic way that is different than it would be understood in relation to traditional arguments for the existence of God).
I take it that the initial phrase “Something exists eternally” represents the meaning of the assertion that “an aspect of being is eternal” and that the remainder of the sentence (“that gives rise to everything else that has ever existed”) represents the meaning of “an aspect of being is necessary”.
The “something” here is clearly what Hinman will at some later point argue to be identical with “God”, but then it would follow logically that “God exists”, which is a statement that Hinman wishes to avoid asserting.  Perhaps he only avoids the expression “God exists” because of a concern that this statement, while being a true statement, would tend to be misunderstood in a way that the assertion “God is real” would not tend to be misunderstood (?).  But if Hinman actually rejects the claim “God exists”, then he cannot use SEE as part of his case, because in identifying “God” with the “something” that “exists eternally”, he will logically imply that “God exists” is a true statement.
The ordinary meaning of “exists eternally” is as follows:

X exists eternally IF AND ONLY IF  (a) X has always existed in the past,  and (b) X exists right now, and (c) X will always continue to exist in the future.

There is an indication in one of Hinman’s recent comments about his ABEAN argument, that he is using the phrase “exists eternally” in this ordinary sense of those words:
My point is some thing has to be eternal, the big bang is not eternal, it has a beginning…
The Big Bang is not eternal because “it has a beginning”.  In other words, the Big Bang did NOT always exist in the past, so the Big Bang is not something that exists eternally.
If Hinman is using the phrase “exists eternally” in the ordinary sense of that phrase, then I see a serious problem with his argument in support of ABEAN.  He has left out at least two other options:

Option 4: Something has always existed in the past prior to the beginning of the universe, caused the universe to begin to exist, then ceased to exist (at some later point in time in the past).

Option 5: Something has always existed in the past prior to the beginning of the universe, caused the universe to begin to exist, but will cease to exist either now or at some later point in time in the future.

Hinman’s argument is logically invalid, because it presents us with three alternatives, and eliminates two alternatives, leaving us with the conclusion that SEE is true, but there are more than just the three alternatives that Hinman’s argument presents, so we cannot logically conclude that the third alternative, SEE, is true.  Hinman’s argument for SEE is a false dilemma, or to be more precise, a false trilemma.
Hinman also appears to commit the same fallacy as Aquinas and Geisler in the sloppy use of the ambiguous word “something”.  SEE has at least two different meanings:

SEE1:  There is exactly one thing that exists eternally that gave rise to everything else that has ever existed.

SEE2:  There is at least one thing that exists eternally that gave rise to everything else that has ever existed.

Only SEE1 identifies a single thing, and thus only SEE1 can be used to point to a thing that could be identified with “the Ground of Being” or with “God”.  If there were many things that existed eternally, then we could not identify “the Ground of Being” or “God” with what exists eternally (unless we want to conceive of God as a collection or set of different things, but  I don’t think Hinman’s concept of God allows for God to be a collection or set of different things).
Once again, there appear to be more alternatives than just the five alternatives that we have mentioned so far.  Each alternative that begins with the word “something” must be clarified and turned into two separate alternatives.  Thus SEE must be clarified and turned into SEE1 and SEE2,  and Option 4 and Option 5 must also be clarified and turned into Options 4A, 4B, 5A, and 5B, so we are now up to a total of eight alternatives ( SFN, ICR, SEE1, SEE2, Option 4A, Option 4B, Option 5A, and Option 5C).  We are way beyond a trilemma at this point.
Let’s consider what Hinman has to say in an attempt to clarify what he means by saying that “an aspect of being is necessary”:
=======================
BB:
What does it mean to say that an “aspect of being is necessary”?
Joe: 
In this case, that of ultimate origin. I see necessary more in terms of causality, whereas Necessary is usually taken to mean x is necessary iff x must exist in the same way in all possible worlds. Another way to say it, if it cannot cease or fail to exist. I think that is also true of God, God is necessary in that way. But in thinking about ultimate origins I think that there is another implication that being eternal God is uncased and thus not the product of any conditions prior to himself. Moreover, being the eternal aspect of  being God is in some sense the necessary condition upon which all contingencies depend. In this case being necessary is an implication of being eternal.
=======================
Hinman says that “Another way to say it” is “if it cannot cease or fail to exist”.  This sounds like a definition:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF X cannot cease or fail to exist.

Previously, Hinman suggested that we understand the claim “An aspect of being is eternal” as meaning that “Something exists eternally”, so it seems reasonable to follow the same pattern and to understand the claim “An aspect of being is necessary” as meaning that “Something exists necessarily”.  Presumably, “X exists necessarily” means the same as “X is necessary”, so the above definition works for either phrase.  So, we have a series of expressions that have the same meaning:

Equivalence 1: “An aspect of being is necessary” means “Something exists necessarily”.

Equivalence 2: “Something exists necessarily” means “Something is necessary”.

Equivalence 3: “Something is necessary” means “Something cannot cease or fail to exist”.

From these three equivalences we may validly infer a fourth equivalence:

Equivalence 4: “An aspect of being is necessary” means “Something cannot cease or fail to exist”.

Hinman states that  “I think that there is another implication that being eternal God is uncased and thus not the product of any conditions prior to himself. … In this case being necessary is an implication of being eternal.”
But I don’t see how “being eternal” has any such implication.   Given the understanding that I have outlined of what it means to say that “X is eternal” and given the understanding that I have outlined of what it means to say that “X is necessary”, the claim that “X is necessary” does NOT follow logically from the claim “X is eternal”.
I take it that “X is eternal” means the same thing as “X exists eternally”, and my current understanding of the meaning of “X exists eternally ” is this:

X exists eternally IF AND ONLY IF  (a) X has always existed in the past,  and (b) X exists right now, and (c) X will always continue to exist in the future.

My current understanding of the meaning of “X is necessary” is this:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF X cannot cease or fail to exist.

Thus, if “X exists eternally” logically implied “X is necessary”, then the following inference would be logically valid:

(7) X has always existed in the past,  and X exists right now, and X will always continue to exist in the future.

THEREFORE:

(8) X cannot cease or fail to exist.

This inference, however, is logically INVALID.  The universe could, in theory, have always existed in the past, and exist right now, and always continue to exist in the future, even though the existence of the universe was contingent on God’s will that it exist.
Aquinas pointed out long ago that an eternal universe could be eternally dependent upon God, and thus even if the universe has always existed and continued to exist forever, the universe would remain contingent upon the will of God, and thus the universe CAN cease or fail to exist, namely IF God were to decide someday that it should cease to exist.  If God never in fact chooses to make the universe cease to exist, that would only make it a fact that the universe continues to exist forever, not a necessity that that universe continues to exist forever.
So, either Hinman is WRONG about his claim that “X is eternal” logically implies “X is necessary” or else he has some OTHER MEANING in mind for these expressions than what I have been able to discern so far.
In conclusion, I think I have a fairly good understanding of claims like “Something exists necessarily” and “Something exists eternally”.  So, if the somewhat perplexing expression “An aspect of being is necessary” simply means “Something exists necessarily” then I have no problem with understanding the former assertion.  Similarly, if the somewhat perplexing expression “An aspect of being is eternal” simply means “Something exists eternally”, then I have no problem understanding the former assertion.  But given the apparently invalid inference that Hinman makes, I’m not sure that he would accept these as equivalences, as statements having the same meaning.
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CORRECTION (6/27/17 at 8am):
Normally, when I find a mistake in my reasoning or a questionable factual claim in a post that I have recently published (say in the past 24 hours),  I just revise the post to fix the problem, and don’t bother to point out my error.   However, this post is a part of a debate with Joe Hinman, so I feel obliged to be more circumspect about making revisions to this post; hence this “correction” notice.
Above, I make this critical comment:
…so we are now up to a total of eight alternatives ( SFN, ICR, SEE1, SEE2, Option 4A, Option 4B, Option 5A, and Option 5C).  We are way beyond a trilemma at this point.
This comment is a conclusion based on a mistake in reasoning that I made.
I stand by the point that the word “something” is ambiguous and can mean either “at least one X”  or “exactly one X”.  However,  I was mistaken in treating these as two separate and independent possibilities.   The possibility that there is “at least one X” that is eternal includes the possibility that there is “exactly one X” that is eternal.  These two statements overlap in terms of possibilities.  Therefore, although the word “something” is ambiguous, if Hinman chooses to go with the broader sense of the word, i.e. “at least one X”,  then only five of the alternatives that I mention would be required to cover all of the possibilities, or at least all of the possibilities included in my list of eight alternatives (here are the five: SFN, ICR, SEE2, 4B, and 5B).

bookmark_borderHinman’s Two Ways – Part 1: Outline of Argument #1

Joe Hinman wants me to set aside Mr. Geisler’s pathetic case for God, and to give serious consideration to his case for God, which includes at least two arguments:
Argument 1: an Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary (ABEAN),
and
Argument 2: Religious Experience Meets Epistemic Criteria (REMEC).
In this first post, I will only get started with Hinman’s first argument, attempting to clarify the basic structure of that argument.
Here is an excerpt from Hinman’s initial post on this subject:
==============================
Rather than proving the existence of God I argue for the goal of providing a warrant for belief. A popular saying is often heard on the net: proof is for mathematics and whisky,
GOB = Ground of Being
SON – Sense of numinous [I corrected the spelling of this phrase]
[…]
Argument I: from Eternal Necessary aspect of being
1.All naturalistic phenomena is contingent and temporal
2. Some aspect of being must be eternal and necessary unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo
3. In contrast to Human infinitude the GOB evokes sense of the numinous
4. whatever evokes the SON is a valid object of worship, thus we are warranted in equating Gob with God
5, Belief is warranted from 2 and 4.
===========================
MY INITIAL RESTATEMENT OF THE FIRST ARGUMENT
Hinman follows Tillich in objecting to the statement that “God exists”  or that “God is a being”.  Nevertheless, Hinman insists that the claim “There is no God” is false or mistaken, and he affirms that “God is real”.  I’m skeptical about whether this position is logically coherent, but for now I will not put words into Hinman’s mouth; I will NOT re-state his argument as having the traditional conclusion that “God exists”.
I will, however, restate his argument, in an attempt to make it a bit more clear:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real.

5. IF there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real, THEN there is good reason to believe that God is real.

THEREFORE:

6. There is good reason to believe that God is real.

Note that the IF/THEN statements in premises (4) and (5) might not be intended as logical implications, since they represent the epistemic notion of warrant or “a good reason to believe” a claim.
It MIGHT be the case that Hinman views “an eternal and necessary aspect of being” as logically or conceptually equivalent to “the Ground of Being”, in which case we could drop the phrase “there is good reason to believe that…” and treat (4) as a straightforward logical implication.  It MIGHT be the case that Hinman views “the Ground of Being” as logically or conceptually equivalent to “God”, in which case we could take the IF/THEN statement in premise (5) to be a logical implication.  [JOE: Please comment on the nature of the logical or epistemic relationships between antecedents and consequents in these two premises.  I need you to clearly distinguish the claims that have a “warrant” relationship from the claims that have a straightforward logical implication relationship.]
I believe, however, that the IF/THEN statement in premise (2) is intended as a logical implication, as indicated by the word “must” in Hinman’s original wording of that premise.
I have simplified and generalized Hinman’s argument a bit, by making the connection between GOB and GOD more direct with premise (5). Hinman is free, of course, to use his idea about “the Sense of the Numinous” as a primary justification for premise (5), but this also gives him some wiggle room, in case that justification fails or is insufficient by itself.  He might be able to come up with other ways of justifying premise (5).
I dropped the qualification “unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo” from premise (2), because I assume that Hinman has some sort of reason or argument for rejecting that option, and that reason or argument could then be understood as part of the justification for the unqualified version of premise (2).
=========================
JOE:  Is my re-statement of your first argument OK, or would you like to make some changes to it?
=======================
UPDATED again on 6/1/17 (change is in blue font)
UPDATE on 5/30/17
Based on feedback from Joe Hinman, I’m revising my statement of his argument:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument – Rev.A

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4A. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN the Ground of Being is real.

5A. IF the Ground of Being is real, THEN God is real.

THEREFORE:

6A. God is real.

Hinman’s Sub-Argument for Premise (2):

7. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN either (a) some aspect of being is eternal and necessary or (b) there is an infinite regress of contingent and temporal causes or (c) natural phenomena came into existence ex nihilo (apart from divine causation or activity).

8. It is not the case that there is an infinite regress of contingent and temporal causes.

9. It is not the case that natural phenomena came into existence ex nihilo (apart from divine causation or activity).

THEREFORE:

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

JOE:  Is this good enough for me to get started with my analysis and evaluation? or do you want to make further changes?
I take it that this is a cosmological argument with some connection to arguments by Aristotle and Aquinas, but with some modifications inspired by Tillich’s theology or philosophy.

bookmark_borderDebate: External Evidence for Jesus – Part 2

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NOTE: This post is now complete, as of 11:25 pm pacific time on Saturday, July 2, 2016.
========================
The first sentence of Joe Hinman’s argument from the external evidence of Papias makes a very dubious claim:
Papias was the student of the Apostle John.
By this, Hinman means that Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with the Apostle John.
This claim was explicitly rejected by Eusebius, the the first historian of Christianity:
Yet Papias himself, in the preface to his discourses, indicates that he was by no means a hearer or eyewitness of the holy apostles, but shows by the language he uses that he received the matters of the faith from those who had known them… (Church History 3.39 quoted in: The Apostolic Fathers, edited & revised by Michael Holmes, p.563)
Hinman quotes from the Anchor Bible Dictionary article by William Schoedel on “Papias (PERSON)”.  In that article Schoedel agrees with the view of Eusebius that Papias was NOT an “eyewitness of the holy apostles”:
Eusebius already doubted the reality of a connection between Papias and the apostle John on the grounds that Papias himself in the preface to his book distinguished the apostle John from John the presbyter and seems to have had significant contact only with John the presbyter and a certain Aristion (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3-7). …Eusebius’ analysis of the preface is probably correct…
Schoedel is not the only scholar who accepts the view of Eusebius.  An N.T. scholar who has looked carefully into this issue has also concluded that Papias did not have direct contact with John the apostle.  Richard Bauckham has examined this issue and provided a careful translation of the passage from Eusebius that quotes from the preface of Papias’ book:
I shall not hesitate also to put into ordered form for you, along with the interpretations, everything I learned carefully in the past from the elders and noted down carefully, for the truth of which I vouch. For unlike most people I took no pleasure in those who told many different stories, but only in those who taught the truth. Nor did I take pleasure in those who reported their memory of someone else’s commandments, but only in those who reported their memory of the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the Truth itself. And if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders arrived, I made enquiries about the words of the elders – [that is] what [according to the elders] Andrew or Peter said, or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples [said], and whatever Aristion and John the Elder, the Lord’s disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from the books would profit me as much as information from a living and surviving voice. ( Papias and the Gospels” by Richard Bauckham, October 6, 2012, p.11.  Phrases in brackets were provided by Bauckham as part of his translation of the passage.)
Bauckham provides this footnote about the translation of this passage:

My translation. Compared with my translation in Jesus, 15-16, based largely on Lightfoot, Harmer and Holmes, this is a more careful translation that embodies in a number of ways what I consider to be my better understanding of the passage in the light of further study.
Based on Bauckham’s translation and interpretation of this passage, Papias implies that there are several layers between him and Jesus (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):
Chain of Tradition
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
That there were at least this many layers between Jesus and Papias makes perfect sense, given that Papias was probably writing between 110 and 130 CE.  If we suppose that there was an average of twenty-five years for each succeeding generation of Christian- tradition keepers, this puts Papias as receiving the Christian oral traditions about Jesus and the apostles shortly before 110 CE (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):
 25-Year Generational Cycle
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Given that “John the Elder” is presumably a member of the group called “the elders”,  this implies that “John the Elder” received his information about Jesus from the apostles, just like the other people referred to as “the elders”, and NOT directly from Jesus.
In addition to probably being a member of the group called “the elders”, who received oral traditions “from” the apostles, the person “John the Elder” is presumably situated a couple of generations prior to Papias, and based on the reasonable estimate of a 25-year cycle for passing oral traditions on to the next generation of Christian-tradition keepers, this puts “John the Elder” and other elders (such as Aristion) chronologically about halfway between Jesus and Papias in the chain of Christian-tradition keepers.
So, we have at least two good reasons for doubting the claim that “John the Elder” (and Aristion) had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.  Thus, we have good reason to suspect that (assuming that “John the Elder” and Aristion are being called “the Lord’s disciples”)  the expression “the Lord’s disciples” does not logically imply that they had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
Presumably (in the view of Papias), the apostles had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, and Papias is claiming to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with people “who had been in attendance on the elders” or (based on the translation Hinman provides) with people  each of whom “had been a follower of the elders”.
But it is unclear whether “a follower of the elders” had face-to-face conversations with the elders, and it is unclear whether the elders had face-to-face conversations with the apostles.   For a decade of my life,  I considered myself to be a “follower” of Jesus, and a “disciple” of Jesus, but I never had a face-to-face conversation with Jesus, at least not with a physical, flesh-and-blood historical Jesus.  At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the risen Jesus commands his closest followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  Clearly, Jesus did not expect to have physical, face-to-face conversations with every convert to Christianity.  Jesus believed that a person could be a “follower” or “disciple” of a man who was unavailable for face-to-face conversations.
In the book of Acts, Luke says that Saul (who became the apostle Paul) was making “murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” (Acts 9:1, NIV).  But it is clear that Saul was not just persecuting the apostles, but rather anyone who was “among those who call on this name ” (Acts 9:21) [i.e. the name of Jesus].  Saul was persecuting any Jew who converted to the Christian faith.  Most such Jews never had a face-to-face conversation with a physical, flesh-and-blood Jesus of Nazareth.  The expressions “disciple” and “follower” do not, in and of themselves, logically imply the occurance of personal, face-to-face conversations.
We have only a few brief quotes from Papias, and he does not provide a definition or clarification of what he means by “a follower of X”  or “a disciple of X”, so we cannot be sure that these expressions imply that personal, face-to-face conversations occurred between, for example “a follower of the elders” and one or more of “the elders”.   Nor can we be confident that “John the Elder” had personal, face-to-face conversations with the apostles or with Jesus.
If the average generational cycle was 20 years instead of 25 years, then there would be room for an additional generation of “elders” between the apostles and the followers of the elders (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):
20-Year Generational Cycle
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Based on Bauckham’s general interpretation of this passage from the preface of the book by Papias, and given the unclarity of whether “followers” or “disciples” implies personal, face-to-face conversations, it is likely that there are either three generations (Apostles–>Elders–>Followers of Elders)  or four generations (Apostles–>1st Generation Elders–>2nd Generation Elders–>Followers of Elders) in the chain of Christian-tradition keepers between the Jesus and Papias.
Hinman admits that there is uncertainty as to whether Papias had contact with John the Apostle or John the Elder or both.  So, he broadens the basic premise of his argument to include both possibilities.
Here is how I would summarize Hinman’s argument concerning Papias (at least initially):
The Argument from the External Evidence of Papias
(1) Either Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with John the Apostle, or Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with John the Elder.
(2) John the Apostle had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
(3) John the Elder had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
THEREFORE:
(4) Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with someone who had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
(5)  If Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with someone who had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, then Jesus was a real, flesh-and-blood historical person.
THEREFORE:
(6) Jesus was a real, flesh-and-blood historical person.
I have already indicated some significant reasons to doubt the truth of premises (1) and (3).
As it stands, this argument clearly begs the question.  In order to know that premise (2) was true, or that premise (3) was true, one would have to first know that Jesus existed, that Jesus was a real, flesh-and-blood historical person.  So, the assertion of premise (2) begs the question at issue, as does the assertion of premise (3).
But it would be unfair to charge Hinman with the fallacy of begging the question, because he did not clearly and explicitly lay out this argument.  This argument is my attempt to get at the unstated reasoning that bridges the logical gap between (1) and (6).  So, the problem of question-begging points to the need to revise the argument, to attempt to reformulate the argument in a way that does not so clearly and obviously beg the question at issue.  Such a revised version of this argument would more fairly be attributed to Hinman.
Presumably, Hinman would admit the possibility that John the Apostle (or John the Elder) was a deceiver who lied about having had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, when no such conversations had actually taken place.  Presumably, Hinman would also admit the possibility that John the Apostle (or John the Elder) honestly believed that he had had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, but was honestly mistaken about this belief.  Perhaps someone had deceived John the Apostle (or John the Elder) by pretending to be “Jesus of Nazareth” when in fact there was no “Jesus of Nazareth”.
Presumably, Hinman would also admit the possibility that John the Apostle (or John the Elder) communicated truthfully and honestly to Papias about their experiences and memories, but there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding by Papias in which Papias thought that John the Apostle (or John the Elder) was claiming to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, when no such claim had been asserted or intended (e.g. perhaps John the Apostle had visions or dreams about Jesus in which he had conversations with Jesus, and his descriptions of these experiences were misunderstood by Papias as being ordinary memories of physical events).
Hinman would, presumably, admit that these are all possibilities in which his argument would fail, but Hinman would argue that these skeptical scenarios are unlikely, and that it is more likely the case that there was a truthful and accurate claim made by John the Apostle (or John the Elder) to Papias about having had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
So, the above argument needs to be revised to take into account the idea that Hinman would (presumably) allow the possibility of the various skeptical scenarios that I  just described.  One way to modify the argument for this purpose would be to revise premises (2) and (3) to be about claims made by John the Apostle or John the Elder.  However, if we modify (2) and (3), then we also must modify premises (4) and (5) in order to maintain the logical correctness (validity) of the argument, as well as the conclusion (6):
The Argument from the External Evidence of Papias (Rev. A)
(1) Either Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with John the Apostle, or Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with John the Elder.
(2A) John the Apostle claimed to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
(3A) John the Elder claimed to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
THEREFORE:
(4A) Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with someone who had claimed to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus.
(5A)  If Papias had personal, face-to-face conversations with someone who claimed to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, then it is probable that Jesus was a real, flesh-and-blood historical person.
THEREFORE:
(6A) It is probable that Jesus was a real, flesh-and-blood historical person.
With this revision, however, new problems appear.  Premise (5A) is doubtful.  Just because someone has claimed to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus does not mean that it is probable that this is the case.  To the extent that there were many Jews who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah, the divine Son of God, and the savior of mankind, the claim to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus would have been an easy way to gain favor, power, and influence among those people.
Furthermore, what is the evidence that shows that John the Apostle claimed to have had personal, face-to-face conversations with Jesus?  The Gospels assert or imply this was the case, but we don’t know whether John the Apostle read any of the Gospels.  He might well have died before any of the Gospels were written.  Furthermore, even if he had read one or more of the Gospels, we don’t have any good historical evidence indicating that this happened and what his reaction was to those Gospels.  The problem is even more challenging when it comes to “John the Elder”  since we have virtually no information about this person.  So, premises (2A) and (3A) also seem doubtful, thus rasing doubts about premise (4A) which is inferred from (2A) and (3A).
It would be more fair to attribute the Rev. A version of this argument to Hinman than to attribute the initial argument to him.  However, there are various significant problems with the Rev. A version, even though it avoids clearly and obviously begging the question in the way that the initial version of the argument did.  Given the significant problems with the Rev. A version of the argument, and given that this argument was not clearly and explicitly stated by Hinman, I hesitate to attribute it to Hinman.
It might be that Rev. A is the argument Hinman had in mind, but there is a good chance that he had some other argument in mind, some other bit of reasoning to bridge the gap between premise (1) and the conclusion (6A).   I could continue attempting to make adjustments to the above argument, or to generate other potential arguments, but I think it would be more reasonable to throw the ball back into Hinman’s court and ask that he clarify his argument by explaining how it is that (1) is relevant to (6A).  Apart from such clarification, I might just be wasting my time tilting at windmills.
=================
There are a few more points in Hinman’s post on Papias that I want to specifically address.
POINT 1:
Does that [i.e. the view that Papias only had contact with John the Elder and not John the Apostle] weaken the case for the connection to Jesus?  I don’t think so because Aristion and elder John knew Jesus, they are called disciples.  He probably knew both [i.e both “Johns”] but if he only knew they [sic] latter two they were disciples.
The word “disciples” does NOT imply personal, face-to-face conversations with the teacher in question.  Hinman has not provided an argument showing that the word “disciples” has this meaning, nor that Papias uses the word with this meaning.  Given that we have only a few fragments of second-hand quotes of Papias, I doubt that there is sufficient evidence available to construct a plausible argument for this claim.
POINT 2:
There are indications from Eusebius that Papias had extended contact with the Elder John and with other disciples.  Eusebius writes “in his writings he trasmits other narratives of the words of the Lord which came form [sic] the afore mentioned Aristion and others which came from John the Elder”  moreover he goes on, “the elder used to say this also: … ” And here Eusebius is quoting Papias.  This phrase “the elder used to say…” indicates a personal acquaintance in more than one meeting.
The phrase “the elder used to say…” does NOT imply “personal acquaintance” nor does it imply that the speaker had ANY meetings with “the elder”.   This should be fairly obvious, but if not, one can simply refer to a quote from Irenaeus, which was provided by Hinman in his post on Papias:
Just as the Elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord, recalled hearing from him how concerning these times he used to teach that the Lord would say: … (part of a quotation by Hinman from Against Heresies 5.33.3-4, emphasis added)
By Hinman’s logic the phrase “he used to teach that…” implies that Irenaeus had personal, face-to-face conversations with John “the disciple of the Lord” (i.e. John the Apostle).  But clearly, Irenaeus did NOT have any such conversations, and never claimed to have any such conversations.  So, use of the phrase “he used to teach” does NOT imply that Irenaeus had face-to-face conversations with John the Apostle, and use of the phrase “the elder used to say” does NOT imply that Papias had any face-to-face conversations with John the Elder or with Aristion.
POINT 3:
Moreover, he changes tenses when he speaks of Aristion and Elder John, the [sic] he speaks in present tense, as though he’s still in contact with them.
Use of the present tense could indicate that Aristion and John the Elder were still alive at the time that Papias was inquiring the followers of Aristion and John the Elder about their knowledge of the sayings of the Apostles.  The translation by Bauckham says Papias was asking about what Aristion and John the Elder “were saying”, which is compatible with the idea of refering to a time in the past when Papias was inquiring about the words of Aristion and John the Elder who were (at that time in the past) still alive.  That time in the past might be several years  or even a decade prior to the time Papias got around to writing his book.
POINT 4:
…and he [i.e. Papias] moreover asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John.  Accordingly he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions. …  (part of a quote from Eusebius provided by Hinman)
Note that this does not appear to be a quotation of Papias by Eusebius, but rather an interpretation of Papias by Eusebius.  Since we are not given the exact words of Papias, we are being asked to rely on Eusebius to correctly interpret the words of Papias.  But what follows the word “Accordingly” appears to be the reason or reasons that are the basis for this interpretation: “he mentions them frequently by name” and “in his writings gives their traditions”.  If these are the reasons for this inference, then they are weak reasons, and that raises significant doubts about the inference or interpretation provided by Eusebius about what Papias was asserting.  Furthermore, if Papias did in fact have face-to-face conversations with Aristion and John the Elder, we would expect him to have mentioned that in his preface, rather than to imply that he received his information from people who were “followers of the elders”.  So, this is a second reason to doubt the interpretation provided by Eusebius in the above quote.

bookmark_borderDebate: The External Evidence for Jesus – Part 1

Joe Hinman’s first argument for the existence of Jesus is based on references to Jesus in the Talmud:

We know Jesus was in the Talmud and that is a fact admitted by Rabbis.  Some references use his name (Yeshua) some use code words such as “such a one” or “Panthera”.  The reason codes are used, is that the commentators censored the works and removed overt reverences [sic] to Jesus (although they missed some) to prevent Christians from inflicting persecution.  We have many of the out takes in various libraries such as Cambridge.

According to Hinman, it is not merely the fact that there are several references to Jesus in the Talmud that confirms the existence of Jesus but also the way that those passages speak about Jesus:

The point is he is always taken as a historical figure. 

Since there are allegedly multiple (more than one) references in the Talmud  that “use his name”  and there are allegedly multiple references in the Talmud that “use code words” to refer to Jesus, and since there are allegedly “many” references to Jesus that can be shown to have been censored, and also some (a few?) additional references that were NOT censored, Hinman is implying that there are several references to Jesus in the Talmud, at that ALL of these several references speak of Jesus in a way that assumes or implies that Jesus was a real flesh-and-blood “historical figure”.
Here is how I would summarize Joe Hinman’s first argument:

1. There are MANY references to Jesus in the Talmud that were censored but that were preserved in some texts.

2. There are A FEW references to Jesus in the Talmud that were not censored.

3. ALL of the references to Jesus in the Talmud speak of Jesus in a way that assumes or implies that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical figure.

4. IF (1), (2), and (3) are true, THEN the external evidence from the Talmud is sufficient to make it reasonable to believe that Jesus existed as a flesh-and-blood historical figure.

THEREFORE:

5. The external evidence from the Talmud is sufficient to make it reasonable to believe that Jesus existed as a flesh-and-blood historical figure.

In order to show that premise (1) is true, I would expect Hinman to produce at least five or six quotations from the Talmud that have references to Jesus that can be shown to have been censored.  In order to show that premise (2) is true, I would expect Hinman to produce at least three or four quotations from the Talmud that have references to Jesus that were not censored.
If there were only about a dozen references to Jesus in the Talmud, then in order to show that premise (3) is true, I would expect Hinman to show that in each one of those references, Jesus was spoken of in a way that assumes or implies that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical figure.  If, however, there were dozens of references to Jesus in the Talmud, I would not expect Hinman to walk through each and every such reference, but I would expect that he would discuss a significant sample of those references (perhaps a dozen passages) that included a number of passages from various areas of the Talmud, and that included both censored passages and non-censored passages.
Looking over the evidence that Hinman presents about the alleged references to Jesus in the Talmud,  it seems to me that his evidence is too skimpy to adequately support his factual premises (1), (2), and (3).  I also think that premise (4) is false or dubious, at least as it stands.  The principle stated in premise (4) will, I believe, need to be modified to be made plausible, and if it is modified to make it plausible, there may be some additional claims or premises required to make this argument work.  I suspect that repairing premise (4) will reveal a gap in Hinman’s first argument, and that he will have more work to do to fill in that gap.  We shall see.
Before we start to examine specific passages from the Talmud, let’s review some background information about the Talmud from the N.T. scholar Bart Ehrman:

The Talmud is a collection of disparate materials from early Judaism: legal disputes, anecdotes, folklore, customs, and sayings.  Most of the material relates directly to teachings of and stories about the early rabbis, that is, Jewish teachers.  The collection was put together long after the days of Jesus.

The core of the Talmud is the Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic teachings about the Jewish law, based on oral traditions that had long been in circulation, and written in the early third century, some two hundred years after Jesus would have died.  Most of the Talmud, however, consists of a series of commentaries by later rabbis on the Mishnah, called Gemara.  there are two different sets of these commenaries, one produced in the fourth century by Jewish scholars who lived in Palestine, the other produced in the fifth century by scholars of Babylon.  (Did Jesus Exist?, p. 66-67)

So there are two main categories of writtings in the Jewish Talmud:

  • the Mishnah (written in the early third century)
  • the Gemara (commentaries by later rabbis on the Mishna)

The Gemara contains two different sets of commentaries:

  • one produced in the fourth century by Jewish scholars who lived in Palestine
  • another produced in the fifth century by scholars of Babylon

In order to provide sufficient evidence to support the factual premises of his argument, Hinman needs to provide about a dozen quotations from the Talmud that refer to Jesus, at least five or six passages that can be shown to have been censored, and at least three or four passages that were not censored, and a total of about twelve passages (if there are that many) that are ALL shown to speak of Jesus in a way that assumes or implies that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical person.
Ideally, all of the quoted passages would be from the Mishna, which is the oldest part of the Talmud that was written down early in the early third century.  But if there are not that many references to Jesus from the Mishna, then as many as possible should be from the Mishna, and the remainder of the quoted passages would be from the commentaries on the Mishna that make up the Gemara.
So how many passages does Joe Hinman quote from the Talmud? How many of those passages are from the Mishna? There are zero quotes from the  Talmud on Hinman’s initial (overview) web page.  If you click the link for his details about references to Jesus in the Talmud, you will go to a lengthy blog post that contains numerous quotations, but only a few quotations in that post are from the Talmud.  More specifically, only FOUR passages are quoted from the Talmud by Hinman.  Hinman fails to provide the dozen or more quotations that are needed to do an adequate job of supporting the factual premises of his argument.
Furthermore, TWO of the quotations from the Talmud consist of a single brief sentence that is (apparently) found in two different sections of the Bablylonian Talmud.  Hinman provides a block quote from Encyclopaedia Hebraica that contains the one-sentence quotation from the Talmud. Here is the relevant portion of that block quote:

From the stories about Jesus in the Babylonian Talmud, it is evident that he was regarded as a rabbinical student who strayed into evil ways: “May we produce no son or pupil who disgraces himself like Jesus the Nazarene” (Ber. 17b; Sanh. 103a; cf. Dik. Sof. ad loc.).

I’m generously counting this as TWO quotations, since it appears to be a sentence found in TWO different parts of the Babylonian Talmud.
Since the Bablyonian Talmud was produced in the 5th century, these two passages were produced hundreds of years after the death of Jesus.  So, there is an OBVIOUS issue of historical relevance here, and an OBVIOUS issue of independence.  First, how do we know that these passages reflect the views of rabbis from the first or second century (as opposed to the third, fourth, or fifth century), in order for the passage to be of historical relevance?
Second, even if it could be shown somehow that these two passages accurately reflect the views of rabbis back in the 2nd century or even near the end of the first century, since the Gospel of Mark was written around 70 CE, how can we know that this view of those rabbis was not indirectly based on Christian beliefs and traditions that were in turn based on the Gospel of Mark (or one of the other 1st century writings contained in the NT)?
There is no argument provided by Hinman on these obvious issues, so these two passages cannot be taken seriously as historically relevant and independent information that supports the claim that there was a flesh-and-blood historical Jesus.
Thus, if we set aside this initial dubious set of two meager one-sentence passages from the Babylonian Talmud, we are left with ONLY TWO substantial quotations from the Talmud in Hinman’s lengthy blog post.  This is an insubstantial effort in relation to the dozen or more quotations that are needed to provide adequate evidence in support of Hinman’s factual premises.  Hinman has clearly failed to adequately support the three factual premises of his argument.
Before I proceed to examine the two substantial quotations from the Talmud that Hinman provides, let’s consider the views of some well-informed N.T. scholars about references to Jesus in the Talmud.
First, here is what Bart Ehrman has to say about the external evidence from the Talmud:

In order to complete my tally of early references to Jesus, I need to say a few words about the Jewish Talmud.  This is not because it is relevant but because when talking about historical references to Jesus, many people assume it is relevant.  (Did Jesus Exist? p.66)

For a long time scholars treated the Talmud as if it presented historically accurate information about Jewish life, law and custom from a much earlier period, all the way back to the first century.  Few critical scholars take that view today. In both its iterations, it is a product of its own time, even though it is based on earlier oral reports.

Jesus is never mentioned in the oldest part of the Talmud, the Mishnah, but appears only in the later commentaries of the Gemara. … (Did Jesus Exist?, p.67)

These Talmudic references to Jesus were written hundreds of years after he would have lived and so are of very little use for us in our quest.  By the time they were set down, Christianity was a major force in the Roman Empire, and every single Christian telling stories about Jesus naturally assumed that he had really existed as a historical person.  If we want evidence to support the claim that he did in fact once exist, we therefore have to turn to other sources.  (Did Jesus Exist?, p.68)

Ehrman firmly believes that Jesus did exist as a flesh-and-blood historical person, and he argues strenously for this conclusion in his book Did Jesus Exist?.   So, Ehrman is not rejecting the Talmudic evidence on the basis of prejudice against the conclusion that Jesus existed.  He is rejecting this evidence because he believes it is too late and of dubious independence.
Another N.T. scholar who has studied this issue closely is Robert Van Voorst, who wrote a widely-used book on the external historical evidence about Jesus.  Van Voorst also has significant doubts concerning the evidence about Jesus from the Talmud:

All this raises the issue of how the rabbis gained this information about Jesus.  Did they have independent chains of tradition on Jesus, passed from rabbinic master to rabbinic disciples, reaching back into the first century?  The evidence points to a negative answer.  While we cannot be sure, given the paucity and difficulty of the evidence, the third-century rabbis seem to have had no traditions about Jesus that originated in the first century.  Besides the rabbis typical disinterest in history and confused knowledge of the first century, what the rabbis say about Jesus appears to be the product of at least the second century.  (Jesus Outside the New Testament, p.120)

All the general information that the rabbis have on Jesus could have been derived from Christian preaching. …

The more specific information given by the rabbis that diverges from the New Testament shows no sign of being from the first century.  They proceed instead from creative imagination, which ran free in rabbinic storytelling.  (Jesus Outside the New Testament, p.121)

Perhaps the most telling indication that the rabbis had no independent, early traditions about Jesus is their failure to place him in the right century.  A chain of tradition from the first century would have set this error straight.  The better explanation of all the rabbinic information on Jesus is that it originated in the second and third centuries.  (Jesus Outside the New Testament, p.121-122)

Like Ehrman, Van Voorst firmly believes that Jesus existed as a flesh-and-blood historical figure, and he argues against the mythicist position (see Jesus Outside the New Testament, p.6-16), so Van Voorst does not reject the evidence about Jesus from the Talmud out of prejudice against the historicity of Jesus.  He has serious doubts about the Talmudic evidence because in his scholarly judgement this evidence is too late and of dubious independence to be of historical significance.
Finally,  John Meier, one of the leading Jesus scholars of the 21st century, has carefully reviewed the various alleged Talmudic references to Jesus and found them to be of dubious historical significance:

In my opinion, apart from the texts of Josephus we have already seen, this vast literature [i.e. ancient Jewish literature from around the time when Jesus allegedly existed] contains no independent reference to or information about Jesus of Nazareth.  (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.93)

…scholars of rabbinic literature do not agree among themselves on whether even a single text from the Mishna, Tosefta, or Talmud really refers to Jesus of Nazareth.  (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.95)

In my opinion, Maier’s arguments are especially convincing for the Mishna and other early rabbinic material: no text cited from that period really refers to Jesus. … Jesus of Nazareth is simply absent from the Mishna and other early rabbinic traditions.  (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.95)

The Talmud does not record even one talmudic teacher who lived at the time of Jesus or in the first half century of the Christian era as mentioning Jesus by name.  As for the rabbis of the 2nd century A.D., they were reacting to the Christ proclaimed by Christianity, not the historical Jesus.   (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.95-96)

I tend to the view of Morris Goldstein, who finds no certain reference to Jesus in this passage [a passage from the Mishna cited by Joseph Klausner], and indeed in the Mishna and the tannaitic midrashim in general. (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.97)

…in the earliest rabbinic sources, there is no clear or even probable reference to Jesus of Nazareth.  Furthermore, I favor the view that, when we do finally find such references in later rabbinic literature, they are most probably reactions to Christian claims, oral or written.  Hence, apart from Josephus, Jewish literature of the early Christian period offers no independent source for inquiry into the historical Jesus.   (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.98)

So, one of the leading Jesus scholars of the 21st century is on my side concerning this issue about alleged references to Jesus in the Talmud.  Joe Hinman has a serious uphill battle to fight here.
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This post is now complete (as of Sunday, June 25, 2016, at 6:22 pm, pacific time).
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Instead of providing a dozen substantial quotations from the Talmud that refer to Jesus,  Hinman only provides four quotations from the Talmud.  How many of the four quotations are from the Mishna, the oldest part of the Talmud?  ZERO.  All four of the quotations provided by Hinman are from the Bablylonian Talmud, which was produced in the 5th century.
In his case for the existence of Jesus, N.T. scholar Bart Ehrman limited his review of non-Christian references to Jesus to sources that were written close to the time of Jesus:

I will restrict myself to sources that were produced within about a hundred years of when Jesus is traditionally thought to have died since writings after that time almost certainly cannot be considered independent and reliable witnesses to his life but were undboutedly based simply on what the authors had heard about Jesus, probably from his followers.   (Did Jesus Exist? p.50, emphasis added)

All of the quotations that Hinman provided were written down not 100 years after the time of Jesus, not 200 years after the time of Jesus, not 300 years after the time of Jesus, but about 400 years after when Jesus is traditionally thought to have died.  This is called “scaping the bottom of the barrell”.  It is reasonable to approach such “evidence” with a high degree of skepticism, as the leading Jesus scholar John Meier urges:

Our earliest collection of rabbinic material, the Mishna, comes from the end of the 2d or the beginning of the 3d century A.D.; all other collections are still later.  It would never occur to most Christian commentators to claim that early 3d-century Fathers of the Church had direct historically reliable knowledge of Jesus that was independent of the NT.  Likewise, one must be wary a priori of claims that a 2d- or early 3d-century Jewish document contains such independent traditions.  (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.94-95)

If we ought to be skeptical about references to Jesus from the Mishna because it was written down 150 to 200 years after the time of Jesus, then we clearly ought to be skeptical about references to Jesus from the Bablyonian Talmud, which was produced about 400 years after the time of Jesus.
Two of the four quotations provided by Hinman are just a single sentence (the same sentence in two different passages) from the Bablylonian Talmud, and Hinman provides no reasons to believe that those two passages derive from an independent oral tradition that stretches back into the 1st Century.  So, I will ignore those two brief quotes.
Hinman does provide two more substantial quotes, both also from the Babylonian Talmud, and he gives some reasons for viewing these quotes as deriving from ancient oral rabbinic tradition.  Before we take a look at those specific passages, there are some further general considerations that support a skeptical view of references to Jesus in the Talmud.  Here are several such considerations from Van Voorst (Jesus Outside the New Testament; hereafter: JONT):

  • “history is not a main concern anywhere in the rabbinic literature.”  (JONT, p.104)
  • “the Talmud rarely mentions historical events from the Second Temple period, at the end of which Jesus appeared. ”  (JONT, p.104)
  • “those few events mentioned are more often than not garbled and unreliable.”  (JONT, p.105)
  • “we have no rabbinic writings from the first or even the second century C.E.”  (JONT, p.105)
  • In the rabbinic writings there is only “scant mention of Jesus by name.”  (JONT, p.106)
  • Censorship of Jewish writings beginning in the Middle Ages led to “text-critical problems” concerning apparent references to Jesus or Christianity (JONT, p. 106)
  • There has been “continued scholarly disagreement…on the proper use of rabbinic materials to understand the New Testament.”  (JONT, p.106)
  • “Scholarly conclusions have varied widely on whether Tannaitic layers of rabbinic literature have any genuine reference to Jesus.  (JONT, p.108)
  • “modern scholars are correct to discount most ‘code’ references to Jesus, especially ‘a certain one’, Balaam, Ben Stada.”  (JONT, p.114)
  • “creative imagination…ran free in rabbinic storytelling.”  (JONT, p.121)
  • “Perhaps the most telling indication that the rabbis had no independent, early traditions about Jesus is their failure to place him in the right century.”  (JONT, p.121-122)

I will repeat the basic conclusions arrived at by Van Voorst:

All the general information that the rabbis have on Jesus could have been derived from Christian preaching. (JONT, p.121)

The more specific information given by the rabbis that diverges from the New Testament shows no sign of being from the first century.  (JONT, p.121)

There are more general reasons for skepticism, but I will just throw in one more key point: “Jesus” was a common name for Jewish males in the Second Temple period, so a reference to “Jesus” might well be reference to a person other than the “Jesus” of the canonical Gospels.
First let’s consider the passage that is allegedly about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus:

It was taught: On the day before the Passover they hanged Jesus.  A herald went before him for forty days [proclaiming], “He will be stoned, because he practiced magic and enticed Israel to go astray.  Let anyone who knows anything in his favor come forward and plead for him.”  But nothing was found in his favor, and they hanged him on the day before the Passover.  (b. Sanhedrin 43a)  (JONT, p.114)

The canonical gospels indicate that the Jewish trial of Jesus was rushed and unfair, and that the Jewish council sought false witnesses to make sure there was evidence to justify his condemnation.  This passage asserts the very opposite: that there was a lengthy effort to find witnesses who would support and defend Jesus.  As Van Voorst suggests, this “is a strong indication that we have here an apologetic response to Christian statements about an unjust trial.”  (JONT, p.118)
This passage does not fit with “the facts” Christians believe about the trial and death of Jesus.  There was no lengthy Jewish inquiry into Jesus innocence or guilt.  Jesus was not charged with practicing magic.  Jesus was not stoned to death.   “Hanging” is thought to be a reference to crucifixion, but the passage does not say Jesus was crucified.  In fact, the passage indicates that Jesus was executed by his fellow Jews, but Christians believe that the Romans executed Jesus.
What matches up with the “Jesus” of the Gospels is (1) the name “Jesus”, (2) the execution of this person, (3) the timing of execution close to Passover.  The charges are plausible ones that Jews would apply to the “Jesus” of the Gospels, but they don’t match up to the Gospel accounts.
Many Jewish men were named “Jesus” at that time.  Many Jewish men were executed in the century before, during, and after the time when the Jesus of the Gospels is thought to have lived.  According to Van Voorst the conclusion that this passage refers to the Jesus of the Gospels is “almost universally agreed.”  (JONT, p. 118).  It might be correct to conclude that it is PROBABLE that this passage refers to the “Jesus” of the Gospels, but given the several disagreements between this account and the Gospels, and given the fact that the name “Jesus” was a common name, and given the fact that executions were common, even execution by crucifixion,  I don’t see how one could conclude that it is HIGHLY PROBABLE that this passage refers to the “Jesus” of the Gospels.   There is at least a significant chance that this passage refers to a “Jesus” other than the “Jesus” of the Gospels.
The primary problem with this passage, however, is that (assuming it is about the “Jesus” of the Gospels) it clearly appears to be an apologetic response to Christian accusations that Jesus was given a rushed and unfair trial by Jewish leaders.  If that is so, then it is very likely that this accusation was based upon one or more of the accounts of the trials of Jesus from one or more of the canonical Gospels.  In that case, this passage from the Babylonian Talmud would be indirectly based on one or more of the canonical Gospels.  So, given that this passage is about the “Jesus” of the Gospels, it is very probable that this passage was indirectly based upon the canonical Gospels.
Bart Ehrman,  Robert Van Voorst, and John Meier do not believe this passage represents an early and independent tradition about Jesus.  We can add to these N.T. scholars, the agreement of the great N.T. scholar Raymond Brown:

According to Brown, it is clear enough that the passage does not give reliable early information about Jesus, but it does indicate that some Jews in the early third century saw their ancestors as responsible for the death of Jesus.  (JONT, p.106)

Like Ehrman, Van Voorst, Meier, and Brown, I think it is improbable that the Babylonian Talmud passage about the trial and “hanging” of Jesus is both early and independent.
Hinman has provided some reasons in support of this passage from the Babylonian Talmud, and I will now review those reasons.

…it is likely that these formulae are accurate [in indicating an early rabbinic tradition] because this helps to explain why the rabbis regarded this Jesus tradition as if it had comparable authority to Mishna.

I don’t see the force of this consideration.  Hinman needs to say a bit more to explain this point.

…an indirect attestation [by Justin Martyr about a Jewish claim that Jesus practiced magic and led Jews astray from their religion] brings the most likely date [of the origin of this tradition] before 150…

The fact that there was an early (i.e. before 150 CE) Jewish claim about Jesus practicing magic and leading Jews astray does not show that a Jewish tradition involving such a claim was also early.  In fact, this does not even make it PROBABLE that such a tradition was also early (i.e. before 150 CE). It merely shows it to be POSSIBLE that the tradition involving this claim was early.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we KNEW this tradition to have originated before 150 CE.  That still does not put the tradition in the clear.   The Gospel of Mark was written about 70 CE, which is 80 years before 150 CE.   Even if this tradition originated in 100 CE, that would have been three decades after the Gospel of Mark was written.

Kirby: “Since the New Testament gives no account at all of a charge of sorcery at the trial of Jesus…it is difficult to see this account as deriving from the Gospel story.”

Obviously, the charges were not derived DIRECTLY from “the Gospel story”, but it seems fairly clear that the charges were based INDIRECTLY on “the Gospel story.”   The Gospels include many stories about Jesus performing miracles.  An OBVIOUS Jewish response to such stories would be to characterize Jesus as practicing magic or sorcery.
The Gospels also include many stories about Jesus being a charismatic religious teacher who attracted devoted Jewish followers and sometimes even large crowds of interested Jewish listeners.  An OBVIOUS Jewish response to such stories would be to characterize Jesus as a deceptive heretic who promoted religious beliefs and practices that were contrary to the Jewish religion.
Although it is clear that the charge of sorcery and the charge of leading the people of Israel astray did not come directly from the Gospels,  it appears very likely that these charges were an apologetic response of Jewish rabbis to Christian preaching about Jesus being a charismatic religious teacher, and about Jesus’ crucifixion, and about a Jewish trial of Jesus, and such preaching was in turn probably based upon one or more of the canonical Gospels.

Instone-Brewer argues: “The origin of this tradition is also unlikely to be rabbinic or Pharisaic. …First, a rabbinic author or their Pharisee predecessors would want the order of the charges to mirror Torah and rabbinic halakha.”

This seems like a fairly weak point.  I see this as relevant, but not as a strong or compelling consideration.

Instone-Brewer argues: “The origin of this tradition is also unlikely to be rabbinic or Pharisaic. …Second, rabbinic traditions and the Pharisaic schools tried to dissuade people from working on Passover Eve, so they would not have invented a tradition which said that they decided to try Jesus on this date.”

The basic point here is reasonable.  I agree that the rabbis and Pharisees probably “would not have invented a tradition” placing the execution of Jesus (by Jews) on Passover Eve.  However, if this tradition was, as it appears to many NT scholars to  have been, an apologetic response to Christian preaching about the trials and crucifixion of Jesus, then it is PARTIALLY an invention of rabbis or Pharisees that is constrained by the content of the preaching of Christians about this subject.
So, the Jewish trial and Jesus’ crucifixion occurring near Passover, even on Passover Eve, may have been part of Christian preaching (derived from one or more of the canonical Gospels), while the charges involved in the Jewish trial are an apologetic response to Christian preaching about Jesus performing miracles and about Jesus being a charismatic religious teacher with devoted Jewish followers and crowds of interested Jewish listeners.

Because the Jewish leaders of the first century were in a position to know the circumstances of such an execution, which would have been remembered for taking place on an unusual date, it is plausible to see this rabbinic tradition as stemming from the historical Jewish memory of Jesus on Passover Eve with charges of sorcery and leading Israel astray.

The Jewish leaders were “in a position to know the circumstances” of a Jewish trial of Jesus ONLY IF there was in fact a Jewish trial of Jesus.  But many leading NT scholars believe there was no Jewish trial of Jesus, so there is a significant probability that the Jewish leaders of the first century were NOT “in a position to know the circumstances” of a Jewish trial of Jesus.
The week of Passover brought large crowds of Jews to Jerusalem every year, and this made the Roman prefect nervous about Jewish troublemakers and about the potential for a Jewish rebellion.  I doubt that crucifixions were uncommon during the week of Passover.
Perhaps “it is plausible to see this rabbinic tradition as stemming from the historical Jewish memory of Jesus on Passover Eve with charges of sorcery and leading Israel astray.”  that does NOT mean that this is PROBABLE.  What is plausible is not necessarily what is probable.  Based on the considerations for and against this hypothesis, I believe it is much more PROBABLE that this tradition was partially invented by rabbis in response to Christian preaching about Jesus, which was in turn based upon the information about Jesus from one or more of the canonical Gospels.
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Another substantial quote from the Babylonian Talmud that was provided by Hinman is from the tractate Aboda Zara (16b – 17a).  In that passage Eliezer ben Hyrcanus is portrayed as telling the story of hearing a saying of “Jesus the Nazarene” from a disciple of Jesus:

I was once walking in the upper-market of Sepphoris when I came across one of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene Jacob of Kefar-Sekaniah by name, who said to me:  It is written in your Torah…. Said he to me: Thus was I taught by Jesus the Nazarene, For the hire of a harlot hath he gathered them and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return.  They came from a place of filth, let them go to a place of filth.  … (quoted by Hinman on his web page about Jesus in the Talmud)

Assuming that this is a correct quotation of a good translation of the Talmud, then it does seem likely that this passage is talking about the “Jesus” of the Gospels.  The passage talks about “Jesus the Nazarene” who is a teaches wise sayings to his disciples.  Nazareth was a small town, so there were probably not many people named “Jesus” from that town in the first century, and add to that the characteristic of being a person who teaches wise sayings to his disciples, and that makes it probable, even very probable, that this passage is about the “Jesus” of the canonical Gospels.
But the Babylonian Talmud was produced in the 5th century, so we still have issues about the reliability and independence of this tradition.
John Meier says about this passage:

I am skeptical about a tradition in which Eliezer ben Hyrcanus hears about Jesus’ teaching that the wages of a prostitute should be used to buy the high priest a latrine…  (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.97)

Joseph Klausner argued for the reliability of this passage, but Meier is not impressed by his argument:

To establish the reliability of this passage, Klausner must engage in a contorted argument that includes an appeal to Hegesippus’ account of the martyrdom of James–something that would not inspire confidence in many scholars today.    (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.97)

Meier also notes that another leading N.T. scholar, Joachim Jeremias,  is also skeptical about this reference to Jesus:

Joachim Jeremias weights the pros and cons of the argument about authenticity and decides in the negative–rightly, in my view.  The saying is a polemical invention meant to make Jesus look ridiculous.  (A Marginal Jew, Vol. 1, p.97)

Rabbi Eliezer was the brother-in-law the Patriarch Gamaliel II, and became a member of the Sanhedrin while Gamaliel II was the leader of the Sanhedrin.   The above story supposedly relates to when Rabbi Eliezer was kicked out of the Sanhedrin for being a heretic.  Gamaliel II became the leader of the Sanhedrin about ten years after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, so he became leader of the Sanhedrin about 80 CE.  Rabbi Eliezer joined the Sanhedrin sometime after 80 CE, and was removed from the Sanhedrin sometime after that.   So, the above remarks, if made by Rabbi Eliezer after he was removed from the Sanhedrin, were probably made around 85 CE, at the earliest.  If these remarks were made no earlier than 85 CE, then Rabbi Eliezer might have met the “disciple” of Jesus about 80 CE.   If so, then this “disciple” of Jesus is unlikely to have actually learned anything directly from Jesus.
So, what we can reasonably conclude from this passage, even assuming it to accurately report the words of Rabbi Eliezer near the end of the first century (or beginning of the second century), is that a learned Jewish Rabbi believed near the end of the first century that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical figure.   But by 85 CE, the Gospel of Mark had been available for more than a decade, so Christians would already believe and preach that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood Jewish teacher who taught wise sayings to his Jewish disciples and followers.   Thus, Eliezer’s belief that Jesus was a  flesh-and-blood Jewish teacher who taught wise sayings to Jewish disciples and followers may have been based on more than just this one incident where he met a man who called himself a “disciple” who had learned a saying from Jesus.
So, some leading NT scholars who have reviewed the relevant evidence, have concluded that this passage is NOT early and reliable.  Furthermore, even if the passage accurately describes the words of Rabbi Eliezer on the occasion of his being condemned as a heretic, it would still be doubtful that he spoke to a person who was directly taught by the “Jesus” of the Gospels.
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Hinman quotes Origin’s quoting from the book True Doctrine, an attack on Christianity by Celsus.  Here is the key part of the quote:

Let us imagine what a Jew…might say to Jesus: “Is it not true, good sir, that you fabricated the story of your birth from a virgin to quiet rumourss [sic] about the true and insavoury [sic] circumstances of your origins?…Is it not the case that when her [your mother’s] deceit was uncovered, to wit, that she was pregnant by a roman soldier called Panthera she was driven away by her husband…

Hinman comments that some of “the material of the Talmud” about Jesus “was around in at least the second century”, and that since Jewish sources would not have been readily available to Celsus, “it seems reasonable to assume that this information had been floating around for some time…”.   Hinman concludes that this material “at least went back to the early second, late first century.”
Celsus composed the book True Doctrine about 175 CE.  According to Celsus, he obtained his understanding of Jewish objections to Christianity from a contemporary Jewish person.  If Celsus was being TRUTHFUL, then all this passage shows is that there was a Jewish polemic response to the story of the virgin birth in the canonical Gospels (Matthew and Luke) that was in use about a century AFTER the composition of the canonical Gospels.  On this scenario, there is no implication that the sources of the Talmud about Jesus go back to the “early second, late first century”, unless we count the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as being among those sources!
On the other hand, if Celsus was being UNTRUTHFUL about how he obtained his understanding of Jewish objections to Christianity, then he might well have invented this objection on his own, based on his knowledge of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke:
He had read widely in Matthew, Luke, 1 Corinthians, and had a passing knowledge of other Christian books… (JONT, p.67)
Celsius might have just used an imaginary Jewish contemporary as cover for his own derogatory comments about Jesus.
According to Hinman,
Celsus was obviously reading the Talmudic sources…
It is not obvious to me that Celsus obtained this particular view of Jesus from “the Talmudic sources”, even if the Talmud contains a similar view about Jesus being the illegitimate son of a roman soldier called Panthera.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Celsus obtained this Jewish view from “the Talmudic sources”.  True Doctrine was written about 175 CE.  So, if Celsus found this view in “the Talmudic sources” in 170 CE, that would be adequate to explain his writing about them in 175 CE.   If “the Talmudic sources” had this view of Jesus’ birth in 170 CE,  that is completely to be expected even if Jesus never existed, for the canonical Gospels were composed about a century BEFORE  170 CE, allowing several decades for Christians to preach about the virgin birth and for Jewish rabbis to develop this Jewish polemic in response to that preaching.
Even if “the Talmudic sources” about Jesus being an illegitimate child had been in existence for 50 years before Celsus learned about this Jewish viewpoint,  that would still place the origin of the tradition in 120 CE,  which is three to four decades AFTER the composition of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  In that scenario, it would be very probable that this Jewish tradition about Jesus has no historical basis, but is merely an apologetic response of Jewish leaders to Christian preaching and storytelling, which was in turn based upon “information” from the canonical Gospels.