Q & A – Historical Events in Jesus Tradition April 5, 2012 BDEhrman2020-04-03T19:48:11-04:00April 5th, 2012|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions| Share Bart’s Post on These Platforms FacebookTwitterRedditLinkedInTumblrPinterestEmail Click for the Previous Post Click for the Next Post 19 Comments jimmo April 19, 2012 at 7:27 amLog in to Reply William Craig is fond of spouting off the “historical method” as decribed by C. Behan McCullagh in his “Justifying Historical Descriptions”. Two of of the conditions for considering something the best explanation are: “The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.” “It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false” it seems to me that in both cases, a burial by Joseph of Arimathea is less plausible and requires accepting something contrary to commonly accepted beliefs about how Romans behaved in the first century, as well as Jewish burial practices at the time. (At least what I understand from reading Jodi Magness and her Teaching Company course “Holy Land Revealed”) On a related subject, I am curious if you ever read John Earman’s “Hume’s Abject Failure”. I just finished reading it and I was shocked at the audacity of Craig in his 2006 debate with you at the College of the Holy Cross. He had a slide “Ehrman’s Egregious Error”, where he mocks you saying you are confused about the Bayesian probability. Earman is quite clear that he is not arguing that we can (or should) consider miracles probable. Rather, he simply argues that Hume did not make a good case. Personally, I don’t think Hume made his case either, but that still does not imply miracles are not the less probable events. Hume does provide food for thought, but I certainly would not claim miracles are the least probable events based on most of Hume’s arguments. Earman also talks about the reliability of the testimony and how that affects the probability of the event being testified to. As is expected, Craig assumes the testimony in the Gospels should be considered completely reliable. However, even if you are “confused” about the difference between the a priori probability (that is, based on the background knowledge alone) and the a priori probability plus the evidence, the overall probability does not change nearly as much as Craig would hope when you consider all of the evidence indicating the Gospels are *not* completely reliable. At one point Craig says “In order to explain that the resurrection is improbable, he (Dr. Ehman) needs not only to tear down all the evidence for the resurrection, but he needs to erect a positive case of his own in favor of some naturalistic alternatives.” Craig seems to be ignoring the fact that tearing down “the evidence for the resurrection” from supernatural causes, *necessary* implies a “naturalistic alternative” or something else. Admittedly disproving one theory does not necessarily prove another, showing a resurrection as described in the NT is implausible, then some other explanation must necessarily be more plausible, even if not explicitely stated. The second problem is the claim “he needs to erect a positive case of his own in favor of some naturalistic alternatives”. My interpretation is that with “some naturalistic alternatives” Craig means “*specific naturalistic alternatives”. Tearing down “all the evidence for the resurrection” only means that we need to search for the alternative and not that we already have any alternative in mind. Personally, my guess is that Paul was under a lot of stress due to his perscution of the Christians. As a result, he had a vision (maybe a dream) where he met Jesus. As word of his ministry spread, people assumed that if Jesus appeared to Paul, then he *must* have also appeared to the disciples. Since he *must* have appeared, adding stories of the appearance was not really lying, so they found their way into the Gospels. Don M. Burrows April 20, 2012 at 8:04 pmLog in to Reply As a classicist familiar with the myriad references to leaving people on the cross, I’ve had my doubts about the burial myself. But one passage of Josephus (BJ 4.317) suggests that the Jews took pains to bury those crucified before the setting of the sun (καίτοι τοσαύτην Ἰουδαίων περὶ τὰς ταφὰς πρόνοιαν ποιουμένων, ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἐκ καταδίκης ἀνεσταυρωμένους πρὸ δύντος ἡλίου καθελεῖν τε καὶ θάπτειν). Perhaps this is thought to be an interpolation: I’ve never looked into it any further, and found nothing in a cursory Google Scholar search. And of course, this does not bar a mass burial of the sort mentioned above. Rice April 21, 2012 at 10:09 amLog in to Reply Interesting stuff…Only one body of a crucified person. That seems unbelievable. Are we sure crucifixions were wide spread? I have a question though about the empty tomb. Is there not an argument for the empty tomb on the basis of the criteria of dissimilarity? The story of the empty tomb was reported by women. The perception of women during the 1st century was not very good. They were low on the social totem pole. In a chauvinistic society their word would not be worth much. If an author were to make up the story of the empty tomb it would seem that Peter or the apostles found the tomb and reported it. I believe there is a clip of Christopher Hitchens making this argument as proof of the existence of Jesus. As always, thanks. zlemm April 24, 2012 at 9:08 amLog in to Reply Interesting read…… Why are scholars almost sure that Jesus was crucified? One argument is that this event is corroborated by all new testament writers. I don’t think this argument is consistent, since many other events are seen as implausible even though they have multiple corroborations. There are many inconsistencies in the crucifixion narrative which suggests that we can’t really be sure this is a historical “fact”. For instance the whole process leading up to his conviction is very dubious. Moreover, we have the narration that he died only after a few hours after being crucified which doesn’t agree with historical facts of how long it normally took for people to die. BDEhrman April 25, 2012 at 12:22 amLog in to Reply The details are at odds — you’re absolutely right about that. But there’s overwhelming evidence that Jesus was actually crucified. I give some of it in the book. DMiller5842 May 27, 2012 at 3:55 amLog in to Reply Just bought the book. Eager to see what the historical proof is when you and others including Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson have done a very thorough job of pinpointing the dung in the Bible. Jefferson copied and pasted to make the Jefferson Bible which he regarded as separating the diamonds from the dung. What I would like to know is how you believe anything that is left after seeing all the dung? How do you use the Bible as a historical source when it is so obviously corrupt? In 1795 Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason, ” It has often been said that anything may be proved from the Bible, but before anything can be admitted as proved by the Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be true; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it be doubtful, it ceases to have authority, and cannot be admitted as proof of anything.” BDEhrman May 27, 2012 at 10:54 pmLog in to Reply Great quotation. You may be interested, as well, in my book Jesus Interrupted, on just this point. DMiller5842 May 27, 2012 at 6:08 amLog in to Reply I agree with you – the new testament writers contradict each other. This casts doubt on if the event ever really took place and even if it did…. what can we know of what really happened? BDEhrman May 27, 2012 at 10:57 pmLog in to Reply Ah! See my book Jesus Interrupted — or even better, where I lay it all out in detail, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. AdamPanacci April 26, 2012 at 2:57 pmLog in to Reply I agree that we don’t know where Jesus’ body ended up and he probably didn’t come back to life. I’m curious to know peoples thoughts on how to explain how and why the resurrection story arose if it is not a historical event. I presume it is rooted in the belief or tradition that the disciples “saw” Jesus after his death. Some call it theological narrative, metaphorical narrative, or parable. Others say it should rather be seen as outright deception. I would love to hear Dr. Ehrmans thoughts but I know he is quite busy. DMiller5842 May 27, 2012 at 5:57 amLog in to Reply Here is what I think: According to the Oxford History of the Biblical World, “…the idea of resurrection was current in Judea and Galilee…” The idea of a “son of god” being resurrected was not an anomaly in that time. The idea of a person being a “son of god or god” was not an anomaly either. Again according to the Oxford History of the Biblical World , Julius Ceasar was posthumously proclaimed to be a god by the senate. Augustus used the title “son of god” on coins and inscriptions as did his successors. On page 525 of the Oxford History of the Biblical World, it states: ” Many of those who referred to Jesus as “son of god” knew perfectly well that a Latin form of the phrase was among the most frequent designations for Augustus and his successors.” The Roman Senate also recognized that he had become a god after he died. And this is in addition to the myths of resurrections of demi-gods that pre-existed the Christian story of the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason has this to say on the topic too: “the evidence given in those books (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) destroys each other.” He is firmly in the camp of believing that it is outright deception. BDEhrman May 27, 2012 at 10:56 pmLog in to Reply Thanks for the commenets. If you’re really interested in this, and don’t mind reading a book of serious scholarship by someone who really knows what he’s talking about (it was his PhD dissertation at Yale a couple of years ago), see Michael Peppard, The Son of God in the Roman World. Cephas_Phileleutherus November 13, 2012 at 11:10 pmLog in to Reply THAT’S why I subscribed to your blog! I’ve learned enough reading Bart’s books to realise that I want/need to read these peer-reviewed technical articles, so I can understand the context of the apologists’ defences. I kinda got into a discussion with an apologist on Amazon defending my review of one of Bart’s books (can’t remember which one, I think it was Jesus Interrupted). At least, it *was* a discussion until the guy freaked out when I compared Jesus to Appolonius of Tyana. Boy did he get a bee in his bonnet about that – I had to give up, eventually, because he couldn’t see he was using my arguments against Jesus’ resurrection as his arguments against Appolonius’ resurrection. It’s just _so_ frustrating to continue the debate when “they” start ‘dissonating’ like that. And if you try to point that out to them, well, it’s a lot like teaching a pig to whistle. (It wastes your time and just annoys the pig) Kevin May 14, 2019 at 11:25 pmLog in to Reply Is there any evidence that the Roman centurions or leaders were open to being paid off or bribery? Is it plausible that someone could have paid someone off for the body? BDEhrman May 15, 2019 at 11:00 amLog in to Reply Not really…. wpoe54 August 11, 2022 at 10:27 amLog in to Reply Bart, what bothers me is that the same criteria for claiming the historicity of other events seem to apply to the “burial” scenario. Often the Synoptics are grouped on one side, and “independent” corroboration comes from “John.” Is the difference that the burial seems historical implausible? It has always seemed to me that if Jesus’s body was removed from a tomb (by whomever for whatever reason: maybe the Jewish authorities who didn’t want the tomb to be a site of veneration?) that it was precisely that event that sparked the imagination of the remaining followers that Jesus rose from the dead (just as told in other stories, such as the one about Lazarus – only this time “the Father” did it. Of course, the Lazarus story could have been added later to corroborate that others were recently raised from the dead). It is harder for me to conceive that if Jesus’s body was dumped into a pit with other bodies, the disciples would have imagined he crawled out alive (in some sense) than knowing his body was well-preserved in a tomb and just got up and walked out of it if the tomb were found to be empty. BDEhrman August 12, 2022 at 5:56 pmLog in to Reply Yes, it is multiply attested, that’s right. And that is in its favor. But historical judgments are always made on multiple grounds, not on the basis of a single criterion. My view is that Matthew is correct, that the disciples fled Jerusalem and went back to Galilee. They didn’t know what happened to his body. But when one or more of them had a vision of (or at least believed s/he saw) Jesus, they naturally assumed that something had happened to his body. The Joseph of Arimathea story arose to explain that he had physically risen, on the third day, to fulfill Scripture. wpoe54 August 12, 2022 at 6:02 pmLog in to Reply What are the other grounds beyond multiple attestation that the “empty tomb” scenario does not meet? BDEhrman August 14, 2022 at 12:45 pmLog in to Reply I guess all the others. Contextual credibility (since Romans did not allow proper burial to crucifixion victims) and dissimarity (since it’s exactly in line with what Christians wanted to proclaim) Leave A Comment Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.