Is there Good Evidence for Group Appearances of Risen Jesus?
In my opening statement,1 I have commented on the key terms of the debate topic, discussed the methodological issues, and presented the historical data and considerations which taken together constitute good evidence for the affirmative conclusion. I would like to recommend to the reader a series of short animated videos which explains my arguments in an easily accessible format:
Paulogia opens his statement2 with a complaint about the format of written debate and some personal issues. Now in order to focus the attention on the substantive issues of the debate, I shall respond to these issues in Appendix I, and go straight into discussing Paulogia’s central claims concerning legal epistemological principles and the historical data. Before that, I would like to briefly comment on Paulogia’s definition of the key terms of the debate.
II. On the key terms of the debate topic and methodological issues
II.1 ‘Group appearance’
One key term which Paulogia didn’t define in his opening statement is ‘group appearance’—an important issue which is related to an error he committed later on (see Error 8 below). Now there are at least two different ways of understanding this term:
- There were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus
- There were group(s) of people who truly saw the resurrected Jesus.
The key difference between (1) and (2) concerns whether the term ‘appearance’ is regarded as veridical (as in 2), or merely a claim (as in 1). In Paulogia’s earlier video, in response to Dr Craig’s statement ‘nobody thinks that there were only two resurrection appearances, one to Peter and one to Paul’, Paulogia replied ‘I do’.3 Now, surely Paulogia does not think that ‘appearance’ is veridical (since he doesn’t believe Jesus resurrected!). Thus, his ‘I do’ should be interpreted as saying that he thinks that there were only two individuals who claimed to have seen what they thought was the risen Jesus. Which is why I define ‘group appearance’ as (1) ‘there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus’ in my opening statement. In view of the above reasons, and in view of the fact that Paulogia didn’t challenge my definition in his opening statement nor offer an alternative definition, I shall stick to definition (1).
For the subsequent discussion, I shall number his errors in consecutive order for easy reference.
II.2 On ‘good evidence’
Concerning ‘good evidence’, Paulogia makes extensive appeal to legal standards as epistemological principles, and claims that they provide us with the ‘best-practices that are advisable to follow in our evaluation of group appearances.’
There are at least two errors.
Paulogia claims that legal epistemological principles and best-practices apply to historical evaluation. He writes ‘Some may object to leaning so heavily on legal terminology and standards for a historical question, but the epistemological principles and best-practices for evaluation still apply.’
In support of his claim Paulogia states that ‘Rather than witnesses, historians have primary sources (original documents or artifacts). When a document is interpretation of another document or tradition, historians call it a secondary source instead of hearsay. Rather than say that hearsay is inadmissible, a historian would say that a secondary source is less valuable than a primary source.’
In reply, ‘inadmissible’ is different from ‘less valuable’; in the former case it is not acceptable, whereas in the latter case it is acceptable (even if less valuable), and its value can be enhanced by combining with other considerations. In other words, instead of supporting his claim that the legal epistemological principles and best-practices apply to historical evaluation, his statement that legal practice rejects hearsay but historians accepts them actually contradicts his claim (Fallacy of self-contradiction).
Paulogia fails to note the important differences between legal practices and historical evaluation. ‘In terms of social timeliness, there is no time limit for historical study, but the administration of justice has to solve urgent issues. Historians are surprised to find that judges only consider a small amount of “facts” in their convictions so that the trial can be continued. Lagarde believed that judicial evidence is formed in the procedure provided by law and leads to irrevocable conclusions. These are two reasons why they are different from historical evidence (Martin 1998).’4
To illustrate the importance of the above differences, consider Allison’s observation that the fraud theory has rightly been discarded by historians in the case of Jesus’ resurrection, citing E. P. Sanders: ‘I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation’ of Easter faith, for some of those in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 and the canonical resurrection narratives ‘were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause.’5
Now the judge who is required by the law to make a final irrevocable decision within a limited timeframe cannot afford to wait and see how the eyewitnesses spend the rest of their lives. Without the luxury of the hindsight of observation over an indefinitely extended timeframe and the consideration of facts which may take some time to emerge, the judge has to make a decision based on examination of evidence brought before the court within a limited timeframe, such as cross-examination of the eyewitness before the court within that time frame. Now, according to legal definition, ‘“hearsay” refers to a statement that the declarant makes outside of court. Thus it is not surprising that hearsay is in general considered inadmissible in the legal context (but even then, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule, see [Error 2] below).
Now it is often feasible to cross examine eyewitness in the legal context, for ‘although trial facts are also historical facts, they are very recent in comparison with historical research objects. Usually, the parties (especially the defendant) and witnesses are still alive.’6 By contrast, the eyewitnesses of first century historical events have long died, and historians cannot cross-examine them. Thus, historians have to rely on a wider range of evidences and inferences—including the use of both primary and secondary sources and other considerations— in order to distinguish truths from falsehoods. Given the above reasons, it would be ridiculous to apply the hearsay rule to historical evaluation.
Moreover, the legal standard is not applicable in many other contexts as well. No detective would ignore second-hand testimony by saying that it is inadmissible. A policeman or a lawyer engaged in preparing a case would be negligent if he were to shut his ears to hearsay.7 Rational people absolutely take character into consideration; didn’t Paulogia himself recognize this when he emphasized his intellectual honesty in response to accusation of dishonesty?
Paulogia’s epistemological criteria is absurd and nobody on planet Earth lives by it—not even Paulogia himself.
In summary, Paulogia’s insistence in using legal standard of evidence is based on his failure to understand that legal standard is applicable within a very specific context i.e. the context of legal procedure. It is not intended to be the only or best standard for evaluating evidence in other contexts; indeed, it is not an appropriate standard to be insisted on for the historical evaluation of first century events. For example, hearsay rules in court have absolutely nothing to say about the evidential weight secondary sources or historical inferences can carry during a historical investigation. In other words, Paulogia is—once again—guilty of falsely insisting on a particular epistemological standard as the only acceptable standard. This is not the first time he has committed such an error (see my discussion of what is good evidence in my Opening Statement, Section 2, and in the discussion of probabilistic evidence below).
Hence, Paulogia’s entire epistemological approach to doing history needs to be fixed.
If he disagrees, then I would like to ask him to explain why no historians at Universities of Oxford, Cambridge etc. reason the way he does.
Paulogia fails to note that—even within a legal context—there are various exceptions to the ‘best-practices’ which he stated. For example, there are numerous exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay8 which Paulogia fails to consider. These exceptions are justified on the basis of various inferences. Therefore, it is the validity of inference that we need to consider, and it would be silly of Paulogia to dismiss the inferences I offered in my opening statement just because it doesn’t meet his legal epistemological standards since those standards are also based on inferences.
There is a third error: Paulogia mislabels various statements in New Testament texts as hearsay (which he defines as ‘a witness testifies about something that another person told the witness’) and collusion. This issue will be discussed below.
III. The historical data
Concerning the Four Gospels and Acts, Paulogia complains that ‘a glaring problem with offering the gospels as evidence is that there is significant doubt as to who the authors are. While church tradition upholds Matthew, Luke and John as the writers, this is would represent a minority view among modern New Testament scholars.’ He then argues ‘Imagine you are in a jury, and someone with a bag over their head takes the stand and starts telling stories. This person doesn’t give their name, never claims to be a witness to the stories, and the court officials are generally uncertain of the identity of the person. How much evidentiary weight are you going to give his tales?… Since the identity cannot be established with any level of certainty, it is impossible to have confidence that we have direct testimony rather than inadmissible hearsay.’ Paulogia further complains that ‘all three of these documents use the book of Mark as a primary source… to the extent where around 90% of Mark appears in Matthew and Luke almost word-for-word in the original Greek. This is evidential collusion beyond any reasonable doubt.’
The following problems beset Paulogia’s argument:
Concerning Paulogia’s point about minority view, let me remind the reader that it is nowhere as minority a position as Paulogia’s own fringe theory that ‘there were only two resurrection appearances—one to Peter and one to Paul.’ Paulogia based his point about minority on a comment by Bauckham, but Bauckham does not cite any survey to substantiate his point. On the other hand, one can easily name numerous scholars (e.g. Hengel, Keener, Carson, Bock, Kruger et al) who have argued for traditional authorship, so it is not clear to what extent is this a minority position. In any case the arguments of Hengel et al have not been refuted (see 7 below). Whereas one could hardly name any scholar who would affirm Paulogia’s theory—indeed, Paulogia himself named none, and his arguments are based on multiple errors (as enumerated in this statement).
Paulogia used a False Analogy: the person with a bag over his head is unknown to the jury. Whereas the authors of the Gospels (regardless of who they were) were Christians living in first century Christian communities founded by the apostles and their coworkers. These communities would have known who the authors were (even if we don’t) and what the apostolic message was (since the first century was 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), and could and would verify what they wrote, as Keener (Christobiography) et al have argued. Scholars such as Byrskog, Barnett, Bauckham, Boyd/Eddy, Botha et al. have also argued that the Gospels should be considered as testimony.
Paulogia himself noted that ‘The author of Mark records no post-resurrection appearance stories at all,’ so how could the POST-resurrection group appearances in Matthew, Luke-Acts and John possibly be dependent on Mark as Paulogia claimed?
Paulogia has once again committed the Fallacy of self-contradiction.
Paulogia’s point about these documents using Mark as a primary source only applies to the PRE-resurrection ministry of Jesus, but even there, there are evidences of independence rather than collusion (how much more so for the post-resurrection appearances! See point 5 above). Even Bart Ehrman who does not accept the traditional authorship of the Gospels notes the historical value of these sources with regards to the issue of independent corroboration. He writes
‘Matthew and Luke did indeed use Mark, but significant portions of both Gospels are not related in any way to Mark’s accounts. And in these sections of their Gospels Matthew and Luke record extensive, independent traditions about Jesus’s life, teachings, and death. So while in their shared material they do not provide corroboration without collaboration, in their unique material they do. These Gospels were probably written ten or fifteen years after Mark, and so by the year 80 or 85 we have at least three independent accounts of Jesus’s life (since a number of the accounts of both Matthew and Luke are independent of Mark), all within a generation or so of Jesus himself…When dealing only with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic Gospels, then, we are talking not just about three books written late in the first century. We are talking about at least four sources: Mark, Q, M, and L, the latter two of which could easily have represented several, or even many, other written sources…All of these written sources I have mentioned are earlier than the surviving Gospels; they all corroborate many of the key things said of Jesus in the Gospels; and most important they are all independent of one another.’9
Paulogia assertion that ‘the eight group-appearance pericopes in the gospels still somehow completely fail to corroborate each other in any way’ is false; he fails to consider and reply to the harmonization I defended in Chapter 2 of my book. Variations that fit together actually improve the evidential weight of the testimony. In any case, as argued in my opening statement (Section V, point 7) there IS corroboration that there were groups of people who saw Jesus rather than only two as Paulogia claims—this refutes Paulogia’s hypothesis for this debate.
In view of the above considerations, we have good historical evidence for group appearance in the Gospels rather than (as Paulogia claims) inadmissible hearsay or collusion.
Concerning 1 Clement, 1 Clement 42:3 (‘Therefore, having received their orders, and being fully assured because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Anointed-One, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Spirit, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand’) indicates that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the basis of the full assurance of the apostles (this is mentioned prior to the mentioning of the Word of God and Holy Spirit); how could this be unless the apostles who (whether anonymous or not) were by definition the first generation Christians had seen the resurrected Jesus? Paulogia labels this as hearsay, but as argued above in historical evaluation it is more appropriate to call this secondary source which has some value.
Concerning Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrneans 3, Paulogia writes ‘While this passage clearly references group appearances of resurrected Jesus, the trouble with treating this passage as additional corroboration for the alleged group appearances is that Ignatius is clearly quoting Luke 24:39.
However, as Ehrman notes ‘Even though there are allusions to traditions that made it into the Gospels, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that Ignatius is basing his views on the books that later became part of the New Testament.’10 Paulogia’s observation that Ignatius does not mention the names of Matthew and Luke is precisely one reason why (as Ehrman says) there is no conclusive evidence that Ignatius is merely quoting the Gospels, contrary to Paulogia’s claim.
Paulogia’s alternative hypothesis that ‘the authors were anonymous until later tradition’ is contradicted by R.T. France’s observation (citing Hengel):
“Hengel is particularly scornful of the repeated assertion that the gospels are ‘anonymous’ documents, to which the names of authors were conjecturally attached sometime in the second century. his study on the titles of the Gospels argues that as soon as more than one written version of the ευαγγελιον was in circulation some label would be necessary in order to distinguish them, and the only such labels we know are the traditional terms κατα Μαθθαιον, κατα Μαρκον, etc. which are found with remarkable unanimity from as early as we can trace the titles of the books. Hengel points out how improbable it is that a late conjectural attribution could have produced such unanimity and left no trace of alternative attributions. He also quotes Tertullian, Adv. Marcion 4.2.3, as typical of the the view that a ‘gospel’ not bearing the name of its author could not be accepted as authoritative. It is thus altogether improbable that gospel books cold have circulated in the latter part of the first century without titles, and those titles took the form of a statement of authorship.” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark, pages 39-40, noting in footnote # 80 that “. . . most modern books (including this commentary) are also ‘anonymous’; it is only on the title page and cover that the author is named. And ancient manuscripts regularly carried titles or colophons which might be expected to identify the word contained in them; it was in such titles rather than in the text itself that the author’s name would be found.”)
Paulogia either committed a non-Sequitur or misunderstood the argument concerning the 1 Corinthians 15 Creed; in either case he falsely labelled it as hearsay.
To elaborate, Paulogia objects by claiming that ‘It’s worth noting that Paul himself does not claim to have been part of a group appearance, so this passage is not put forward as first-hand testimony toward the debate topic at hand… At very best, this is hearsay.’
A major problem is that (as I explained in Section I) Paulogia does not define what he meant by ‘group appearance’. As I explained in Section I, we need to distinguish between,
- There were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus
- There were group(s) of people who truly saw the resurrected Jesus.
I have already explained in Section I why ‘group appearance’ should be defined as (1); indeed, as explained in my Opening Statement Section II, the debate between me and him is whether there is good evidence for ‘there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus,’ or only two as Paulogia claimed.
There are two possibilities: either Paulogia agrees with my definition of ‘group appearance’ and my understanding of the debate topic, or he disagrees. I shall argue that Paulogia commits an error in either case.
Consider the first possibility. Suppose Paulogia agrees with my definition and my understanding of the debate topic. In that case, Paulogia commits a non-sequitur and missed the point I made in my opening statement: ‘It is important to note that this claim [‘there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus]—taken by itself—concerns the existence of these group(s) of people, rather than Jesus’ resurrection itself.’ To infer from (1) ‘since Paul didn’t claim to be part of a group appearance’, to (2) Paul was not a firsthand eyewitness testimonial evidence for a group of people claiming to have seen risen Jesus (the debate topic)’ is false. The reason is because (2) does not follow from (1), for even though Paul was not part of the group, this does not imply that he didn’t see firsthand a group of people claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. Therefore, Paulogia is wrong to say that ‘At very best, this is hearsay’ toward the debate topic.
On the contrary, even though Paul was not a member of ‘group appearance’ himself, nevertheless, he was (as I have argued in my opening statement) a firsthand eyewitness of these groups i.e. he knew members of these groups. To give an analogy:
I saw a group of students who told me that they met with the new president of our university yesterday. Now I would like to ask Paulogia “Is that inadmissible evidence concerning the existence of this group of students who made the claim?” Of course not. For even though I wasn’t part of the group, nevertheless I can offer a firsthand testimony that there were this group of students who claimed to have seen the president.
In other words, contrary to Paulogia, the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 IS put forward as first-hand testimony towards the claim that there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus, which IS the debate topic at hand. (To remind the reader, I argued in my Opening Statement Section V that Paul appeals to 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as common knowledge to the Corinthian Church).
Consider the second possibility. Suppose Paulogia disagrees with my definition of group appearance and my understanding of the debate topic. That is, suppose he defines group appearance as (2) ‘There were group(s) of people who truly saw the resurrected Jesus,’ and suppose he claims that whether (2) is true is the debate topic and on the basis of this definition he argues that Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is hearsay.
In this case, Paulogia has misunderstood the historical argument for Jesus’ resurrection. Whether an evidence is hearsay evidence depends on what claim the evidence is for. As explained in my Opening Statement Section II, I have argued in my book Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ 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, (6) there were groups of people who saw the resurrected Jesus.
Now Paulogia is claiming that Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 15:3-11 is hearsay for (6). However, as I have argued above under 8.1., Paul’s statement is not hearsay for (1). One can use Paul’s statement to argue for (1) and for refuting Paulogia’s fringe hypothesis, and use other evidences and inferences to argue for (2), (3), (4), and (5). The latter is exactly what I did in my book.
Paulogia also objects that ‘Literally anyone in the Christian community’ (rather than someone mentioned in the list) ‘could have taught Paul the creed…At face value, Paul’s quotation is no more attestation to the veracity of the information in this creed than my recitation of Humpty Dumpty is attestation of the egg-repair skills of the king’s horses.’
In reply, Paulogia fails to note that Paul stated that the tradition in 1 Corinthians 15 was what others mentioned in the list—including members of the ‘group appearances’—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). In other words, Paul was offering a firsthand testimony that there were group of people who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus and that this was public knowledge known to the Corinthians (see my Opening Statement, Section V for detailed argument on this point). Hence,
Paulogia’s analogy of his recitation of Humpty Dumpty is a False Analogy, for there is no indication that he knew the king’s horses nor any indication that those listening to his recitation knew them too. Moreover, there is no context of persecution in this analogy.
Concerning inference, Paulogia claims that the facts ‘must lead to only one reasonable conclusion to create an evidential inference,’ and he claims that ‘Dr. Loke’s arguments persistently fall short’ and are analogous to the (invalid) form: 1.Many celebrities have public Twitter accounts.2.Jennifer Lawrence is a celebrity. 3.Therefore, Jennifer Lawrence has a Twitter account.’ ‘As of the time of writing, despite the factual nature of the two premises, Jennifer Lawrence has no public Twitter account. In logic, any argument that can produce a false conclusion with true premises is called an invalid argument.’
There are three problems with Paulogia arguments.
In Section II of his opening statement Paulogia writes ‘At its core, this is an epistemological debate about justification…Justification for a claim is also separate from the truth of a claim. I could be fully justified in believing that my car is still where I parked it, even if it has in fact been stolen without my knowledge…At the same time, I could be correct in guessing that there is an even number of jelly-beans in a jar, but my claim is not justified with evidence.’ Since Paulogia is looking for justification which as he noted in Section II can be present even if the conclusion is false, why is he now complaining in Section IV about the use of argument with true premises that can produce false conclusion?’
Paulogia fails to consider those arguments which (even if not deductively valid) are still inductively strong. Inductively strong arguments play a very important role in probabilistic reasoning, which is widely used in scientific, historical and legal reasoning (‘preponderance of the evidence’/ ‘balance of probabilities’) when talking about ‘good evidence’, i.e. when the evidence indicates that the conclusion is probably correct (even if it is possibly wrong).’
Paulogia fails to note the important disanalogies between my argument and the argument concerning Jennifer Lawrence having a Twitter account. For example, the latter is based merely on a single consideration (‘the statistical link between celebrity status and having twitter account’, which fails to take into account the strong degree of different personal preferences in this case), whereas my argument is based on multiple considerations (see the Five Arguments in Section VI).
At this point, I would like to remind the reader that Paulogia has stated that ‘I will do my best to steelman Dr. Loke’s points…into the most charitable formations toward supporting the debate’s proposition.’ I would now like to ask the reader to see whether or not he successfully done so.
Paulogia states ‘Dr. Loke puts forth that these eight inferences raise the hearsay of the ancient documents to the level of “good evidence” for group appearances.’
Now, where did I ever say that I put forth inference that ‘raise the hearsay’? Hearsay (with its negative connotation) is a label that Paulogia (not me) used to label my argument, and it is an unjustified labelling as I have argued above. In other words, Paulogia has misrepresented my argument.
Paulogia states ‘Dr. Loke’s first four alleged inferences are to work together in concert to create a cumulative case for group appearances.’ This is a misrepresentation; Paulogia has not communicated my argument properly. Since he prefers to look at things in syllogism form, I shall formulate my arguments in this form as a way of summarizing my arguments (see Section VI Conclusion below).
Paulogia claims that there are a number of ‘problematic inferences or freshly inserted inferences that would be needed to arrive to the conclusion.’ Let me address them below.
‘Therefore, members of the Corinthian church were skeptical of bodily resurrection in general.’–I defended this in my opening statement.
‘People accept life-or-death matters only for personally-verified, actually-true good reasons’—I did not claim that; what I argue for is the weaker thesis that importance and high stakes tend to increase reliability when taken together with other considerations (see my Opening Statement, Section V).
‘The only good reason to accept resurrection is group appearances.’—If understood in terms of Argument 4 (see Section VI below), then yes.
‘People who can check out a life-or-death matter, do check out the matter.’ —I did not claim that.
‘The Corinthian church actually spoke to groups of eyewitnesses.’—What I argue was ‘the Corinthians knew at least some of the members of the groups of eyewitnesses and are familiar with their teachings (see Opening Statement, Section V)
‘The eyewitnesses were not lying; The eyewitnesses were not mistaken.’—I argue in my opening statement that it is improbable <based on the evidence> (I did not use the word ‘impossible’, which Paulogia falsely attributed to me) that the eyewitnesses were lying or mistaken.
IV.4 The Pauline Guarantee
Paulogia once again unjustifiably label Paul’s statement as hearsay (see Error 8 above). I argue that “It is implausible that Paul thought he was correct yet made a mistake on this issue’ on the basis of various reasons (see my Opening Statement, Section V). Instead of addressing my reasons in his first paragraph, Paulogia merely makes general remarks such as ‘I find it plausible that on any given matter that I could make a mistake… you cannot determine whether that belief is true based solely on their actions.’ Which fail to rebut the specific reasons I gave in my Opening Statement.
Failure to understand what is special pleading and the nature of cumulative case argument: I notice that Paulogia and his supporters like to use the term ‘special-pleading’ to label theist’s arguments. However, it seems to me that Paulogia isn’t using the term properly. Special pleading is an informal fallacy wherein one cites something as an exception without justifying the special exception. I justified my position by giving various reasons which form a cumulative case argument, which Paulogia failed to understand correctly. Instead, Paulogia once again misrepresented my argument by taking the reasons apart instead of considering them together. This once again demonstrates his failure to fully grasp the nature of cumulative case arguments, which I’ve already explained in my Opening Statement (Section V, point 4). Perhaps this animated video might help him understand (from 3:17 to 4:29).
How did Paulogia misrepresent my argument by taking the reasons apart instead of considering them together?
-In response to “Paul was evidently not an imbecile,” Paulogia wrote ‘(as if intelligence prevents wrong views).’ In reply, I did not claim that intelligence (by itself) prevents wrong views. Rather, I was arguing that intelligence taken together with other considerations make it improbable that Paul was wrong.
-In response to “the early Christian movement was a network of close communication”, Paulogia wrote ‘(as if close networks automatically promote accurate information).’ In reply, I did not claim that close networks (by itself) automatically promote accurate information. Rather, I was arguing that close networks taken together with other considerations make it more probable that accurate information is transmitted.
-In response to “Paul cared about his reputation, Paulogia wrote ‘as if no prideful person has lied or been misled).’ Now in Paulogia’s latest video (19:05), he himself says ‘I’m happy to grant that Paul really THOUGHT he was correct.’ Which implies that Paul wasn’t lying! As for whether he was misled, I already argued against that in my Opening Statement Section V.
If one takes the considerations individually as Paulogia did, one can come up with many (false) objections and (false) analogies. But I’m not making isolated individual points! Paulogia fails to understand that it is the combination of the considerations that indicates the strength of a cumulative case argument.
IV.5 Other Documents and Motifs
See Section III above.
IV.6 “Solid Evidence” was Required
Paulogia cited Dr. William Lane Craig “I think that the fundamental way in which we know that Christianity is true is through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit’ and claimed that ‘Dr. Loke has yet to demonstrate how this would have been different for early Christians.’
This is another misrepresentation. I have already argued in my opening statement ‘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).’
Craig’s view is not intended to be applied to the earliest Christian eyewitnesses who were in a position to verify what they saw, but to later Christians including those who might not have the resources to check out the historical evidences. This does not negate the value of historical arguments for later Christians; indeed, Craig himself has defended the historical argument for Jesus’ resurrection.
Moreover, Paulogia misrepresents my argument by claiming that I merely asserts that “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.’
In reply, I did not merely assert, rather I give an explanation ‘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….’ (see my opening statement Section V point 8 for the full explanation).
Paulogia then complains ‘The phrases “such as” and “likely have been necessary” tacitly acknowledge that group appearances are merely one possible evidential line that could produce this belief.’
In reply, I did not merely say ‘such as’; rather I also argued against Paulogia’s alternative that there was only (two) individual appearances. I use the word ‘likely’ because I am using probabilistic argument, which is evidentially relevant as I have already explained above under Error 11.
V. Other errors in Paulogia’s arguments
I have identified at least 16 errors in Paulogia’s Opening Statement. These errors are related to the 17 errors which I had previously identified in his videos. It is to his credit that he has acknowledged some of them. However, he has committed more errors in his responses to others (his responses can be found in the description of this video). Since one important motivation for my engagement with Paulogia is my concern that a significant number of people have been misled by the errors in his videos, I would like to discuss his responses and reply to them. Now I understand that not everyone will want to look at our previous interactions. Thus I have placed it in Appendix II below for those who are interested (the errors mentioned in that section start at 17 so that they aren’t confused with the previous errors cited in this rebuttal).
In response to Paulogia’s request, I would like to summarize the case for ‘group appearances’ in the form of 5 syllogistic arguments below:
- Psychological studies have indicated that it is probable that people are careful to form conclusions when 1.1. there is presence of scepticism, 1.2 the topic is important, 1.3. the costs of false confirmation are high, and 1.4. when people are held personally responsible for what they say and care about their reputation among sustained relationships with known audiences (DiFonzo and Bordia 2007, pp. 166, 173–174; cited on p.47 of my book).
- Concerning consideration 1.1, many ancient people including some Corinthian Christians (1 Cor 15:12-13) were highly skeptical of bodily resurrection in general. (For an accessible explanation, see this animated video.)
- Concerning 1.2, the resurrection of Jesus was of foundational importance to the Christian faith (1 Cor 15:17), and the claims of the ‘eyewitnesses’ of resurrection appearances were foundational to their belief that Jesus’ resurrected (1 Cor 15:6).
- Concerning 1.2 and 1.3, the early Christians were willing to die for it and there was context of persecution for following a persecuted (crucified) leader (1 Cor 15:30-33): these considerations further indicate the importance of the issue and that the cost of false confirmation would be high for the Corinthian Christians. (See this video.)
- Concerning 1.3, people could check out and confirm if there were indeed ‘groups of eyewitnesses’ (see my Opening Statement, Section V point 4; and this video).
- Concerning 1.4, Paul assumed responsibility for the tradition he passed on and cared about his reputation as an apostle with his known audiences in Corinth.
- Concerning 1.3, the costs of false confirmation would have been high for Paul’s reputation if he made a mistake concerning the ‘eyewitnesses’ of resurrection appearances (including the group appearances) which he cites, given the foundational nature of the latter (see 2).
- Therefore, it is probable that Paul was careful in stating the group appearances in 1 Cor 15:3-11. (From 1-7).
- It is improbable that Paul was careful in stating the group appearances in 1 Cor 15:3-11 and yet made a mistake on this issue (see my Opening Statement, Section V).
- Therefore, it is probable (i.e. there is good evidence) that Paul’s statement was correct i.e. there were group appearances of the risen Jesus.
- Given premise 6, if Paul knew persons X and he knew that the Corinthians also knew X, it is improbable that Paul would have told them that X claimed to have seen the risen Jesus if this was not the case.
- 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’ (including those of group appearances) of Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, and he knew that the Corinthians knew at least some of them (1 Cor. 1:12, 9:1–5; Paul was appealing to public knowledge in 1 Cor 15:6; see my Opening statement, Section V).
- Therefore, it is probable (i.e. there is good evidence) that it is the case that there were group appearances of the risen Jesus. (From 1 and 2).
- If Paul’s claims concerning the eyewitnesses were not true, given the presence of scepticism, the importance of the topic, the high costs of false confirmation, and that the early Christians could check out, it is probable that the early Christians would have checked out and falsified Paul’s claim.
- If the early Christians falsified Paul’s claim, it is improbable that 1 Corinthians would have been widely and persistently regarded as divinely authoritative apostolic letter by the early Christians given the opposition to Paul inside and outside and church and the fundamental importance of the claims of eyewitnesses.
- 1 Corinthians was widely and persistently regarded as divinely authoritative apostolic letter by the early Christians.
- Therefore, it is probable that Paul’s claims concerning the eyewitnesses (including group appearances) is true. (From 1 to 3).
- If there is independent corroboration of the motif of ‘group appearance’, there is good evidence for ‘group appearance’.
- There is independent corroboration of the motif of ‘group appearance’ (see my opening statement, Section V, point 7; and the discussion under Paulogia’s Errors 3 to 7 above).
- Therefore, there is good evidence for ‘group appearance’.
- In order to generate widespread and persistent belief in BODILY resurrection among Jesus’ followers in the context of persecution, it is probable that ‘“solid” evidence involving group(s) of people would have been required. (See my Opening Statement, Section V point 8).
- There was widespread and persistent belief in BODILY resurrection among Jesus’ followers in the context of persecution.
- Therefore, it is probable that there was ‘“solid” evidence involving group(s), i.e. there is good evidence for ‘group appearance’.
Any one of these five inductively strong arguments is sufficient to establish the conclusion that ‘there is good evidence for group appearance(s) of the risen Jesus.’ And we have five of them. Which is why almost all historians (whether Christians or non-Christians) accept this conclusion. By contrast, Paulogia’s hypothesis that there were only two individual appearances is utterly impotent for explaining the historical evidence. Why is why no historian accepts it.
Paulogia ended his opening statement by citing the Briginshaw Standard “more convincing evidence is necessary to meet the standard of proof where an allegation is particularly serious, or unlikely to have occurred.” He then concluded that the evidence for group appearance doesn’t meet this standard.
But how did Paulogia arrive at this conclusion?
By self-contradictions, false analogies, repeated failure to understand the nature of a cumulative case argument, falsely insisting on a particular epistemological standard as the only acceptable standard, and multiple misrepresentations of various scholars.
The latter is particularly prevalent. Despite his claim that ‘I will do my best to steelman Dr. Loke’s points…into the most charitable formations toward supporting the debate’s proposition’—which gives people the impression that he has represented my book accurately and charitably and that he is sincerely seeking the truth—he has repeatedly strawmanned my arguments, both in his earlier videos and now in his opening statement.
It is important to point out these errors of reasoning because—as I have already explained in my Opening Statement Section III point (3) —a person’s reasoning affects his/her perception of how convincing the evidence is. All evidence requires interpretation, and errors of reasoning have detrimental effects on a person’s interpretation.
The reason why Paulogia’s arguments appear persuasive to his supporters is because of the way he (falsely) label and (falsely) represent (i.e. misrepresent) ideas such that—if the errors are not exposed—they contribute towards a cumulative impression that his opponent have no good evidence.
But once the errors are exposed one by one, his case melts away and one realizes that—contrary to Paulogia—there is in fact good evidence for group appearances in ANY worldview (naturalist or Christian). In other words, it’s safe to call group appearances “likely to have occurred” under any belief system. Which is precisely the reason why almost all experts (whether naturalists or Christians) agree that there were group appearances, and why Paulogia’s opposing claim that there are only two individual appearances is—as he admits—a fringe theory held by zero scholars. This is not surprising, given the 30+ errors in his arguments (I have listed 16 above and 17 in Appendix II below).
If Paulogia truly perceive the seriousness of the matter (as indicated by his citation of the Briginshaw Standard) and is concerned about the eternal fate of other souls in the universe as he implied, then he should acknowledge and correct the errors in his reasonings, otherwise they would mislead people into eternal perdition (‘Woe to the person through whom the stumbling block comes!’ Matthew 18:7).
I have listed his errors and numbered them for his easy reference, and I ask him to reply to them as well as the arguments in my Opening Statement, and let me know whether he would still want to defend his hypothesis that there were only two individual appearances, or give up this hypothesis in light of the errors. That he has already acknowledged 3 of the errors is a good start, and I hope he would acknowledge the rest. If for some reasons he is still not convinced that the rest are errors, I ask him to let me know what these reasons are, and I will be happy to address them in my next statement.
Appendix I: On Paulogia’s complaint about the format of written debate and some personal issues
I would like to clarify that my reasons for having a written rather than oral debate with him is not merely because of some ‘personal policy’ as he implied, but also because Paulogia mentioned after his oral debate with Sean McDowell that interacting with humans isn’t his strength and his perfectionist tendencies.11 Hence I wrote to him saying that ‘In the written format you can avoid oral interaction with humans and be as perfectionist as you want i.e. you can slowly take the time (e.g. over a few days) to prepare a response and do fact checking, dissect the arguments and point out the errors one by one. Thus it is a more rigorous way of assessing arguments. If you think your arguments are good, I am sure you would not be afraid to engage with my arguments under the close scrutiny of a written format, just as I am not afraid to engage yours.’ Paulogia replied by saying that he is interested, and I let him decide the format of the debate (number of rounds, debate topic). Given my above communication with him, I am rather surprised that he raised the complaint after he agreed to participate.
Paulogia also mentioned ‘statement of faith’, an issue which some of his followers seem to have misunderstandings about. So let me clarify here that neither my PhD institution (King’s College London) nor my present employer (HK Baptist University) require the signing of a statement of faith. Both are public universities. (While Hong Kong Baptist University has Christian roots [hence the word Baptist], it is now a public university, and many of my colleagues are atheists/agnostics). Since a number of Paulogia’s followers also had misunderstandings concerning my PhD qualifications in Theology, let me also add that my secondary PhD supervisor was Richard Burridge, a world-renowned historical-critical New Testament scholar, and that I have published books with world-leading academic publishers (e.g. Cambridge University Press, Routledge, Springer Nature) in peer-reviewed monograph series in the fields of historical-critical New Testament studies and philosophy of religion, both of which are relevant to the topic of this debate.
APPENDIX II: The errors in Paulogia’s videos.
17. FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE THAT LOOKING FOR ANCIENT NON-CHRISTIAN SOURCE FOR CORROBORATION MAY BE DIFFICULT UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES
Paulogia: ‘It makes no difference to me if corroboration is difficult. That’s no reason at all to lower one’s evidential standard.’
Reply: Paulogia is assuming that ‘no corroboration in ancient non-Christian source means lowering one evidential standard’, but this is an erroneous assumption as explained in my Opening Statement, Sections II and III.
18. FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE THAT WRITTEN FIRSTHAND SOURCES MAY JUST BE THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG AND THE NEED TO LOOK AT OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Paulogia: ‘Extant first-hand sources for group appearances don’t exist (nor any appearances, other than whatever Paul saw), so they’re not even part of the evidential tip. If I’m supposed to accept that anyone was willing to die for something they witnessed, a demonstration that they saw the thing seems a reasonable ask.’
Reply: Paulogia’s response is based on his misunderstanding of 1 Cor 15 and the Gospels (see Section III above).
19. FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE THAT INFERENCE BASED ON CONSIDERATIONS IS A VALID WAY TO DETERMINE THE TRUTHFULNESS OF AN ACCOUNT; IT IS MORE FOUNDATIONAL AND CAN BE HIGHLY RELIABLE
Paulogia: ‘I recognize that inference CAN be valid… but the reliability of an inference is always apportioned to the evidence corroborating the inference.
Reply: Paulogia fails to distinguish between different types of corroboration (see my Opening Statement, Sections II and III).
20. FAILING TO RECOGNIZE THAT PAUL WAS WRITING 1 CORINTHIANS 15:6 TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM THAT THE CORINTHIANS FOUND RESURRECTION INCREDIBLE (1 CORINTHIANS 15:12)
Paulogia: ‘Dr Loke and I interpret the passage differently’.
Reply: Paulogia fails to respond to my argument for why his interpretation is wrong (see Opening Statement, Section V point 1).
21. FAILING TO RECOGNIZE THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL STANDARD IMPLIED BY 1 CORINTHIANS 15:6 TO CONSULT “EYEWITNESSES”
Paulogia: ‘The writer of a letter inviting someone to investigate says nothing at all about the epistemological standard of the receiver.’
Reply: Paulogia’s phrase ‘says nothing at all’ fails to take into account my cumulative case argument for their epistemological standard (see my Opening Statement, Section V).
22. FALSE (AND MISLEADING!) ANALOGY: FRANK ZAPPA
Paulogia: ‘The Frank Zappa analogy illustrates that the information provided in Paul’s letter is insufficient to investigate said witnesses… both for 21st and 1st century readers. Dr Loke’s speculation that Corinthians might have had more information doesn’t change the evidence we have and can evaluate.’
Reply: Paulogia’s response is based on his failure to consider the historical context (see my Opening Statement, Section V point 4), including the openly critical environment that early Christians faced.
23. FALSE ANALOGY: AMERICAN ELECTION
Paulogia: ‘Respectfully, Loke’s objections to this are irrelevant to the primary point of the analogy… that humans can believe that they’ve 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….’
Reply: as I explained in Opening Statement Section V point 5, Paulogia’s primary point is true of the American Election but false for the case of Jesus’ resurrection, which is why it is a false analogy!
24. MISUNDERSTAND THE POINT OF MY ARGUMENT CONCERNING WHAT WOULD BE REQUIRED TO GENERATE WIDESPREAD BELIEF OF BODILY RESURRECTION AMONG JESUS’ FOLLOWERS IN THE FIRST PLACE
Paulogia: ‘I understand the argument (assertion), I just disagree with it’.
Reply: Paulogia states he disagrees without answering my argument but misrepresenting it yet again (see Error 16 above and Opening Statement, Section V point 8).
25. MISREPRESENTED MY BOOK BY MAKING IT SEEM THAT HE HAS READ IT, WHEN HE HAS MIS-READ IT E.G. CONCERNING 1 CORINTHIANS 15:12
Paulogia: ‘I read the relevant portions of the book, which included the chapters Loke referenced in his rebuttals. That I disagree with Loke’s book on his interpretation of this passage doesn’t imply the charges he makes here.’
Reply: Paulogia did not merely disagree with my interpretation, he falsely attributed his interpretation to me and claimed that is what my book says, which IS a misrepresentation! (see Opening Statement, Section V, point 1).
26. MISREPRESENTED MY TALK BY QUOTING ME OUT OF CONTEXT RE: EARLY CHRISTIANS WILLING TO DIE: I WAS HIGHLIGHTING THE IMPORTANCE OF JESUS’ RESURRECTION FOR EARLY CHRISTIANS INCLUDING THOSE IN CORINTH; NOT USING THIS POINT TO ARGUE DIRECTLY FOR HOW MANY ‘EYEWITNESSES’ SUFFERED
Paulogia: ‘I acknowledge that I sent this part of the discussion on a rabbit trail.’
27. MISREPRESENTED SEAN AND MYSELF BY PITTING US AGAINST EACH OTHER CONCERNING THE ABOVE POINT
Paulogia: ‘I derailed the point.’
Paulogia: ‘but I still think that Andrew and Sean disagree on the level of confidence we can have in martyrdom.’
Andrew: no, I agree with Sean.
28. MISREPRESENTED SEAN BY MAKING IT SEEMS AS IF SEAN ARGUES THAT THERE IS EVIDENCE FOR ONLY 2 ‘EYEWITNESSES’ MARTYRED WHEN SEAN ARGUES FOR 6
Paulogia: ‘This is addressed in my “Is Paulogia a Dishonest Editor?” video, apparently not to Loke’s satisfaction… but Christian and non-Christian commenters alike seem satisfied.’
Reply: saying that others seem satisfied is not an adequate answer to my argument. Rather, Paulogia should explain what is wrong with my argument. Let me repaste it below:
Paulogia 20:20 says ‘I’ll object that loke’s clip doesn’t accurately represent my take, and appeals to the context of his larger discussion with Sean.
Reply: Here it is appropriate to use Paulogia’s words for myself: ‘I suppose we need to know what my point was’ for citing this clip. My point for citing this clip was NOT to represent Paulogia’s take, but about Paulogia’s representation of Sean!
Now Paulogia did not just say ‘more than 2 to 4 people’, then ‘throwing to Sean’ as he claims. Rather he prefaces Sean’s clip by stating ‘if we want to go down the evidence for the persecuted preaching of the actual eyewitnesses, how many does the CHRISTIAN experts cited by Andrew think we have?’ and THEN he threw it to Sean! ‘of the 12, there is only 2 we have very high confidence died as martyrs…Peter and James (son of Zebedee)’ CUT & PASTE ‘The others I’m not even sure we can know at all what history is and where legend begins.’
There is no question that the entire paragraph was misleading, making it seems as if Sean (the CHRISTIAN expert) thinks there is evidence for only 2 ‘eyewitnesses’ martyred.
Paulogia: 23:35 “so why did I specifically say ‘more than 2 to 4 people’ before throwing to Sean? Was it because I wanted Sean to affirm 2 people? Or was it because Sean and I are agreed on 4 martyrs, even though I think 2 were actual eyewitnesses of any relevance to the discussion.”
Reply: Paulogia’s talking about HIS (NON-CHRISTIAN) agreement with Sean and what he (Paulogia) himself thinks does NOT justify cutting and pasting Sean and then presenting it as what CHRISTIAN experts think!
Paulogia: 28:45 admitted that listening to the clip without knowing the history of interaction with Sean could be misleading..then implied Andrew and Cameron pull it out of context.
Reply: I have heard Paulogia’s history of interaction with Sean and I still find the clip misleading, because Paulogia prefaced his clip with ‘if we want to go down the evidence for the persecuted preaching of the actual eyewitnesses, how many does the CHRISTIAN experts cited by Andrew think we have?’ and then played the clip by the Christian expert Sean stating two. I did NOT take it out of context, on the contrary, I was taking it in context i.e. paying attention to what prefaced the clip. Rather it was Paulogia who now takes the clip out of its original context in the video and talking about his ‘take’ and his ‘broad work.’ Even though he now says that (29:15) ‘today I acknowledge Sean’s strong case for 4 martyrs’, the fact remains that his original cut-and-paste clip has misrepresented Christian experts.
Paulogia (24:30–25:01) quoted Sean saying that Paulogia did a good job.
Reply: This quote was from their discussion a while ago, it is irrelevant because it doesn’t imply that Paulogia did a good job representing Sean in his recent video which I critiqued!
29. MISREPRESENTED ALLISON
Paulogia: This is addressed in my “Is Paulogia a Dishonest Editor?” video, apparently not to Loke’s satisfaction… but Christian and non-Christian commenters alike seem satisfied.
Reply: saying that others seem satisfied is not an adequate answer to my argument. Rather, Paulogia should explain what is wrong with my argument. Let me repaste below:
By cutting away the part in which Allison says we know (or probably true) that there were indeed the 500 and ending the clip with Allison saying ‘…the 500 just isn’t there’, the remaining clip makes it seem as if Allison was saying there is nothing of significance that we can know concerning the claim about the 500 because it cannot be verified. This is misleading because Allison was saying it cannot be verified BY US; Allison was NOT saying it cannot be verified BY THE CORINTHIANS (which was my point), and Allison did agree that we can know that there were 500 (which was my conclusion).
30. MISREPRESENTED LICONA AND MISINTERPRETED 1 CORINTHIANS 15:6 BY SAYING THAT PAUL WAS REPEATING OTHERS’ INVITATION
Paulogia: ‘A misjudgement on my part, obviously.’
Paulogia ‘As to misinterpreting the passage, I’m still in line with my prior study on the passage’
Reply: Paulogia insists that he is ‘still in line’ without responding to my argument for why his interpretation is wrong. See Opening statement, Section V, point 1.
31. MISREPRESENTED MY BOOK BY CLAIMING THAT I DISREGARD FALSE MEMORY OBJECTION
Paulogia: ‘It was my opinion that Andrew’s book’s flimsy dismissal of false memory science was no better than disregarding it.’
Reply: Paulogia merely asserts that it is ‘flimsy’ without explaining why. See also my Opening Statement, Section V point 4, where I explains Paulogia’s misuse of false memory science (e.g. his misuse of memory scientist Elizabeth Loftus).
32. TOOK ME OUT OF CONTEXT AND MISREPRESENTED MY REPRESENTATION OF PAULOGIA’S POINT CONCERNING ALLISON’S CLIP
Paulogia: ‘Check for yourself, and I would appreciate feedback on whether I actually did in this case, or not’.
Reply: Paulogia fails to answer my argument for why he did. Let me repaste below:
In his video “Is Paulogia a Dishonest Editor?” Paulogia talks about Allison’s clip, which (in his original video) he used to argue against my argument that the Corinthian Christians could verify whether there were 500
3.1. Paulogia says (11:49) ‘I suppose we need to know what my point was’ for citing this clip. What did Dr Loke says my point was? Loke ‘this point contradicts Paulogia’s own hypothesis that there were only 2 people’.
Reply: Paulogia took me out of context. I did NOT say that Paulogia’s POINT for citing Allison’s clip was about the number of people (I understand that it was about verification, see below). Rather I am remarking that Allison’s point contradict Paulogia’s HYPOTHESIS that there were only 2 people (why is this remark relevant? See below and Error 29 above).
3.2. Paulogia goes on to say that his point was to argue against my point that the Corinthians could verify whether there were 500, not about whether Allison believed there were 500 which is ‘entirely unrelated’ (14:22), non-relevant to the point that he was making (28:18).
Reply: As I pointed out in my original video (a point which Paulogia ignored), Allison’s argument in that clip is NOT relevant against my argument that the Corinthians could verify whether there were 500. Rather, Allison’s argument is about whether we (not about the Corinthians) can know what are details of what the 500 saw. Thus Paulogia’s citation of Allison is MISLEADING.
33. MADE IRRELEVANT EXCUSES FOR HIS MISLEADING CUT AND PASTE OF SEAN’S CLIP
Paulogia: The feedback I’ve received from “Is Paulogia a Dishonest Editor?” tells me that Dr Loke’s opinion here is in the minority. They were relevant to many.
Reply: saying that others seem satisfied is not an adequate answer to my argument. Rather, Paulogia should explain what is wrong with my argument (see Error 28 above).
3 Paulogia: ‘5 Scholars Attempt my Resurrection “What If” Challenge’: (0.00 to 0.12)
4 Zhang B., Ma G. (2021) A Comparison of Fact-Finding Methodology in Evidence Law and History. In: Zhang B., Man T.Y., Lin J. (eds) A Dialogue Between Law and History. Springer, Singapore, p. 17.
5 Allison, The resurrection of Jesus, 310.
6 Zhang B., Ma G. (2021) A Comparison of Fact-Finding Methodology in Evidence Law and History, p. 17.
9 Ehrman, Did Jesus exist, p. 75.
10 For discussion of the independence of this and 1 Clement from the Gospels, see Ehrman, Did Jesus exist, chapter 4.
So to summarize.. Dr Loke REALLY want this to be true and will bend over backward to justify this to himself. These people (early Christians) were maximally gullible. As you have stated based on very little evidence they were happy to die for their beliefs. How is a guy coming back from the dead any more impressive than one that raises the dead, or miraculously feeds people or walks on water or heals people. It would appear that the Corinthians were happy to take Pauls word on these matters why would they bat an eyelid at the suggestion that Jesus… Read more »
“So to summarize.. Dr Loke REALLY want this to be true and will bend over backward to justify this to himself.”
This is not a summary of Dr. Loke’s rebuttal, this is a summary of your own attempt at psychoanalysis. C. S. Lewis was right.
There is an infinite number of scenarios that would allow Paul to write to the Corinthian’s that a bunch of people thought they saw Jesus. Almost none of them would provide evidence for a bunch of people actually seeing Jesus. Yet from this one line Dr Loke has built a castle on sand. If that does not qualify as desperate then I do not know what would.
Then it seems, not only are you engaging in amateur psychoanalysis (and pretending as if that’s somehow dialectically important), you’re missing the entire point of the debate.
The point is that ALL of the above arguments rely on “amateur psychoanalysis” on Dr Lokes’ behalf (well 1-4 not so much 5). And the same can be extended to any imaginable alternative scenario.
Then it seems, not only are you missing the entire point of the debate and engaging in amateur psychoanalysis (neither of which you’ve responded to), you’re making patently false claims; Dr. Loke’s analysis is not amateur, it’s based on the prior work of expert psychologists Nicholas DiFonzo and Prashant Bordia. His citation of their work is mentioned in the first premise of the first argument.
Thanks for the conversation, Andy.
Now you’re contradicting yourself. Earlier you conceded that some scenarios would provide evidence. Now you’re asserting that they’re ALL just amateur psychoanalysis. Which of them are just amateur psychoanalysis that still provide evidence?
So, first your grammar. It’s “There are an infinite…”, and it’s Corinthians, no apostrophe. You seem less than persuasive when you don’t have a grasp on basic rules of writing.
Gimme a break, be charitable. Loke’s response makes some writing errors as well with tense. Does this make him less persuasive?
Can you give me five or ten of these scenarios? Which of them would provide evidence, and why? I mean, there are an infinite number, after all. By your own admission some of them would provide the evidence that you say the existing scenario does not. Compare and contrast between the one we have from Paul and those you proffer and help us to understand the difference.
I feel like I am repeating myself. What Paul gave us: “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” Which could conceivable be any of the following Scenario 1 Paul met Peter.. Peter got drunk. Peter said “hey man.. we were out by the river and we totally saw Jesus.. must have been 500 of us” Paul took his word for it. Scenario 2 A group of 1000 proto-christians were on a river bank listening to the fledgling church leaders tell stories of Jesus. At the interval a man walks… Read more »
‘Given what we have to work with each one is as likely’—nah, tis is false given loke’s Arguments 2 and 3, & given loke’s Argument 1 premise 10: ‘It is improbable that Paul was careful in stating the group appearances in 1 Cor 15:3-11 and yet made a mistake on this issue. loke refers to Opening Statement, Section V: lemme copy-&paste it here for you: ‘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… Read more »
Sigh.. Yes, it is just one possible scenario (and I agree a weaker one).. the “implausibility” of any given scenario does not make that particular scenario incorrect.. just implausible. However, historically.. any could be correct given we have so little data to work with. A supernatural explanation is of course the least plausible (though we still have to allow it as a potential explanation.. though as the saying goes this would require “extraordinary” evidence which, given the ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’ arguments given, is not available).
Mr. Bird, can you explain why a “supernatural explanation” is the least plausible? What do you mean by “supernatural” and how do you go about assessing its plausibility? How can you tell if something is natural (or supernatural)?
If we use a simple definition of ‘supernatural’ as ‘that which breaks or otherwise defies the laws of physics’, then it’s pretty obvious why any supernatural explanation is least plausible – it’s because no supernatural event has ever been confirmed. Many suprenatural claims have been proven unequivocally false, and hte rest are ‘conveniently’ blocked from investigation by thanks to the fact that most are known only thanks to long dead or unreliable ‘witnesses’. A misunderstanding of the natural world accounts for most ‘supposedly supernatural events, and psychologically affected ‘witnesses’ account for the rest. It seems unreasonable for a God who… Read more »
Your definition of supernatural is wrong. That is not what christians thought of miracles until rationalists misinterpreted this concept some centuries ago. Look for J. Henry Newman’s Essays on Miracles to understand the traditional definition. Maybe most of the alledged miracles aren’t really so, but for a correct assessment of this you should at least have, at the outset, an adequate concept on what they should be — and still claiming all of them to be illusions based on a handful of them you (presumably) studied would be unjustified.
My definition might not be worded how an early Christian would have put it, but it is undoubtedly a definition that fits the modern understanding of supernatural, and encompasses what early Christians would have meant by ‘miracle’. Claiming any of tehm to be an actual miracle until you have proof is a more heinous mistake that taking the position that none of them are, given that none have ever been proven to be miracles and those that have been studied have been shown to be the result of delusions, misapprehensions and fraud. I can feel you conjuring up images of… Read more »
I’m not arguing for the existence of any specific miracle. I am interested in them, and in the possibility their truthness. I believe that any alledged miracle has to be analised by a methodology that begins with a coherent and precise definition of what they should be, and christians made great efforts in this area, trying to make philosophical sense of the miracles described in the Bible and accepted as revelation. But I am forced to admit that I can’t access the details of most of the investigations of the miracles the Catholic Church is said to have analised (and… Read more »
“power that makes possible something that the natural tendencies of the physical world couldn’t make possible” you mean ‘that which breaks or otherwise defies the laws of physics’. As I said. just different wording. I’m fully aware that there was no differentiation between the natural and the supernatural in hte ancient world in hte way we might view it today. For a start, they wuoldn’t have looked at miracles with the skepticism we do now, because they didn’t fully understandthe nature of reality then. To use a cliche, lightning to them was an event only explicable by appealing to this… Read more »
You are ignoring what Paulogia said in his Opening Statement, namely we are talking about which scenario we have good evidence for or against, not just any possible scenario which might turn out to be correct. And you are ignoring Dr Loke’s 5 arguments which show that we have good evidence for group appearance; you have not refuted any of his arguments. And you have also ignored what Dr Loke said in his opening statement, namely that ‘group appearance’ as defined in this debate in contrast with Paulogia’s theory of two individual appearance concerns the existence of group(s) of people… Read more »
Man, I really dislike the attitude of Paulogia fans, they just comes to annoy and prove how anti-Christian they are. That says a lot about who Doc Loke is debating with!
To be fair, not all of Paulogia’s fans are anti-Christian. Some are, sure. But we have our fair share of anti-skeptics.
The behavior of people who Loke is not debating with says a lot about who Loke is debating with? Okay.
Paulogia’s fans are not, on the whole, anti-Christian, they are anti – anti-intellectualism. It just so happens that there is a huge overlap.
I feel as if Dr. Loke’s constant reminders that Paulogia’s theory is a fringe theory might be poisoning the well a bit. While Dr. Loke isn’t wrong, I don’t know if the constant reminders are conducive to a good debate. Also, Paulogia definitely appears to have overstated Dr. Loke’s case. I have only been following this written debate, but Paulogia does seem to be representing Dr. Loke as claiming we can be certain about the facts. However, Dr. Loke appears to claim that we can’t be certain about the facts, but we can give them a high probability of being… Read more »
The reminder that Paulogia’s theory is a fringe theory doesn’t sound like poisoning the well; it is actually in response to Paulogia’s earlier claim in his opening statement that ‘it’s safe to call group appearances “unlikely to have occurred” under any belief system.’ Dr Loke is basically saying ‘but in view of the arguments which I’ve explained, the fact is that all the experts under any belief system (whether naturalist or theist) do agree that there were group appearances rather than merely individual appearances!
It seems that Dr Loke wants things both ways – he ascribes skepticism to members of the Corinthian church, but also wants to assert that acceptance of the resurrection was foundational to the earliest Christians. So which one is it? If they didn’t accept the resurrection, why were they members of the Church? But if they were members – yet still had reservations about the truth of the resurrection, doesn’t this imply that perhaps resurrection wasn’t a key tenet of Christian belief – at least initially. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians as though the notion of resurrection was important –… Read more »
As a Christian, I agree. We are on much more solid ground drawing inferences from what the letter tells us about Paul than what it tells us about “the Corinthians”. We can make a case for the “group appearances” without having to go there.
did we just trade comments yesterday? If not – apologies. If so – apologies for not replying to this post – it seems I didn’t get a notification for some reason. I think you’re right – they do say more about Paul than anyone else. I would argue that I don’t think you can make a case for actual group appearences, but only claims of a couple of appearences and a whole lot of early Christians trying to bulk up the ‘case for the defence’. An appearence to 500 people is a signficant event – something along the lines of… Read more »
He may have simply aided already believing but sometimes doubtful christians with apologetic content. Like, doing exactly what this site exists for, in the spiteful — but somewhat true — remarks of some skeptics. But I can imagine there may have been some “liberal” “non-bodily ressurection” believers on pagan congregations — but probably not among the jews, given their understanding of the ressurrection–, though they would be considered heretics. This seems to be a matter of the difference between what dissident and sometimes uneducated heretics believed and the core beliefs transmited by the apostles — what may be and what… Read more »
non bodily resurrection wasn’t as unlikely an idea as you seem to think it was. Remember – this all happened at the very beginning – before ‘official’ church doctrine was anywhere close to settled. There were disparate groups of Christians with widely varying ideas about who Jesus was and what happened to him. We are 300 years before Nicea, remember. Paul’s letters themselves more than hint about some disagreement between the apostles over what is and what isn’t proper Christian doctrine. It’s not at all clear from Paul’s account that Jesus’ appearence to him was bodily. In fact taken alone,… Read more »
I have not studied these religious matters well enough, but from what I listened in lectures and read about it any “non-bodily” interpretation of the Easter incident would have to come from pagan influence. Ressurrection is not a christian invention, it was a Jewish doctrine, the concept of which being different from mere revitalization: the only absurdity happening that Sunday morning would be that this cosmic event connected to the end of time itself was happening before its time, and only with one person. Ressurrection is always bodily: spiritual visions and experiences also happened in the Jewish world, but they… Read more »
don’t be disingenuous. The other men – if we are to believe the story heard something but didn’t see anything. i would have thought the minimum requirement for a physical appearence would be that it was visible.
And stop cherry picking lore from whatever ancient culture you think best fits your idea about what happened and what ancinet people thought about things.
Is there anybody else that wants to agree with Dr. Loke because he identifies as a christian but feels repelled by the way he handles the discourse?
It feels like he thinks he can „win“ by being able to say „fringe“ „error“ or „misrepresented me“ more often than Paulogia. And by being very petty about every little detail.
I could grant that Paulogia is 1000% wrong about everything he’s ever said, and Loke still comes across as a butthurt baby to me.
Which detail is Dr Loke petty about? Have you ignored the details of his five arguments by which he establishes his case?
That’s a strange question…I did not ignore the five arguments. I guess for my issue it would have been better to ignore the rest and only read these five arguments.
And for pettiness: Appendix I and II reads like a list of all the things where Dr. Loke feels wronged and hurt. That’s the way kids tend to resolve arguments: listing all the ways they have been hurt and then demanding at least sincere apologies or better full compensation.
You are ignoring the first paragraph of Paulogia’s Opening Statement and his video ‘Is Paulogia a dishonest editor’ where Paulogia is the one who complains of all the ways he feels wronged and hurt. Dr Loke is responding by showing that Paulogia’s complains against him are invalid and that he commits various errors that misleads the audience. So Paulogia is the kid, Dr Loke is like the parent and teacher.
Sorry, but again no. I did not ignore the video and the first paragraph.
Actually I was impressed by the Video because he seems to have honestly reviewed the way he cut and presented Dr. Loke, Sean McDowell and Dale Allison. And I was even more impressed by Cameron and that he went out of his way to apologize on multiple channels for stating Paulogia was intentionally deceptive. That was very honorable!
Loke spends a lot of time talking about the ability of the Corinthians to investigate the 500, and not a lot of time talking about whether or not the Corinthians actually did investigate the claims of the 500 and what their conclusion was. Maybe some of them did investigate and they left the church as a result. We don’t know.
If they did, the enemies of Paul both inside and outside the church would have made a ruckus about it. Paul’s letter to would have been quietly discarded by the church, because of embarrassment. Or they could have just “edited” the letter to drop out that line.
Enemies of Paul inside the church could have also just quietly left in embarrassment, not making any ruckus at all (I didn’t make any ruckus at my church when I realized I had no good reasons to believe; I just quit going). And with the internal opposition gone the church would have no reason to disavow the letter.
Why would they leave the Church? Why not simply repudiate Paul and affirm the resurrection, following some other leader/apostle? Just because Paul was mistaken about something doesn’t mean the entire edifice had to crumble. There were many Christians in Corinth who didn’t like Paul, but presumably loved Jesus (2 Corinthians 10-13). They would have jumped at the chance of discrediting Paul.
how do you know they didn’t make a ruckus? How do you know that by the time the church established control in the Empire, all records of disbelievers weren’t expunged from the books. Why bother keeping any documents that shone the early churhc fathers in a bad light?
There’s a point which I think could have been made regarding standards of evidence for legal vs historical inquiry. In the legal context, you have plaintiff and a defendant. The plaintiff wants to argue that the defendant has commited a crime and should be punished appropriately (fines/imprisonment/death). Because the courts are not infalliable, if the court rules in favor of the defendant, there’s a risk you’re letting the guilty party go free. If the court rules in favour of the plaintiff, there’s a risk that you’re punishing an innocent person. In this context, it’s conventionally decided that it’s better to… Read more »
For a cumulative refutation of Loke’s book, see here: https://youtu.be/qeF8csukdFM
The word used for “appeared” ὤφθη in 1 Cor 15 is not sufficient to claim anyone really saw Jesus alive again in the flesh. According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 5 pg. 330, ὤφθη is: “the characteristic term to denote the (non-visual) presence of the self-revealing God.” The word was used to signify being “in the presence of revelation as such, without reference to the nature of its perception, or to the presence of God who reveals Himself in His Word. It thus seems that when ὤφθη is used to denote the resurrection appearances there is… Read more »
You are citing the outdated TDNT source which has already been refuted by more recent studies by Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. The rest of your post reflects a common misunderstanding which has been refuted already. See Dr Loke’s article here published by Oxford University Press: https://www.academia.edu/44318893/Loke_Andrew_2020_Book_review_Peter_Gant_s_Seeing_Light_A_Critical_Enquiry_into_the_Origins_of_Resurrection_Faith_Journal_of_Theological_Studies_https_doi_org_10_1093_jts_flaa118_Oxford_University_Press . For details see chapter 4 of his book published by Routledge.
The sources that I quoted are not “outdated” in the sense that the meaning/understanding of the word has changed. It still carries the same meaning/connotation throughout Jewish literature. Licona cannot “refute” that. Since the word is equally likely to mean spiritual appearances then the conclusion remains unscathed – the evidence is insufficient to conclude a veridical/optical sighting of a physically resurrected figure. Since the Resurrection solely relies on actually seeing Jesus alive again, then the evidence remains unconvincing. Loke’s article is just assuming the groups of people actually saw a resurrected figure as opposed to something such as a mass… Read more »
The accounts in Acts describe an extra-mental appearance. Paul is blinded by the light, and other men see it. In another account the men around Paul are said to hear a voice, despite not understanding it. It’s curious that you forgot about these details, since they are famous for being contradictory and very difficult — if not impossible — to harmonize. Besides this, I personally doubt some sensory experience like those “personal encounters” at modern evangelical churches would convince any orthodox Jew of a bodily ressurrection before the end of times, exactly because they aren’t “sufficient evidence to show this… Read more »
Strawman. Nobody is suggesting that that word ( ὤφθη) alone entails a physical resurrection, or physical appearances. It has a range of meaning (including “mundane physical appearance”) which can be narrowed down, once we take into account all the other considerations as argued by Dr. Loke.
The Resurrection argument stands or falls on whether or not these people really saw Jesus alive again. But if the “range of meaning” is equally likely to mean a spiritual experience, plus the fact that Paul *does not* distinguish his visionary experience from heaven from the “appearances” to the others, then you are left without any evidentiary basis to claim it’s more probable that they really saw a resurrected figure. If you want to “narrow it down” the only supported inference we have is that Paul was probably saying they were all the same type of appearances. He gives no… Read more »
The meaning of the word has not changed, but the TDNT sources you quoted are “outdated” in the sense that it has been superseded by a more detailed study by Licona of more than a thousand usages of the word which shows that it more commonly signifies normal physiologic sight. This plus the fact that, as Loke pointed out, when used with reference to the physically dead (as in Jesus’ case), the word ἐγείρω (raised) refers unambiguously to the revivification of the physical corpse (James Ware, ‘The Resurrection of Jesus in the Pre-Pauline Formula of 1 Cor 15.3–5,’ New Testament… Read more »
//”The meaning of the word has not changed, but the TDNT sources you quoted are “outdated” in the sense that it has been superseded by a more detailed study by Licona of more than a thousand usages of the word which shows that it more commonly signifies normal physiologic sight.”// In the NT and LXX the aorist passive form ὤφθη is more commonly used for visions, supernatural appearances, theophanies of God and angels, the “glory of God” appearing so, no, this is not normal physiologic sight. I provided plenty of other quotes instead of just from the TDNT by the… Read more »
You are ignoring the study of more than a thousand usages of the word in the NT, LXX, and other texts by Licona which shows that it more commonly signifies normal physiologic sight. In the Bible divine revelation, supernatural appearances and theophanies of God and angels can involve normal physiologic sight too e.g. Moses seeing the burning bush using his physical eyes. Concerning the aorist passive ὤφθη, Licona (page 396) notes that there are numerous EXCEPTIONS to ‘visionary seeing”, citing the following examples: Gen 1:9; 2 Sam 22:11; 1 Macc 4:6, 19; 9:27; Song 2:12; Bar 3:22; Dan 4:22; Acts… Read more »
//”You are ignoring the study of more than a thousand usages of the word in the NT, LXX, and other texts by Licona which shows that it more commonly signifies normal physiologic sight.”// Is that “more than a thousand usages” of the aorist passive form ὤφθη as used in 1 Cor 15? If you’re just referring to the word horao, I already gave the definition. The word is just as likely to mean a spiritual experience as it is a physical one. 50/50 means you can’t claim it is “more probable” that it was a physical/optical sighting so it’s just… Read more »
You said //If you’re just referring to the word horao, I already gave the definition. The word is just as likely to mean a spiritual experience as it is a physical one. Well, you are ONCE AGAIN ignoring the study of more than a thousand usages of the word in the NT, LXX, and other texts by Licona which shows that it MORE COMMONLY (>50/50 more probable) signifies normal physiologic sight. //You can’t physically see into heaven with your eyes Unjustified assumption. And wrong. See below. //”Concerning the aorist passive ὤφθη, ..The point is it’s more commonly used for the… Read more »
//”Well, you are ONCE AGAIN ignoring the study of more than a thousand usages of the word in the NT, LXX, and other texts by Licona which shows that it MORE COMMONLY (>50/50 more probable) signifies normal physiologic sight.”// All that goes out the window when “visions from heaven” counted as “seeing Jesus.” Also, you must concede the aorist passive form is MORE COMMONLY used for visions and supernatural phenomena so going by your own standard works against you. //”Unjustified assumption. And wrong. See below.”// Oh really? You can see into heaven with your unassisted eyes? Wow! What is that… Read more »
Appealing to the extra-mental details in the Acts account for the veracity of Paul’s vision fails. Since Paul’s letters nowhere corroborate any of the claims like seeing a bright light, hearing a voice, going blind, or any accompanying companions then that means the only evidence for these details comes from the Acts account itself which wasn’t written by Paul. Since the Acts account has no independent attestation then the claim for historicity solely relies on the veracity of the account itself i.e. circular. All one has to do is come up with an equally likely explanation of the data in… Read more »
“But since Paul uses a “vision” as a “resurrection appearance” then seeing Jesus’ reanimated corpse on the earth was not required in order to claim Jesus “appeared” to them.” You don’t know that. This argument rests on a premise you are yet to prove. “If we start allowing visions as evidence then that means Joseph Smith’s vision was veridical as well as all the Hindu visions where they see their gods. Do you believe Hindu gods are real just because people have visions of them?” Don’t you realize this point you make goes against you? From the gospels to Paul’s… Read more »
“You don’t know that. This argument rests on a premise you are yet to prove.” That’s what “visions” are. Even in the Acts report, no physical Jesus is present. He appears in a vision from heaven, meaning his body isn’t located on the earth. QED. “From the gospels to Paul’s letters, everything points to the fundamental christian belief of a singular bodily ressurrection before the end of times, which is absurd on Jewish conception of ressurrection.” In Mark 6:14-16 and the other gospels some were saying John the Baptist had been raised from the dead so obviously this idea of… Read more »
This discussion is useful to clarify some of the technical issues of using the historical method. I also learned about some interesting publications.
Dr. Loke is repeatedly going after a positive statement that Paulogia didn’t make in his opening argument—that there were absolutely only two people who had, what they perceived to be, post-resurrection visits from Jesus. A statement like that does not appear in Paulogia’s opening arguments. My understanding of Paulogia’s position is that it’s possible to explain the rise of Christianity with just two people who assumed that they had a post-resurrection interaction with Jesus. Can we also get a round of editing for both Dr. Loke and Paulogia’s submissions to this debate? This one became difficult to read toward the… Read more »
As a fellow Asian (and PhD), Loke’s irrelevant point on Paul’s academic credential (or lack thereof) is so cringy. That’s a typical Asian culture (or disease, to be exact!) that shows chronic inferiority complex in our society. As much as I value highly formal education, I always tell my kids that there’s no point of having PhD if you cannot activate your critical thinking.
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