Thursday, October 28, 2010

reply to Jayman

Hello Jayman: I hope this message finds you well and feeling good. Nothing in this reply should be construed as an insult of ad hominem attack in lieu of argument. We can have a discussion even though we disagree on the issue. However, I respectfully agree with you when you wrote in response to Mr. Myers that “If you don't want to make arguments then don't make historical claims.”

Sir, the Christian apologist bears a strong burden of proof to validate the claim that the Canonical Gospels are historically reliable. A context for shouldering that burden can be achieved by employment of the Coherency Theory
truth wherein an exegete holds a “view that the truth of a proposition consists in its being a member of some suitably defined body of other propositions: a body that is consistent.”

Since modern people can know nothing of ancient history with certainty, a historical inquirer must seek to form arguments to the best explanation. That is assisted by demonstrating a rational Beysian probability that the Canonical Gospels are most likely true (or not) as historical accounts. To do that it is required to determine the prior probability of that hypothesis given the evidence we do have using the Coherency Theory of truth. All the facts must be coherent and fit with the main hypothesis.

Bayes Theorem is expressed as


where for present purposes

P(H) is the prior probability of the Gospels being historically acurate.

P(S) is the prior probability of the non-Christian silence regarding Jesus or the rise of Christianity in the first century.

P(S|H) is the conditional probability of the non-Christian silence given historical accuracy of the Gospel accounts.

P(H|S) is the conditional probability of historical accuracy of the Gospel accounts given the non-Christian silence regarding Jesus or the rise of Christianity in the first century.

No non-Christian testimony for Jesus or the rise of Christianity can be reliably counted upon to support the hypothesis that the Gospels are historically accurate. Pliny the Younger’s letter to Emperor Trajan showed he knew nothing of Jesus or Christianity for he had to torture the female slaves to obtain information that he termed “excessive superstition”. Yet the Christian story says that the religion spread quickly and widely throughout the regions of the eastern Mediterranean. If that were true, sophisticated elite ruling class officials would be expected to be acquainted with the religion especially in light of the Ignatian story. This fact as well as the other unexplainable silences regarding Jesus, Paul, and the alleged rapid spread of Christianity contradicts the Gospel and Acts stories. And since all religions are known to be based on fictional stories and since it is very easy to make up fictional stories and since form criticism identifies the Gospel stories as compliant with the archtypical form of widespread redeeming hero mythcial savior deities or demigods, then it is very likely the Gospel stories are fictional midrash, and that means the P(H) is very small.

P(S) however is very large because if the stories are indeed fictional midrash constituting contents of a mystery religion that was secret and only revealed to initiates, then it is to be expected that ancient chroniclers of then current events would not write about Christianity even though they were Johnny on the Spot and had every opportunity and motivation to write about it.

However, P(S|H) would be very small because if a Demi God or Divine being were striding about doing supernatural miracles in front of thousands, then the chroniclers should have and would have known and subsequently written about it. Its not every day that some Jewish Rabbi resurrects stinking rotting corpses or that Zombies rise from their graves an go ambling about in Jerusalem.

Then since P(S) is very large, and P(H) and P(S|H) are very small, P(H|S) is also very small. Thus it is rational to think the Gospel stories not historically accurate and to think them fictional midrash for a small unobtrusive mystery cult. This means asserting the Gospels accounts historically accurate or reliable is an extraordinary claim. To validate it, extraordinary evidence is needed. No such evidence is available. Only ordinary evidence can be mustered to support the apologetic case. The ordinary evidence available is not very good. So I think an exegete seeking to make a case for Christianity or historical reliability of the Gospels has a long row to hoe.

The forgoing constitutes and argument to the best explanation because it has good scope and parsimony with the known facts. To rebut this, an apologist should provide evidence of non-Christian testimony for Jesus, Paul, and the rise of Christianity. However the usual suspects have been dispatched. Jesus: Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus

And the internal evidence of the New Testament documents fails for reasons Doherty, Price, Wells, Freke, Gandy, Murdock, Zindler and others have written upon in their books.

The facts are coherent and form a body of knowledge that is inconsistent with historical reliability of the NT Gospels. It is speculative that there may still have been a historical Jesus who was associated with the Q1 Kingdom of God preaching movement, but if so he would have more likely resembled a Hellenistic Cynic Sage type. But he would not have been the guy described in Gospel of Mark and that would be fatal for any form of Christianity dependent upon the Gospel Jesus character.

Best wishes, and regard to the readers, Robert Bumbalough