Is there Good Evidence for Group Appearances of Risen Jesus?
I appreciate Paulogia’s willingness to engage in this written debate, and I hope that our interaction will be helpful for people to know about the important issues concerning the resurrection of Jesus.
The topic of our debate is ‘Is there good evidence for group appearances of risen Jesus?’ I shall begin by commenting on the key terms of the topic, followed by a discussion of methodological issues and a presentation of the historical data and considerations which taken together constitutes the evidence for the affirmative conclusion. Since there is a word count limit and the debate is limited to 4 rounds (set by Paulogia; I would be happy to extend it beyond 4 rounds if Paulogia is agreeable), I will not be offering a comprehensive explanation (e.g. concerning what is evidence) in what follows, rather I will be focusing on what is relevant to the specific objections Paulogia raised in his previous videos.1
II. The key terms of the topic of debate
Concerning ‘group appearances of risen Jesus’, in my book Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Routledge, 2020; henceforth Loke 2020) I have argued that the historical evidences indicate that,
(1) there were groups of people in first century AD who claimed that they had seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion, (2) they truly saw something, (3) what they saw was not caused intra-mentally but extra-mentally, and (4) the extra-mental entity was not anyone else but the same Jesus who (5) died on the Cross earlier and was seen alive again later. Therefore, Jesus resurrected.
Paulogia’s objections are primarily targeted against (1), and his own hypothesis that there were no groups but only two individuals concerns (1)2. Thus, for the purposes of this debate I shall focus on arguing for the claim that there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus (I shall call this ‘group appearance’ for short).
It is important to note that this claim—taken by itself—concerns the existence of these group(s) of people, rather than Jesus’ resurrection itself. Thus, even though Paul was not a member of ‘group appearance’ himself, nevertheless, he was (arguably) a firsthand eyewitness of these groups i.e. he knew members of these groups (as I shall argue below). Moreover, this claim—taken by itself—is not a miraculous claim. Atheists would agree that it is quite common throughout history to find groups of people claiming to have seen a miracle (how we explain what they have seen is another matter). As Ehrman (2014, pp. 148-149) notes, ‘people have visions all the time. Sometimes they see things that are there, and sometimes they see things that are not there.’ It is only when this claim is taken together with (2), (3), (4), and (5) that leads to the conclusion that Jesus resurrected and which might then warrant a discussion on miracle (see Loke 2020, chapter 8). Readers who are interested in my arguments for (2), (3), (4), and (5) can check out Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of my book.
Concerning ‘good evidence’, by ‘evidence’ I mean ‘an indication of truth’. Considering the evidence is only a means to an end, the end which we should be focused on is the truth (‘what really happened’?). Thus the evidence is ‘good’ if it is sufficient for inferring the truth. The latter is dependent on the context and what truth we want to find out. For example, I know that some people must have seen my great grandfather before. Now I don’t know who they were and what they saw, because there isn’t any surviving first-hand account from any of them for corroboration—indeed, some may regard this as ‘little or no evidence’! Nevertheless, because (1) there is good evidence that I am a human being and that I descended from my great grandfather who was a human being and that human beings are naturally visible and lived among people who would have seen them, and (2) there is lack of evidence for the alternative hypothesis that my great grandfather was an invisible human being (and lack of any religious context and evidence for thinking that a miracle happen in this case)3, there is good evidence (i.e. the evidence is sufficient) for inferring the conclusion that some people must have seen my great grandfather before.
The above example illustrates the importance of considering what is the alternative hypothesis to the proposed historical claim. In this case, the historical claim is (A) Somebody saw my great grandfather, and the alternative is (B) Nobody has ever seen my great grandfather. Evidently (A) is the more reasonable conclusion, and this illustrates that ‘which conclusion is more reasonable?’ can be one of the considerations for answering the question ‘is the proposed conclusion justified’?, which is Paulogia’s concern. Therefore, one important question we should ask is which conclusion is more reasonable: (A) there is group appearance, or (B) there is no group appearance but only appearance to (say, two) individuals (Peter and Paul: Paulogia’s hypothesis).
Now I mentioned in my previous video that Paulogia’s hypothesis is a fringe theory. Hardly any scholar (with PhD related to the study of early Christianity) holds this. Not even atheist/agnostic scholars. It is worse than Young Earth Creationism, which at least has tens of scientists with PhDs.
Paulogia responded by saying that, ‘Now in most fields–including science, medicine, humanities, history and on-and-on – it makes sense for non-experts to allow the consensus scholarly view to be the default position, barring compelling evidence to the contrary. But I would argue this is very much not the case with New Testament studies.’
He then cites Bart Ehrman’s claim that ‘[the majority of New Testament scholars are believers in the New Testament, that is, they’re theologically committed to the text’, and claim that ‘the majority of New Testament scholars work for (or attend as students) institutions that require them to sign a statement of faith that affirms Biblical inerrancy… This is not a field of academic freedom.’
However, Paulogia himself is aware that quite a number of New Testament scholars hold to viewpoints that are contrary to Biblical Inerrancy, for example, the viewpoint that a number of letters in the NT are pseudoepigrapha4. This indicate that—contrary to Paulogia—there IS significant academic freedom in NT scholarship. A significant number of scholars work in universities which do not require them to sign a statement of faith that affirms Biblical inerrancy. In this field scholars are free to deny (for example) the authorship of Paul for Ephesians (and many have done so; while others have argued against them). Scholars are free to argue that there are errors in the Bible (and many have done so; while others have argued against them). But hardly any scholar hold to the hypothesis Paulogia holds. Although he claims that his hypothesis is ‘a synthesis of the work of reputable scholars’, he himself has admitted that hardly any scholar hold to his hypothesis. It is a fringe theory within a field of significant academic freedom.
Paulogia then goes on to claim that atheist and agnostic scholars ‘stick to history’, citing Ehrman’s claim that historians cannot demonstrate a miracle.
However, as explained above, the claim that ‘there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus’ is not a miraculous claim, just as Paulogia’s claim ‘there were two individuals who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus’ is not a miraculous claim. Both claims are historical claims (the question is which one is more reasonable). Ehrman himself states that ‘So too the historian can look into the question of whether the disciples really had visions of Jesus after his death…it is in theory possible even to say that Jesus was crucified, and buried, and then he was seen alive, bodily, afterward. A historian could, in theory, argue this point without appealing to divine causality’ (2014, pp. 148-149).
Paulogia concludes that ‘Atheist and agnostic New Testament scholars don’t put up any single theory, because to them…any and all theories are on the table.’ However, the problem is that the hypothesis Paulogia defends is not even on their table. It is really so bad (and I shall explain below why this is so). I mention this fact not because I want to ‘poison the well’ or disparage Paulogia5. Rather, it is because public perception of the views of experts matters (and Paulogia would agree, since he regularly appeals to ‘reputable scholars’), and because Paulogia has claimed that his hypothesis is ‘a synthesis of the work of reputable scholars’, which may give people the false impression that his view has scholarly credibility. Some youtube commentators have claimed that the fact that some scholars (such as myself) are now engaging Paulogia indicate that Paulogia’s view is now regarded as an academically significant view. This is a false impression. The engagement with Paulogia does not reflect the academic significance of his view (which remains a fringe theory). Rather, it is warranted by the significant number of people who have been misled by his view (although his arguments do raise interesting questions which require extended answers; as well as many mistakes which require correction; hence the length of this opening statement). Paulogia claims that his hypothesis has been ‘met with scoffing rather than actual refutation.’ In reply, his hypothesis has already been met with actual refutation in my previous videos; the reason why he fails to recognize the refutation is because of his fallacious reasoning, as will be shown below.
III. Methodological issues
In my previous video6 I have argued that,
(1) There is no New Testament Bible as we know it today when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Therefore, instead of using the word Bible (which is convenient but anachronistic), it is better to use the word ‘ancient Christian sources’ (which include letters, biographies, etc)
(2) Looking for outside (i.e. ancient non-christian) written sources for corroboration and more firsthand written sources may be difficult under certain circumstances.
Paulogia misrepresents (2) by claiming that this is my ‘acknowledgement that the claims can’t be corroborated’. This is false. Saying that ‘certain forms of corroboration may be difficult’ does not mean it cannot be corroborated at all.
Now Paulogia acknowledges that he is not specifically insisting upon non-Christian corroboration. I have previously argued that the claim that the Gospels of Matthew and John are firsthand sources (which is independent of Paul as a firsthand source; see Consideration 7 below) cannot be so easily dismissed, neither can the claim that all four Gospels have basis in firsthand eyewitnesses testimonies (see Keener, Christobiography). Moreover, 1 Corinthians was written within a context. Ancient non-Christian sources (e.g. Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus) indicate that Christians existed in the first century, they were persecuted etc. Various sources (e.g. citations of 1 Corinthians by early church fathers) indicate that 1 Corinthians were widely regarded by early Christians to be a very important document which revealed a lot about what they believed. There is no problem therefore for the historian to infer (based on 1 Corinthians 15:17) that the early Christians believed that what was foundational to their faith was the resurrection of Jesus (whether Jesus truly resurrected or not is a separate question). We also have ancient biographies i.e. the Four Gospels (for historical reliability, see Keener, Christobiography), and other early Christian writings dating from the ‘period of living memory,’ i.e. the period from first to early second century within which people who could have known the ‘eyewitnesses’ were still alive (Bockmuehl 2007). In sum, we have early documents written when people involved could verify, within a context which is well corroborated.
Paulogia also misrepresents (2) by objecting that ‘Excuses aren’t evidence,’ and claiming that my explanation concerning ‘tip of the iceberg’ nature of the documentary evidence is ‘argument from hypothetical evidence.’ But I am not arguing that ‘the difficulty of finding more ancient non-christian and firsthand written source’ is evidence, neither am I using the point about ‘tip of the iceberg’ to make an argument for Jesus’ resurrection based on hypothetical evidence. Rather, I am merely arguing that we should not expect to find plenty of ancient non-christian and firsthand written sources if the resurrection did happen (for details, see Loke 2020, p. 9f). On the other hand, we should note that
(3) Looking for multiple independent firsthand sources for corroboration is not the only way to determine the truthfulness of Christian source. The use of various considerations, hypotheses, and inference to explain the data is another way.
Now an inference is defined as ‘A conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning’ (OED).
Paulogia claims that ‘The only purpose to consider evidence is to corroborate something,’ and in response to my argument that ‘inference can be highly reliable; it depends on the validity and the quality of the evidence of supporting the inference,’ he claims that ‘here Dr. Loke affirms that inferences should be corroborated with evidence… I’m glad we’re on the same page now. Corroboration with evidence determines the quality of the inference.’
However, Paulogia is using the word ‘corroboration’ in a very general way, and fails to note that I am targeting a particular kind of corroboration, i.e. multiple independent firsthand sources, and arguing that looking for these is NOT the only way to determine the truthfulness of Christian source. In fact, even if we find such corroboration (for example) in non-Christian sources, we would still need to depend on various other considerations to rule out the possibility that both Christian and non-Christian sources got it wrong. For example, concerning the existence of Christians in the first century: this is corroborated in non-Christian sources e.g. Pliny, Tacitus, Josephus. It is unlikely that they got it wrong since they were appealing to public knowledge which could easily be verified by their readers. But notice that the last sentence is an inference.
Licona (2014) notes that “Since we have no direct access to the past, all ancient history is known to varying degrees through inference.” For example, how does Paulogia know that Paul was giving a firsthand account i.e. he was the author of 1 Cor 15? Through inference! (Paulogia might say ‘Through firsthand accounts of early church fathers who knew Paul.’ But how do we know they got it right? It is unlikely that they were all mistaken. Yes, that’s an inference.)
Now I am not denying that having multiple independent firsthand eyewitness corroboration is something that is good to have. In fact, where the case for ‘group appearance’ is concerned, I am going to argue below (see Consideration 7) that Paul was a firsthand eyewitness of members of these group(s) and there was independent attestation of these group(s) in the narrative tradition in the Gospels. As Theissen and Merz (1998, p. 490) observe concerning the tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3–11, ‘The credibility of this tradition is enhanced, because it is in part confirmed by the narrative tradition, which is independent, and because in the case of Paul we have the personal testimony of an eyewitness who knew many of the other witnesses.’
Nevertheless, my point here is that, even if we do not have multiple independent firsthand eyewitnesses, this does not imply that we therefore do not have good evidence for making good inferences. In other words, while it is good to have multiple independent firsthand eyewitnesses, the having of this is not a necessary condition for what constitutes good evidence. If someone says ‘we don’t know if the apostles peed and pooed because there is no firsthand eyewitness account and no corroboration from independent source and it is just an inference which doesn’t meet my high epistemological standard,’ this would be silly!7 Such an inference is as reliable as any multiple independent firsthand accounts, and by itself is already sufficient to establish the conclusion. The above examples as well as the great grandfather example explained in Section II show that Paulogia’s assumption that ‘no multiple independent firsthand eyewitnesses corroboration means we don’t have much evidence/good evidence’ is a false assumption, and that Paulogia’s so-called ‘high epistemological standard’ is unnecessary for deciding what constitutes good evidence/good inference. To insist on it by claiming that it is the only acceptable standard would be silly.
In conclusion, Paulogia should not dismiss an inference by simply saying ‘that’s an inference.’ Independent firsthand corroboration is not the only way to determine the truthfulness of a Christian source (in fact the value of this corroboration is based on inference and considerations, as explained above). The use of various considerations, hypotheses, and inference to explain the data is another way. It is more foundational and can be highly reliable.
IV. An important data: 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (written before AD 55)
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
In my previous video8 I have argued that there were groups of people who had the experiences using a Cumulative Case Argument based on the following historical considerations
- Many ancient people were highly skeptical of bodily resurrection in general.
- The resurrection of Jesus was foundational to the Christian faith.
- The early Christians were willing to die for it. (1,2,3=>likelihood that they would check)
- People could check out if there were indeed ‘groups of eyewitnesses.’
- Paul assumed responsibility and cared about his reputation with his known audiences in Corinth, and the costs of false confirmation would have been high.
- The Corinthians knew at least some (if not all) of the ‘eyewitnesses’; Paul was appealing to public knowledge.
- Other early documents also claimed Jesus’ resurrection and group appearances, and there is independent corroboration of the motif of ‘group appearance’.
- “Solid” evidence involving group(s) would have been required to generate widespread belief of BODILY resurrection among Jesus’ followers in the first place.
In his latest video Paulogia starts with consideration 5. So I shall start with 5 too, and take it together with 6.
V. The historical considerations
Paul assumed responsibility for the information concerning the ‘eyewitnesses’ listed in 1 Cor 15:1-11. He was evidently not a stranger to the Christians in Corinth. His tangled correspondences with the Corinthians indicate that he cared about his reputation as an apostle with his audiences in Corinth.
In his earlier video Paulogia (21:30) replied to the consideration that Paul would have cared to pass on accurate info’ by simply saying ‘That is an inference.’ However, as explained in Section III, one should not dismiss an inference by simply saying ‘that’s an inference’, because the use of considerations and inferences is a valid way to determine the truthfulness of an account.
In Paulogia’s latest video (19:05), he says ‘I’m happy to grant that Paul really THOUGHT he was correct. That has no bearing on whether he was actually correct.’
In reply, it should be noted that Paul was evidently not an imbecile. He was rational enough to debate (e.g. Gal. 2:11–21), to think about evidence (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:6), to infer consequences (1 Cor. 15:14–19; 30–32), and to persuade others to hold to his views. In other words, he had the mental capacity to ensure that the information he passed on was correct. Additionally, it would have been easy to ensure the correctness of the information concerning the ‘eyewitnesses’ listed in 1 Cor 15 given that the early Christian movement was a network of close communication (Hurtado 2013, p. 454; see Consideration 4 below), and many Jewish Christians scattered across the Roman Empire would have travelled yearly to Jerusalem for festivals (Bauckham 2006, pp. 32, 306). These considerations would have make it easy for early Christians including Paul himself to check out and confirm whether these ‘eyewitnesses’ existed.
Indeed, it would have been natural for Paul to know whether these ‘eyewitnesses’ existed given Hurtado’s observation that Paul’s acquaintance with Christian circles was both wide and extremely early (Hurtado 2003, pp. 85–86) and that he had been in these circles for many years already before writing 1 Corinthians, and given that these ‘witnesses’ (if they existed) would have been well-known within these circles from the very beginning (and many of them were supposed to be still alive when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians) because of the foundational importance of what they ‘witnessed’ (Analogy: it would have been natural for me to know who the pastor of a church was after attending the church for some time; alternatively, if the church had no pastor I would have known it too). Thus it is implausible that Paul thought he was correct (as Paulogia acknowledged) yet made a mistake on this issue.
Moreover, Paul knew that his apostolic credentials were being critically assessed by people opposing him (1 Cor 9:1-6), that what he wrote in 1 Cor 15:1-11 was fundamentally important, and that the costs of false confirmation would have been high. Thus he would not have passed the information concerning the ‘eyewitnesses’ listed in 1 Cor 15 unless it was information which he ensured (indeed, knew) was correct. Furthermore, he claimed that the tradition in 1 Corinthians 15 was what other apostles were preaching too (1 Cor. 15:1, 11): ’Whether then it was I or they, so we preach.’ The letters of Paul indicate that Paul knew others (e.g. James, Peter and other apostles; see Gal. 1–2) whom he listed as ‘eyewitnesses’ of Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 and that he had personally met them and talked to them, and that he knew that the Corinthians knew them too (1 Cor. 1:12, 9:1–5). As Bryan comments
“Some among the Corinthians were certainly familiar with the teaching of Cephas (1 Cor. 1:12). Evidently they knew who James was and were aware of other apostles (15:8), and it is hardly likely that none among them had ever heard any of them teach. In other words, the assertion of eyewitness testimony made both by Paul and by the apostolic formula was easily open to challenge unless, as must have been the case, he and the Corinthians knew perfectly well that it was correct.” (Bryan 2011, p. 54).
Establishing this point is already sufficient to show that there were groups of people who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus, and not only two as Paulogia claims. Nevertheless, let’s go on and look at other considerations.
1. Many ancient people were highly skeptical of bodily resurrection
I have previously argued that scepticism towards bodily resurrection was found in the first century outside the church (‘The ancient worldview of Homer, Plato, Cicero, and the rest had no room for resurrection’ (Wright) and inside the church, to the extent that some were saying ‘there is no resurrection of the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:12).
Paulogia (9:29) claimed that the dispute discussed in my book is about HOW normal humans will be raised in the last day, when the fact is that the dispute referenced in my book is about ‘how do some among you say that there is NO resurrection of the dead’. Changing NO to HOW gives a misleading account of what 1 Cor 15:12 stated explicitly and what was actually discussed in my book. Concerning 1 Cor 15:12-13, ‘how do some among you say that there is NO resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised,’ the Greek word for no is ouk, ouk does not mean how; the ‘how’ (Greek pos) issue is discussed from verse 35 onwards.
Paulogia objects that “Corinthian church resurrection doubts did not extend to Jesus, which is why Paul cited it.” However, he fails to note that (i) the two issues are obvious linked, since v.13 implies that Jesus not being resurrected is a consequence of not believing in a future resurrection of Christians’ (ii) people who already believed may doubt again and some may end up losing their faith (e.g. former Christian Bart Ehrman had previously [already] believed Jesus resurrected but he later doubted and lost his faith). There would thus be need for Paul to encourage anyone who may have doubt to consult eyewitnesses for confirmation of Jesus’s resurrection, since that is the premise of his argument for future resurrection of Christians. As Bauckham comments regarding 1 Cor 15:6 and 1 Cor 15:12, Paul is saying in effect, ‘a very large number of the eyewitnesses are still alive and can be seen and heard,’ and this is provided to address the problem that the Corinthians found resurrection incredible (1 Cor. 15:12) (Bauckham 2006, p. 308). Theissen and Merz observe, ‘The references to appearances in chronological order and the accessibility in the present of many witnesses, only some of whom have died, supports the understanding of 1 Corinthians 15:3–11 as an attempt to prove the resurrection of Christ’ (Theissen and Merz 1998, p. 489).
In his earlier video Paulogia (17:35) objects that Paul was merely repeating others’ invitation in 1 Cor 15:6 and cited Licona.
In reply, Paulogia misrepresented Licona, who wrote (2010, pp. 319-320) ‘Paul’s parenthetical phrase that most of the more than five hundred to whom Jesus appeared at a single event is quite interesting, since according to Paul, most of them were still alive and could be questioned by others’. Gordon Fee (1987) notes that ‘Everyone agrees that the words “most of whom are still living, although some have fallen asleep,’ are a Pauline addition. It disrupts the line-by-line mentioning of ‘eyewitnesses’ in the creed. In any case Paul wouldn’t pass on something that he doesn’t affirm himself.
Paulogia (9:59) objects that doesn’t imply that they had rigorous epistemological standards; they were sceptics of UFOs who came to believe in alien abduction
In reply, Paul indicated to the Corinthians what the epistemological standard was in 1 Corinthians 15:6: to consult the ‘eyewitnesses’ themselves. Keener (2005, p. 124) observes that similar appeals to public knowledge can be found in the writings of Josephus (Ag. Ap. 1.50–52; Life 359–62) and Cicero (Verr. 1.5.15; 126.96.36.199). Bauckham (2006, p. 308) notes that the commonsensical idea of ‘checking out’ these important ‘eyewitnesses’ is implicit in 1 Corinthians, a letter which was intended for public reading in the churches. Paul is in effect saying in 1 Corinthians 15:6, ‘If anyone wants to check this tradition, a very large number of the eyewitnesses are still alive and can be seen and heard.’ As for UFO etc, we need to consider on a case by case basis (some claims may be due to illusion, others to hallucination, etc; likewise the origin of Mormonism which Paulogia and Allison cited has various alternative explanations which are difficult to exclude9); in any case this does not excuse us from the need to consider the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
Paulogia (10:10) argues that there were people who didn’t believe Christianity during that time, and he claims that this is because they had more rigorous epistemological standards.
However, this conclusion does not follow, because there are other reasons which explain their unbelief. Like many sceptics today, many at that time would have mocked and dismissed the claim that Jesus resurrected as superstition without further consideration of the evidence (cf. Acts 17:32). Moreover, the Christian doctrine of a ‘crucified God’ would have been regarded by many in antiquity as a shameless impertinence and absurdity (Hengel 1995, p. 383). Given the Jews’ widespread expectation of a Messiah who would deliver them from foreign powers, the claim that a person shamefully crucified by the Romans was the Messiah and was truly divine would have been extremely difficult to accept.
Paulogia states that ‘I’m willing to say that some portion of the church were un-skeptical, while some portion of the church were either initially skeptical or had on-going doubts.’ He then states Murphy-O’Connor (p.182) claim that, at the time of Paul’s letter, the size of the church in Corinth would have been around only 40-50 people. However, Murphy-O’Connor’s method of calculation is highly unreliable: he based it on 16 individuals named in Paul’s letters and Acts, and then add their spouses and other relations. However, as he himself notes, ‘Neither Luke nor Paul intended to give a complete list’ (ibid). They may only be listing a number of close co-workers; we simply have no idea how many more Christians there were in Corinth. Thus Paulogia’s citation of Murphy-O’Connor is uncritical and flawed.
2. The resurrection of Jesus was foundational to the Christian faith (Paulogia accepts this).
3. The resurrection of Jesus was something that the earliest Christians were willing to die for
Concerning Paul’s statement ‘And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Cor 15:30-31)’, Paulogia admits that ‘it is a reasonable inference that the members of the church of Corinth face some kind of danger.’ However, he objects that this ‘is no guarantee that the belief is rigorously held.’ He cites Islamic terrorists and the Mennonites who were persecuted and sincere of their beliefs but who were not hungry for historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
In reply, I did not argue that facing danger by itself will guarantee that the belief is rigorously held. Rather this consideration is part of a cumulative case which include presence of scepticism, etc (see below)
It is not mentioned that there is scepticism among the Islamic terrorists and Mennonites, and their willingness to sacrifice does not imply that they have been in a position to find out whether what they believe is true (McDowell 2015, p. 260 notes for example that the Islamic terrorists ‘were not eyewitnesses of any events of the life of Mohammed’). They may have other reasons for thinking that what they believe is true, such as ‘spiritual experiences’.
Whereas there were sceptics of bodily resurrection among the early Christians (Consideration 1), the Corinthians were in a position to find out whether there were ‘eyewitnesses’ (since unlike the Mennonites they were contemporaries with these ‘eyewitnesses’ and they could find out; see below), AND they were invited to investigate them (1 Cor 15:6). The ancient Christian fact-checking culture is not only reflected in 1 Cor 15:6, but also in Luke 24:32–35, John 20:25, etc (see Loke 2020, p. 103). What was foundational to their faith was not ‘spiritual experiences’, rather the belief that Jesus’ resurrected was foundational (1 Cor 15:17), and the claims of the ‘eyewitnesses’ were foundational to their belief that Jesus’ resurrected (1 Cor 15:6).
4. The early Christians could check out if there were ‘eyewitnesses’
Most of them (if they exist) were still supposed to be alive in AD 55 (within 25 years of crucifixion); as Paul states, among ‘the five hundred’ most of them ‘remain until now’ (1 Cor 15:6).
Paulogia objects that 1 Cor 15:6 ‘he appeared to more than 500 brothers and sisters at the same time” doesn’t seem like enough information for the Corinthians to launch an investigation. He claims that I respond as follows: ‘Loke speculates that this vague reference points to a rich, detailed account in events or traditions we no longer have access to.’
In reply, this is a misrepresentation; I did not ‘speculate’, rather I based it on inference. Consider the following illustration. Suppose you picked up your friend’s handphone and saw a WhatsApp message saying ‘Honey, the kids are with the caretaker, go and look for them.’ Would you complain ‘but this guy didn’t name the caretaker and the address,’ ‘the message didn’t seem like enough information for the wife to launch an investigation into the whereabouts of his kids,’ or ‘this guy won’t identity the address to his wife’ (compare Paulogia’s 19:00 analogy re: Frank Zappa)? Of course not. Why? Because of the context. The message itself may be ‘thin’ in information, nevertheless it is reasonable to infer that this message written within the context involving two people who share intimate relations and responsibility towards each other on an important matter (their children) was referring to knowledge available outside of the text and already known to them. In such contexts it is quite natural for the message to be ‘thin.’
Likewise, Paul was not writing to strangers. Rather, the context was that Paul was writing to the Corinthian Christians whom he shared intimate relations with and had responsibilities for and he was concerned to maintain these (see Consideration 5 above). Precisely because both Paul and the Corinthians would have known that ‘he appeared to more than 500’ doesn’t seem like enough information for the Corinthians to launch an investigation on such an important matter which he was inviting them to check out (see Consideration 1 above), that is why it is reasonable to infer that he was referring to knowledge available outside of the text and known to them. As Keener (2005, p. 124) observes, Paul was appealing to public knowledge, and that similar appeals to public knowledge can be found in the writings of other ancient writers such as Josephus (Ag. Ap. 1.50–52; Life 359–62) and Cicero (Verr. 1.5.15; 188.8.131.52). That is, Paul was writing in an ‘appealing to public knowledge’ style which he knew the Corinthians would recognize and that they were in a position to know whether Paul was conning them by citing info they couldn’t verify, and Paul knew that the cost of falsification would have been high. Thus he wouldn’t have claimed that it was public knowledge unless it was true.
Allison observes ‘in harmony with this common sense, which rightly assumes simple human curiosity’ (2005, p. 236) that, since the Christians in Corinth (or anywhere else) would not have believed based on the scanty information in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 alone without wanting to know the details (e.g. what did these disciples see? Did they touch Jesus?), 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 must have been a summary of traditional resurrection narratives which were told in fuller forms elsewhere (Allison 2005a, pp. 235–239). Such basic human curiosity was evidently present in the mind-set of first century people. Consider, for example, the story of Jesus healing a blind man in John 9: after he was healed people asked him: “How then were your eyes opened?” (v. 10), and this man offered the details “The man who is called Jesus made mud, and spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight” (v. 11). Likewise, Thomas was said to have wanted to find out more details about Jesus’ resurrected body (e.g. concerning the imprints of the nails) when the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” (John 19:25). Regardless of whether the above stories are true or not, they reflect the mindset of first century people that, on seeing or hearing about an extraordinary event, people in general would have the basic human curiosity to want to know the details. That is what Allison means when he writes that people would not have believed based on the scanty information in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 alone—for example by being told that ‘he appeared to more than 500’—without wanting to know the details, which must therefore have been offered by the ‘eyewitnesses’ similar to the way the blind man who was healed offered the details by elaborating on what happened (as portrayed in John 9:11). As Gerhardsson (2003, p. 89) remarks concerning 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, ‘elementary psychological considerations tell us that the early Christians could scarcely mention such intriguing events . . . without being able to elaborate on them.’
Paulogia objects by complaining ‘Loke uses “must have been a summary”, not “might have been a summary”,’ and Paulogia claims that “must have been” is begging the question: ‘Because otherwise they wouldn’t have enough information to verify the 500. But since their ability to verify the 500 is the claim we’re investigating, then Loke is engaged in circular logic.’
In reply, first, it is not Loke but (Paulogia’s favourite) Allison whom Loke is quoting. Second, ‘must have been’ is warranted given that it is based on elementary psychological consideration (as noted above), just as the inference that the apostles must have peed and pooed is warranted given that it is based on elementary biological consideration. Given that the argument is based on elementary psychological consideration rather than based on merely assuming the conclusion that they have enough information to verify the 500, the argument is not circular and does not beg the question.
Paulogia then objects ‘Dr Loke is now appealing to the broad category of human nature. By his psychoanalysis, everyone takes time to critically examine additional information when it is available to them…Is it human nature to check claims, or to not check claims? If it’s the former, why didn’t everyone in my audience go out and download your free book?’
In reply, Paulogia has misrepresented my argument. My argument is not “people check out the facts” simpliciter. Rather, my argument is that people would likely check out the facts under certain conditions (and by ‘people’ I am of course not saying that every single person [including infants] would check out; rather my point is that it is likely that at least some among the Corinthians would check out). I argued that there were both believers and sceptics of bodily resurrection among the early Christians (e.g. those in Corinth; 1 Cor 15:12), the topic of Jesus’ resurrection was important for them (1 Cor 15:17) for which they are willing to die for (1 Cor 15:30-32), people would have had the basic curiosity to ask about the details of such extraordinary event, the Corinthians were in a position to find out whether there were ‘eyewitnesses’ (the early Christian movement was a network of close communication, and many Jewish Christians scattered across the Roman Empire would have travelled yearly to Jerusalem for festivals [Bauckham 2006], which would have make it very likely for the early Christians to come into contact with the 500 if they exist), they were invited to investigate them (1 Cor 15:6), and that under these circumstances it is likely that at least some among the Corinthians would check out concerning the claim about the 500.
Whereas not everyone in Paulogia’s audience would regard my book to be important to them (although, I must say, some have indeed downloaded my book). Based on the youtube comments of Paulogia’s videos, it is evident that some watch them for entertainment, some are dismissive of Jesus’ resurrection and do not seem to think of the topic as being important to them, much less what I said about the topic, and there is no indication that any of his audience is under some kind of threat of persecution such that they are willing to die for what they believe about this issue. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that not everyone in Paulogia’s audience go out and download my book and read it for themselves.
The bigger problem with Paulogia’s reasoning is a failure to understand the nature of cumulative case argument, and his tendencies to make general remarks such as ‘the writer of a letter inviting someone to investigate says nothing at all about the epistemological standard of the receiver’, ‘I’m confident that you can think of a time when you or someone you know believed something without solid evidence’ etc., without addressing the specific considerations for the specific case at hand. To illustrate, if a person heard a rumor about a president having an affair (an important matter!) and he can spread it without getting caught, then it may be more likely that he would spread this high-importance rumor and add to it. However, if the importance of the topic is taken together with other considerations such as the consideration that it is likely that he would be caught and the consequence would be high for himself, then it is likely that he would be more careful not to spread it. In other words, the importance of the topic—taken by itself—may not increase the likelihood of preventing the spread of rumor very much; on the contrary, it may likely generate more rumor and predispose adding (DiFonzo & Bordia, 141). However, when the importance of the topic of a particular issue is taken together with other considerations such as when the costs of false confirmation are greater, and when people are held personally responsible for what they say and care about their reputation among sustained relationships with known audiences, then it is likely that people would be more careful to form conclusions based on valid evidence (DiFonzo and Bordia 2007, pp. 166, 173–174). As shown in Chapter 2 of my book, the importance of the topic is indeed taken together with these other considerations with regards to 1 Cor 15:3-11.
Paulogia then quotes Allison as stating ‘still…we have no evidence that any of the 500, whoever they might have been, crossed the Mediterranean to give their personal testimonies!’
However, both Paulogia and Allison fails to note my evidenced-based inference that the early Christian movement was a network of close communication, and many Jewish Christians scattered across the Roman Empire would have travelled yearly to Jerusalem for festivals (Bauckham 2006), which would have make it very likely for the early Christians to come into contact with the 500. As Hurtado (2013, p. 454) observes:
‘A well-attested ‘networking’ was another feature of early Christianity. This involved various activities, among them the sending and exchange of texts, believers travelling for trans-local promotion of their views (as e.g. the ‘men from James’ in Gal. 2:11, or Apollo’s’ travels to Corinth in 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:5–9; 16:12), representatives sent for conferral with believers elsewhere (as depicted, e.g. Acts 15:1–35), or sent to express solidarity with other circles of believers (as e.g. those accompanying the Jerusalem offering in 1 Cor. 16:3–4). Travel and communication were comparatively well developed in the Roman world generally, among wealthy and a good many ordinary people, for business, pilgrimage to religious sites/occasions, for health, to consult oracles, for athletic events, sightseeing, and other purposes…in that world of frequent travel and communication, the early Christians particularly seem to have been given to networking, devoting impressive resources of time, money, and personnel to this, and on a wide translocal scale’ (Hurtado 2013, p. 454).
Finally, Paulogia cites Allison’s question ‘If the Corinthians knew any of these people, why didn’t Paul write, “Then he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, including your friends Faustinus and Vitus, although some had died?”
In reply, if as Allison himself has observed earlier that 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 must have been a summary of traditional resurrection narratives which were told in fuller forms elsewhere (Allison 2005a; see above), then there would be no need for Paul to write specific names since they would be found in those narratives.
Paulogia objects by arguing how do we know that it didn’t happen that (say) 10 or 20 Corinthians did an investigation of the 500 and found it wanting and left the church? ‘Would the early church do some kind of exit interview and record the failed interviews, and then keep copying this record of shame for generations? No, not at all.’
In reply, Paulogia fails to note that there were many inside the early churches who opposed Paul’s apostolic credentials. If the investigation found Paul’s statement wanting on such a fundamentally important issue, the early churches would have rejected Paul’s letter rather than kept copying it for generations as divinely authorized writing and which (as the citations of 1 Corinthians by early church fathers show) was widely regarded as such by early Christians, and acknowledged to be ‘weighty and strong’ (2 Cor. 10:10) by his sophisticated opponents in Corinth. As Kreeft observes ‘Paul says in this passage (v. 6) that most of the five hundred are still alive, inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses. He could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true.’
Paulogia objects ‘even if I’m generous to Andrew and say that among the handful who might have investigated that some found personally satisfactory confirmation, and some did not, that tells us nothing about which group used better methods and a more rigorous epistemology,’ (20:15) citing the case that one third of American believe election was a fraud.
In reply, concerning the American election, it may be more difficult to prove things one way or the other compared to Jesus’ resurrection. E.g. it may be more difficult to exclude a fraud caused by people with other motivations and having the modern technology to engineer it. In such complicated situations, it is very easy for some people to think that they have ‘investigated or have enough information to establish something incredibly important to them – and for which they perceive persecution — and yet still be factually wrong about it’ (Paulogia). Thus (for example) some people might regard the investigated findings of the results of mailed-in votes to be evidence of a fraud, while others dispute this by presenting evidence of reliability, and a number of Trump supporters have looked at the evidence and disagreed with Trump. There are supporters who remain but the election results is not foundational to their support of Trump.
Whereas in the case of Jesus’ resurrection the truthfulness of Jesus’ resurrection is the foundational motivation (1 Cor 15:17). Paulogia says he disputes this because ‘Christians today come to believe for many different reasons; there’s no reason to suspect there wasn’t similar epistemological diversity then.’ However, Paulogia fails to note that for the early Christians what was foundational to their faith was the belief that Jesus resurrected (1 Cor 15:17) and that the claims of the ‘eyewitnesses’ were foundational to their belief that Jesus’ resurrected (1 Cor 15:6). Moreover, verifying whether there were group(s) of people claiming to have seen the resurrected Jesus would have been relatively uncomplicated—it is a simple and straightforward question whether there is or there isn’t people who claim to have seen something (especially given that the early Christian movement was a network of close communication and that early Jewish Christians would have travelled yearly to Jerusalem for festivals)—compared with the relatively more complicated issue concerning whether the American Election was a fraud engineered by sophisticated modern technology. While many people in the first century may not know how to write, they had good oral skills and evidently knew how to ask around with their mouths, and we have no evidence of anyone who had looked at the evidence and disagreed with Paul concerning the group appearances. The implication of 1 Cor 15:6 is to check out rather than to embrace the resurrection superstitiously.
Paulogia asks but ‘how can we in any way be confident that the witnesses found were not mistaken?’ Paulogia cites Elizabeth Loftus’ studies on false memories, and other studies where people believe they were involved in events they hear about.
In reply, memories can be inaccurate, but that does not imply that all are inaccurate (be careful of the ‘all or nothing’ fallacy!). For example, groups of eyewitnesses would have remembered Holocaust happened, even if there were no photos. Even if individuals may mis-remember or implant some details, others in the group can correct them (and correct Holocaust deniers who claim that the photos were forged). The cases discussed in Loftus’ video which Paulogia cited are disanalogous to the case for Jesus’ resurrection. For example, Loftus’ mentioning of an individual hitchhiker who mistakenly thought that a stranger was her rapist is disanalogous to Jesus who was a well-known public figure and not a stranger to his disciples. Likewise, Loftus mentioning of an individual who misremembered what happened when he was 5 years old and falsely believed that he was involved in events that he tried to recall happened long ago is disanalogous to the case of traditions formulated soon after an event and regularly repeated by communities (for example, if I misremember the Lord’s Prayer I would be corrected next week when it is repeated at church; I would not need to try hard to recall what the correct version is). The ‘witnesses’ would have already been well-known within early Christian circles from the very beginning given the fundamental importance of what they ‘witnessed’, and they would have regularly repeated what they ‘witnessed’ as they preached the Gospel. Thus, it is unlikely that the ‘witnesses’ found were mistaken in believing that they were involved in ‘witnessing the resurrected Jesus’ if they had no such experiences. (For other objections to the False Memory Hypothesis, see Loke 2020, chapters 4 and 7).
Paulogia asks but ‘how can we in any way be confident that the witnesses found were not lying?’ Paulogia suggest ‘perhaps there were nefarious people around, who were willingly lying about being one of the 500. This is what Andrew says about Buddhist claims (of rainbow bodies).’ Paulogia (15:20) cites Allison who said he told personal stories which morph into something else, and cited the case of Simeon Stylites (AD 390-459) concerning whom Allison claims that there was one biography written within 14 years of his death and which supposedly had information from eyewitnesses but is ‘full of stuff nobody believes.’
In reply, in Allison’s personal case Allison himself notes that people did check with him and the person who spread the story didn’t ‘get away’. Moreover, in this case and the case of Simeon Stylites there is no persecution and those stories are not foundational to their religious beliefs. Additionally the medieval trade in religious relics is well known. Likewise trade in religious relics is well-known in Buddhism too10 (and the teaching of rainbow body is also not foundational to Buddhism, and there is no context of persecution concerning the origin of the belief in rainbow body). Therefore in these cases there is insufficient consideration for ruling out the possibility of fraud for financial incentives.
Whereas in the case of Jesus’ resurrection, if fact checking falsified Paul’s claims, those who had converted would have left the faith given that it would have been shown to be in vain (given the foundational nature of the eyewitness claim as explained above). Moreover, given the context of persecution of Christians which Paul referred to 1 Cor 15:30-32 (‘why are we also in danger every hour?’), it is unlikely that there would be people lying about being one of the 500 Christian witnesses. (For additional considerations against the Fraud Hypothesis, see Loke 2020, chapter 3).
7. Other early documents also claimed Jesus’ resurrection and group appearances
Aside from Paul’s letters, there are other documents in the first and early second century (i.e. written during the ‘period of living memory’ (Bockmuehl)—such as the Four Gospels, Acts, 1 Clement, Letters of Ignatius, and so on—which also claim that there were various eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus. Summarizing the work of Allison (2005a) and others, Licona (2010, p. 322) notes, for example, ‘The appearance to Peter in 1 Corinthians 15:5 may be alluded to in Mark 16:7 and is specifically mentioned in Luke 24:34, though not narrated. In fact, Luke agrees with the tradition in placing the appearance to Peter chronologically prior to the group appearance to the disciples. ‘The fact that the name Peter is used in Luke 24:12 while Simon is used in 24:34 again points to different sources or traditions.’ The appearance to the Twelve in 1 Corinthians 15:5 is clearly narrated by Luke and John. Allison provides another chart of this appearance in Matthew, Pseudo-Mark (Mk 16:9–20), Luke, and John showing similar setting, appearance, response, commissioning, and promise of assistance.’
Allison notes that the Gospels have sources that are independent of 1 Cor 15:3-11: ‘its distance from the canonical accounts is often emphasized — there are no women in Paul’s account, for example, and the Gospels intimate nothing of an appearance to James’ (Allison 2005, p. 239). Yet, Allison also notes ‘the sequential similarities…death, burial, resurrection on third day, appearance to individuals, appearance to 11 or 12 disciples’. In other words, there is repetition of the outline and the ‘appearance to group’ motif which is multiply independently attested.
Paulogia concedes that ‘the gospels can reasonably be considered independent of 1 Corinthians,’ but objects ‘it is difficult to imagine the gospel-writers unaware of a 40-year-old creed considered central to Christian faith,’ and argues that ‘the gospels cannot be considered independent of each other.’
In reply, my argument for Consideration 7 does not require that the Gospel writers be unaware of the creed in 1 Cor 15:3-11, nor does it require that the Gospels’ account of the resurrection narratives are independent of one another (even though this point is defensible despite the fact that ‘90-ish% of Mark is copied directly into Matthew and Luke, and more and more New Testament scholars are acknowledging that John was aware of Mark’[Paulogia]
, see the quote from Licona above). Rather, it only requires that they are using independent sources, which Paulogia concedes. As Theissen and Merz (1998, p. 490) observe concerning the tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3–11, ‘The credibility of this tradition is enhanced, because it is in part confirmed by the narrative tradition, which is independent, and because in the case of Paul we have the personal testimony of an eyewitness who knew many of the other witnesses.’ Thus, concerning the group appearances listed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, ‘there is no doubt . . . they come from people who attest an overwhelming experience’ (Theissen and Merz 1998, p. 490).
8. ‘Solid’ evidence involving group(s) of people would have been required to generate widespread belief of BODILY resurrection among Jesus’ followers
Here, Paulogia’s objection that the gospels weren’t available to the first generation of Christians and his claim that the gospels are not solid evidence missed the point of my argument. Likewise his citation of Allison’s assertion that (Paulogia 30:00) ‘we don’t know what the disciples actually saw because the authors of Gospels/Acts might have apologetics purpose for portraying what they saw’ does not answer my argument. The reason is because my argument is not based on the Gospels (and therefore it is not affected by Allison’s doubts about the reliability of the Gospels on this point), rather it is based on inference, as follows.
First, it is important to be clear about the meaning of bodily resurrection. Ware (2014, p. 494) observes that, when used with reference to the physically dead (as in Jesus’ case in 1 Cor. 15:3–5), the term egeirō (‘raise’) refers unambiguously to the reanimation or revivification of the corpse. While ‘sensing the presence of a dead person’ is common e.g. in bereavement experience, (which Paulogia often refers to), this does not usually result in the belief that the corpse has exited the tomb. I have had bereavement experience myself of my deceased father, but I (and the rest of my family) do not therefore believe that my father’s solid physical body resurrected and came to me. It is likely that some ‘solid’ evidence, such as the my father eating and drinking with me and my family members (my mother, my wife, my children) together, would have been required in order that we would come to the agreement that my father has resurrected bodily. Likewise, some ‘solid’ evidence such as the disciples eating and drinking with Jesus together as a group would likely have been necessary to start the widespread agreement among them that a resurrected corpse was what they witnessed rather than a spirit, etc. (p. 111).
Now, none of the steps of the inferential argument explained above depends on the Gospels. On the other hand, the fact that the Gospels and Acts contains narratives of the disciples eating and drinking with Jesus together merely confirms my argument. While sceptics often claim that the authors of Gospels/Acts have apologetics purpose for portraying such events, the above inferential argument (which does not depend on the Gospels) shows it is likely that such events would have been necessary to start the widespread agreement among them concerning Jesus bodily resurrection in the first place, prior to any apologetic purpose which they may have had later on for writing the Gospels and Acts which portrayed such events. Additionally, it is likely that the Gospels and Acts contain traditions which were told and passed down orally from the very beginning, even though they were written down later. As Wright argues regarding the details concerning the resurrected Jesus, these must have been told since the earliest days of the church as people would surely have asked (see Consideration 4), and ‘stories as community forming as this, once told, are not easily modified. Too much depends on them’ (Wright 2003, p. 611).
In conclusion, I have explained whether there is good evidence for a historical claim depends on the context, various considerations and inferences, and the quality of the alternative hypothesis, and that it is a historical question whether there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus (‘group appearances of risen Jesus’). Concerning this historical question, the consensus of historians is ‘Yes!’, and I have explained the context and some of the considerations and inferences which support this conclusion (for other considerations see chapters 2 and 3 of my book).
On the other hand, Paulogia’s alternative hypothesis that ‘there were no group(s) but only (two) individuals’ is a fringe theory within an academic field with significant academic freedom. That is, despite significant amount of disagreements on various aspects of the New Testament (e.g. concerning whether some letters were pseudoepigrapha), hardly any scholar holds to the hypothesis affirmed by Paulogia. This is not surprising, because the hypothesis is based on multiple fallacies, misinterpretations of primary sources, and misrepresentations of scholars. It is pseudo-history. People who believe what Paulogia says in his videos are being misinformed and misled.
Given the irrationality of Paulogia’s alternative hypothesis, and given the eight considerations and inferences which I have defended above, it can be concluded that there is good evidence for thinking that there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus.
1 Paulogia’s earlier video (with timestamps) refer to Who Saw Risen Jesus? (Dr Andrew Loke vs Dr Dale Allison & Friends) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qtfFPd_R_E&t=1005s. Unless otherwise stated, the other citations from Paulogia are taken from the script of his later video ‘Who Saw Risen Jesus? 2 (Dr. Andrew Loke Redux)’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRDnZ1ASYeI&t=1864s, which Paulogia has kindly provided before this debate. The bibliographic details of the other sources cited in this document can be found in the Bibliography of my book Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Routledge, 2020; henceforth Loke 2020), which is available for download here: https://www.academia.edu/42985421/Investigating_the_Resurrection_of_Jesus_Christ.
2 Paulogia: ‘I posit that the entire body of historical evidence is completely explainable with as few as two people claiming to have seen risen Jesus’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRDnZ1ASYeI&t=1864s (3:50).
3 See note 7.
4 Although other scholars have pointed out problems with this view. See for example, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2011/03/30/forged-bart-ehrmans-new-salvo-the-introduction-2/
5 I must say that through my email interaction with Paulogia I have come to appreciate him as a person (his sincerity, friendliness, willingness to engage, etc.). The credibility of his views however is another matter.
7 That is, in the absence of any religious context and absence of any evidence for thinking that a miracle happened in this case to remove the need to pee and poo; such religious context and evidence are also likewise absent in the case of the great grandfather illustration in Section II. Thus the objection ‘but Jesus’ resurrection also violate elementary biological consideration’ fails, because the case of Jesus’ resurrection is disanalogous in the sense that there is presence of religious context and evidence for suspecting (and indeed concluding) that a miracle happened (see Loke 2020 for details).
9 E.g. https://seanmcdowell.org/blog/was-joseph-smith-a-martyr.
Nice argument from ignorance fallacy at the end (right after you accuse Paulogia of fallacies):
“ Given the irrationality of Paulogia’s alternative hypothesis…”
Hey, do u know how to read English? It says ‘Given the irrationality of Paulogia’s alternative hypothesis, AND given the eight considerations and inferences which I have defended above…’. Do u know the meaning of AND? which implies that it is not based on ignorance but based on considerations and inferences? Why do u take words out of context, like Paulogia and so many of his followers?
Why are you behaving like a sycophant?
The general thrust of this is refuted here: https://www.debunking-christianity.com/2021/03/andrew-loke-on-resurrection-skeptics.html?m=0
Loke adds a few additional considerations in this CC essay, but nothing that isn’t easily dispatched. But I am not the one debating Loke. So, I’ll sit back and watch, and if Loke decides he wants to respond to me at some point, I’ll be waiting.
You really have an inflated sense of self, don’t you?
No more than the average believer.
Loke has already refuted your review here:
https://www.academia.edu/45588286/Reply_to_reviews_of_Investigating_the_Resurrection_of_Jesus_Christ_Routledge_2020_ And you have repeatedly misrepresented his arguments, both in your review and in your comments here.
I read it, but only because some one else informed me it existed on his personal page (I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise). Loke didn’t refute anything. Which will become evident in my response. You’re just repeating what Loke said, which isn’t surprising coming from any Christian. But I doubt you will be explaining why in any cogent fashion.
The amount of unwarranted arrogance is astounding.
Is there a reason you replied to me with this email?
Solid opening statement! The incredibly early dating, as well as the compositional context, of the 1 Cor. 15 creed should also be noted.
Here’s a few problems. Loke continues to cling to this idea that 1Cor 15.6 establishes that Christians were critical fact-checkers. This is refuted in the link I posted, but he adds Lk 24.32-5 and Jn 20.25. This is silly. The point of the one passage is to point to the Jewish scriptures. That’s why Jesus couldn’t be recognized. Not because his appearance was altered, as commonly assumed, but because he was prevented from being recognized magically. “Eyes” and “minds” had to be “opened” to recognize Jesus, which Jesus does through Bible lessons. The point of the latter passage is that… Read more »
Loke has already refuted your review here:
https://www.academia.edu/45588286/Reply_to_reviews_of_Investigating_the_Resurrection_of_Jesus_Christ_Routledge_2020_ And you have repeatedly misrepresented his arguments, both in your review and in your comments here
Hi, Erc. Considering the website you’ve chosen to associate with, I would be careful with throwing around terms like “bogus” and “dubious” because of Debunking Christianity’s long history of making bogus and dubious claims about Christianity. It seems like they haven’t changed much from the looks of things. Similarly, you’ve already made several dubious claims in just this comment alone. For example, you said this: “What Loke says about the “cost of false confirmation” or being “critically assessed” by others can be said for any cult leader. Again, these criteria aren’t very helpful for showing that Paul knew what he… Read more »
I would say Christians in general, including Loke, make bogus and dubious claims all the time. I never said anything about “lying”, but none of this tells us that Paul was good at checking facts, especially without any mistakes. That’s a bizarre fantasy that goes well beyond anything Loke or anyone else can hope to prove. Trying to fill in the gaps with vague appeals to ‘elementary psychological considerations’, or similar, as Loke does, just doesn’t cut it and betrays nothing but gullibility. We don’t know why Paul believed these claims (granting that he did) beyond, perhaps, his visions, his… Read more »
The difference is, you and your fellow contributors should know better. Indeed, that Paul wouldn’t have fact-checked some of these claims is dubious in and of itself. And this doesn’t even rely on Paul being some astute genius. Accept Paul had everything to lose. If he were excommunicated, he’d have nothing to go back to. He would have become a destitute nobody. With all this being said, I disagree with the way Loke and you’ve chosen to frame these issues — the myopic focus on Paul/minimal facts approach is intellectually bankrupt. Loke should put on his brave face and make… Read more »
hey jim i like wat u said but one point is that loke did defend the reliability of the Gospels indirectly in consideration 8 ; see in particular his citation of NT Wright towards the end
Second Temple Judaism was a superstitious visionary culture in which people claimed to have “visions” of God and angels quite regularly. This provides a cultural background context which raises the prior probability that the “appearances” of Jesus were originally thought of as “visions” or spiritual revelations from heaven. In fact, the “son of man” figure from Dan. 7:13 was said to have been experienced in a vision. Since Jesus was identified with the “son of man” then it is just expected people would claim to have visions of him. https://www.reddit.com/r/DebateAChristian/comments/8iq6k9/the_cultural_background_of_judaism_supports_the/
Doscher, when are you going to give it a rest? You’ve been parroting these same old refuted arguments across the web for at least a decade now. Shouldn’t you be busy repaying a certain someone’s legal fees right now?
Wow! Were my comments deleted?
Sorry, CC. I think so. I was just about to post a response.
How come all my other comments were deleted?
“A skeptic could offer that people must have naively misinterpreted some natural phenomenon. Even today, some Christians eagerly pass around pictures of clouds that, to them, look like Jesus. So did a first-century crowd, naive about pareidolia, look up and marvel at a figure in the clouds? Paul says that Jesus appeared ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς. While the usual translation is “to more than five hundred,” the adverb, ἐπάνω, can mean “above” or “over,” and some older exegetes took that to be the sense here. Is there any chance they were right? One recalls the cross of light that Constantine’s “whole… Read more »
I’m assuming all of these quotes are taken from Allison. Something interesting to note is that Constantine and his army probably really did see something. And I see no reason to doubt what they reported seeing is basically true. Nobody, to my knowledge, has argued that Constantine and co. saw, say, a cloud that looked like a bowling ball, and then mistakenly interpreted that as a Cross made of light. So there’s an objective phenomenon behind what they saw. What this means theologically is up for the debate, but what is for certain is that they weren’t hallucinating or seeing… Read more »
Dr. Loke likes to speak of “inferences.” Well, here’s an inference. Since Paul uses a “vision” (Gal. 1:12-16, Acts 26:19) as a “resurrection appearance” (1 Cor 15:8) then it necessarily follows that claims of “visions” (experiences that don’t necessarily have anything to do with reality) were accepted as evidence of Jesus “appearing.” Paul makes no distinction in regards to the nature, quality, or type of appearances. He uses the same verb ὤφθη (ōphthē) for each one as if to equate them and makes no reference to a separate and distinct Ascension between the appearances. This calls into question the veracity… Read more »
As you’ve noted, Paul is quite vague about the nature of the vision he received. We know the word “vision” must have been quite fluid if it could be used to describe the events of Acts Conversion Story — which was a multisensory objective encounter with Jesus. Even further, Paul says he “saw” Jesus later on in 1 Corinthians. We both know what the natural interpretation of that wording is.
Considering Acts was written by traveling companion of Paul, it’s perfectly legitimate to read Paul’s conversion story as told in Acts into Paul’s letters.
This will probably get deleted like my other comments but if Paul’s comment just amounts to being “vague” then you can’t, at the same time, believe that Paul really saw a physically resurrected person. It’s either one or the other. It’s a shame our whole thread was deleted. We were having a good discussion.
This sucks. What’s the deal? Do you have any copies or screenshots of our discussion?
Maybe they deleted our discussion because it was too long? But they’re allowing other posters to continue their lengthy discussions. If you have a copy of any of our discussions, you should send some of them my way. I’ll post an email address later.
This strikes me as a very strange opening statement. Supposedly the topic of the debate is whether there is good evidence for group appearances of the risen Jesus, but it seems like Dr. Loke spends most of his time taking jabs at Paulogia rather than actually presenting any evidence. The statement itself is hard to follow, and seems poorly structured. For instance, what is the relevance of #1 and #2, and why does he spend an inordinate amount of time defending something so trivial as #1 anyway? Point #3 also seems unhelpful in this context, since we don’t know anything… Read more »
If Andrew’s position is basically “what the New Testament says is true” then why bother with all the apologetics? Just say you believe the Bible is true and just call it a day.
Only part way through this so far but wow, Loke is so much easier to understand and comes across so much better here than when he’s speaking at 50 million miles and hour in the videos.
I am confused Paulogia. Your last video refuted most of these 7 or 8 points, and Dr. Loke seems to just repeat himself. Why are you engaging in this written debate? Your last video was pretty clear, that should have been it for this!
Paulogia couldn’t refute a rock. I don’t even agree with Loke’s methodology but it’s obvious Paul is out of his league here.
Loke justifies his rhetorical use of “must have” from inference by claiming, like inferring the apostles pooed because of “elementary biological considerations” so we can thus rule out other possibilities with similar “elementary psychological considerations”. I think its very valuable reflecting on this use of “elementary considerations” justifying what “must have” been as opposed to “might have” been. This is because it is also an “elementary biological consideration” that bodies do not rise from the dead in about 3 days. It seems Loke has thrown the resurrection of Jesus under the bus in an effort to defeat Paulogia. The only… Read more »
You missed what Loke said in note 7, which anticipated and replied to the objection you raised. Check out chapter 8 of his book where he explains in greater detail under what circumstances should we conclude that a miracle happen.
Thanks for pointing that out, I did miss it. Let me read it… so… he just special pleads and carves out a special exception. Biological considerations count except for when they don’t. It’s literally just insisting that evidence has a pro-religious bias. I don’t buy that at all. That’s a terrible argument.
Hey, do u know how to read English? Scroll up to footnote 7 again. It does not read ‘Biological considerations count except for when they don’t.’ Rather it says biological considerations count except when there is religious context and evidence for thinking that a miracle happened in this case to remove the need to pee and poo, & by evidence loke is obviously referring to observational evidence just as he is arguing that there is evidence that there were people who observed Jesus alive after he was crucified and died when he says ‘see Loke 2020 for details’. Likewise we… Read more »
Do you? It literally says “except for in a religious context and” meaning one of the prerequisites for even considering these rules can be violated is a special exemption for religion and religious conclusions. This makes this a flagrant case of special pleading. Just because someone wrote words on a page saying “yeah this is a problem, but actually it isn’t, because this is a special case, ok?” doesn’t mean they’re right and they solved the problem. Actually, it kind of means the opposite.
why do u take loke’s words out of context yet again? u quote him as saying “except for in a religious context and” , AND WHAT? it says “except for in a religious context AND EVIDENCE’& by evidence loke is obviously referring to observational evidence just as he is arguing that there is evidence that there were people who observed Jesus alive after he was crucified and died when he says ‘see Loke 2020 for details’. if loke doesnt mention evidence but only mention religious context then it would be special pleading for religion, however loke did mention evidence so it is not… Read more »
“AND WHAT?” is irrelevant. “And” is a particular conjunction which, in logic, means both sides of the it need to be satisfied for the criteria to be satisfied. This means that, for instance, if there were only evidence, Loke is saying that wouldn’t be enough, you need both the evidence and the religious context. If the claim was you only needed one, then the conjunction to use is “Or”. So he’s literally special pleading: he’s saying religious context is held to one (lower) standard of evidence, and non-religious is being held to higher standard of evidence. This is really simple.… Read more »
‘“And” is a particular conjunction which, in logic, means both sides of the it need to be satisfied for the criteria to be satisfied. This means that, for instance, if there were only evidence, Loke is saying that wouldn’t be enough, you need both the evidence and the religious context.’—Exactly! loke is saying that concluding that a miracle happened requires a higher standard; you not only need evidence, but you need the context as well! So loke is not special pleading & u have misunderstood him yet again by confusing ‘religious context/religious argument’ with ‘establishing a miracle as an exception’.… Read more »
I’ve not changed anything about how I’ve understood from the beginning, but as this goes on and I keep repeating myself in different ways, more and more of it you’re agreeing that I do, in fact, understand. I get it all perfectly well, there’s not some mysterious misunderstanding in my reasoning, Loke is simply in the wrong. His criteria ends up establishing a lower standard, because this is about allowing exceptions to exclusions! Loke is not allowing anything that doesn’t meet both of those criteria. Agreed? You don’t get to create a category, claim it rules out everything except religious… Read more »
Do you know wat special pleading means? As loke pointed out, special pleading is an informal fallacy wherein one cites something as an exception without justifying the special exception Now look at what u wrote: ‘“Group hallucinations are not allowed, because science shows they do not happen” And if I try to say “Ah, but this case is an exceptional rare case where that has happened, since we have the evidence of the walking through walls”, you’ll say “No, exceptions can only happen in a religious context”’ –Nope, this is NOT wat i would say. Rather i would say (& to… Read more »
lol this is hilarious. It’s not special pleading because god is special. That’s a new one for me. hahahaha.
u mean u dun know that God (if He exists) is SUPPOSED to be special? That’s a new one for me 🙂 Go and read up on wat ex-hypothesi means & also confirmation theory of hypothesis & stop embarrassing urself here with ur lack of understanding of English and philosophy. Bye Bye.
You’re a genius and a legend. Your absolute mastery of english and philosophy has totally convinced me. You’ve destroyed me with facts and logic and Jesus is smiling on you now. 🙂
This was a good start from Loke. Paulogia has made some pretty silly errors here — as he usually does when talking about these sorts of things. I’m surprised Dr. Loke even bothered with debating a village atheist like Paulogia. Carrier or Ehrman would have made more suitable opponents.
One of the points Loke makes in this article that he also makes in his rather bad response to my review of his book is that the belief in 2020 election fraud wasn’t ‘foundational’ to the insurrectionists’ support of Trump. This attempt to dismiss the analogy is, frankly, ridiculous. It may not have been foundational to their support of Trump, but it was foundational to their march against the Capitol. And it was an important enough belief for them to commit crimes and violence against the American government. The point that it wasn’t foundational to their support of Trump and… Read more »
The punishment applied to the Apostles in the Ancient World was much worse than just loosing freedom. I don’t know the relevance of this to the actual discussion, but choosing to continue suffering unspeakable pain is quite different than commiting a crime that may, as any crime, cost one’s freedom.
lol a guy who believes everything written in the bible and invents anything he wants to fill in the gaps to suit his narrative has the nerve to use the term “pseudo-history”!
If Jesus was god, how would it be significant for him to die in the first place? This whole argument is dead on arrival..
If the Resurrection is actual history then why do the narratives look so much like a legend evolving? Pay attention to how “experiencing” the Risen Jesus evolves in chronological order. Scholarly consensus dating places the documents as follows: Paul c. 50 CE – is the only firsthand report. He says the Risen Jesus “appeared” ὤφθη (1 Cor 15:5-8) and was experienced through “visions” and “revelations” – 2 Cor 12:1. The appearance to Paul was a vision/revelation *from heaven* – Gal. 1:12-16, Acts 26:19 (not a physical encounter with a revived corpse) and he makes no distinction between what he “saw”… Read more »
[…] Previous Entries:Dr. Andrew Loke’s Opening Statement […]
Can some one get in touch with Kings College and have this PhD scrutinized? These arguments are the tinker toys first year students throw around in Phil 101.
This opening was poorly written. It is difficult to follow and Loke seems to spend most of his time harping about how “fringe” Pauls hypothesis is. His special pleading is evident, except to him. To be fair though, reading him is much easier than listening to him. I am glad Paul is doing this, but wish Loke had the courage to do this in a live video.
You unjustifiably labeled Dr. Loke’s argument as a special pleading. Perhaps this playlist will help you understand his argument:
As for why not live video, Dr. Loke already explained it here:
(from 1:14:18 onwards)
even apostle Paul was NOT convinced by the resurrection story per se., he must had heard of the resurrection and empty tomb etc, and found it NOT convincing that was why he persecuted the church. his conversion was after his “experience”.
Dr Loke already answered this objection on pages 160-161 of his book.
andrew mentioned it but does not mean the answer is satisfactory. the fact is : saul was NOT converted by any evidence (he gathered), his former jewish training convinced that jesus cult was theologically incompatible with his judaism. he must had heard of the empty tomb, he even might have seen jesus around (if jesus was as famous as the gospel advertised), he heard the apostles preaching, saul did not buy any of those stories. the 500 witnesses was a hearsay. i read the book, it is delusional.
nah, u r the one who is delusional, claiming to have read his book yet not engaging with his arguments but merely repeated your claim
enjoy your gullible state if you cannot be critical of anything you read.
You would obviously be the person to ask if I wanted to know what Andrew Loke’s balls taste like. Do you spend all of your time fluffing him in various comment section wars?
Bringing up “PhD” several times only show your inferiority complex. As a fellow Asian (and PhD) that’s so cringy. I find it so ironic to find PhDs but failed to activate their part of brain that functions their critical thinking.
[…] Dr Loke’s Opening Statement (quoted below in orange) […]
[…] Dr Loke’s Opening Statement (quoted below in orange) […]
Paulogia’s posts prominently feature links to Dr. Loke’s posts. Why doesn’t Dr. Loke’s post do the same?
I find this opening statement a little lacking in regard to answering the question Saying that you are not going to state what you consider good evidence is poor. As an opening statement you should address your interpretation of the question. To then start addressing what you believe the other interlocutor is going to say and argue, again is poor position to put yourself in. Effectively you are strawmanning their position. Especially when you use the phrase “their hypothesis”, whilst never stating what you believe that actually is. (Paul has made many statements and positions in this field) Most of… Read more »
[…] Dr Loke’s Opening Statement (quoted below in orange) […]