bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 7: A Decade without Serious Threats

According to Peter Kreeft, there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus. The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) is one of those five theories. Kreeft raises seven objections against  TCT.
We are currently considering Objection #1. 
Kreeft lays out this objection by quoting Blaise Pascal:
..imagine these twelve men [the twelve apostles] meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost. …  (Pensees, #801: “Proof of Jesus Christ”)
Objection #1 FAILS because it makes various historical assumptions about the twelve apostles without providing any historical evidence for those assumptions. Here is a key historical assumption:
ALL twelve of the apostles frequently faced attempts at bribery, and serious threats of imprisonment, torture, and death, specifically in order to make them recant their claim to have personally and physically seen the risen Jesus.
Not only does Kreeft FAIL to provide ANY historical evidence in support of this key assumption, but as we have seen, in post #5 and post #6, we are ignorant about the lives of most of the apostles.  There simply is not enough historical knowledge about their lives for there to be any hope of showing the above key assumption to be true.
Furthermore, not only is there insufficient information to establish the truth of this assumption, but the limited information that we do have indicates that this key assumption of Objection #1 is probably FALSE.
Here are some basic facts that cast doubt on this assumption behind Objection #1:

  1. The NT records the martyrdom of ONLY ONE of the Twelve: James the brother of John (see Acts 12:1-2).
  2. James was presumably the FIRST of the Twelve to be killed (if any of the others in the Twelve were actually killed).
  3. The NT provides virtually NO DETAILS about the circumstances of the death of James the brother of John.
  4. James was NOT killed by order of the Jewish council in Jerusalem.
  5. James was killed in about 44 CE by the order of King Herod Agrippa I.


 
The Martyrdom of St James, Francisco di Zurbaran, 1639.


We don’t know what James had been preaching around the time of his death.  We don’t know whether the content of his preaching is what motivated King Herod to have James executed.  There is no indication that James was EVER offered a bribe to get him to recant his claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus, or to get him to stop preaching about the resurrection of Jesus.  There is no indication that James was EVER threatened with death in the months and years prior to his execution, nor that he was EVER offered an opportunity to avoid death by recanting his claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus.  Thus, in the ONE AND ONLY example of an execution of one of the Twelve in the NT, there is NO EVIDENCE supporting the key assumption made by Objection #1.
Furthermore, the fact that James was killed in about 44 CE, means that the twelve apostles were able to preach about Jesus and about the death and alleged resurrection of Jesus for more than a DECADE without any of them being killed.  If Jesus was crucified in 33 CE, then it took about eleven years for the FIRST apostle to be killed.  If Jesus was crucified in 29 CE, then it took about fifteen years for the first apostle to be killed.
So, either the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem were NOT STRONGLY MOTIVATED to kill the Twelve (or members of the Twelve who refused to recant or to stop preaching about the resurrection of Jesus), or else the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem were COMPLETELY INEPT at carrying out their intention to kill the Twelve (or those members of the Twelve who refused to recant or to stop preaching about the resurrection of Jesus).  In either case, there would have been NO SERIOUS THREAT of death for the Twelve, for at least a DECADE.  But a decade of preaching about the death and alleged resurrection of Jesus would have been sufficient to get the ball rolling, to firmly entrench belief in the resurrection of Jesus among hundreds or thousands of Christian converts.
Therefore, the ONE AND ONLY example in the NT of one of the Twelve being killed, namely the execution of James the brother of John, FAILS to support a key assumption behind Objection #1, and actually provides us with a good reason to reject that historical assumption as being probably FALSE, at least for the first DECADE following the crucifixion of Jesus, which is all that is needed in order for TCT to explain the origin of the early Christian belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Kreeft’s Objection #1 FAILS miserably because he provides ZERO historical evidence to support a key historical assumption of that objection, and because examination of the ONE relevant example in the NT of one of the Twelve apostles being killed actually casts serious doubt on that key historical assumption.

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 6: More about Our Ignorance

According to Peter Kreeft, there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus:

 
 
The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) is one of those five theories.
Kreeft raises seven objections against TCT.  Objection #1 FAILS, because it makes various historical assumptions about the twelve apostles without providing any historical evidence for those assumptions.
 
OUR IGNORANCE ABOUT THE TWELVE
In Part 5 of this series,  I presented a number of points from A Marginal Jew, Volume III, by John Meier, points that support my claim that we know very little about the Twelve.  The following is a summary of the key points covered in my previous post:


In the opening pages of Chapter 27, John Meier indicates that we have very little knowledge about “the Twelve”:
With the exception of very few of them, the lives of the Twelve, however full and exciting they may have been in the 1st century, have been lost to our ken forever.  (AMJ3, p.198)
Based on discussion by Meier on our historical knowledge about individuals who were part of the Twelve, we arrived at these conclusions:

  • We know NOTHING about Bartholomew.
  • We know almost nothing about Jude of James.
  • We are completely ignorant about Thaddeus.
  • James of Alphaeus is a member of the Twelve about whom we have ZERO knowledge.
  • We know NOTHING about Matthew.
  • We know VERY LITTLE about Philip.
  • There is a little bit of information about Andrew during the ministry of Jesus, and there is NO INFORMATION about Andrew after the crucifixion and alleged resurrection of Jesus.

In short, there is very little that is known about the above seven individuals who constitute HALF of the fourteen people who have been part of “the Twelve”.


I will now continue to consider Meier’s evaluation of the historical data concerning the remaining seven individuals out of the fourteen people who constituted the Twelve.


THOMAS
The first three Gospels provide no information about Thomas:
…in the Synoptics [Matthew, Mark, and Luke], he [Thomas] appears nowhere outside the lists of the Twelve, while he receives some prominence in John’s Gospel. (AMJ3, p.204)
Although Thomas has some prominence in the Fourth Gospel, the information about Thomas in that Gospel is very dubious:
…all the passages in the Fourth Gospel involving Thomas look suspiciously like theological vehicles of the evangelist. …Thus, all of Thomas’ appearances in John’s Gospel are largely molded if not totally created by the evangelist.  (AMJ3, p.204)
In the end, if we discount Johannine theology and later gnosticizing legends, we know next to nothing about the historical Thomas…  (AMJ3, p.204)
Although Meier does not mention this, there is only ONE reference to Thomas in Acts, and that is merely the mention of his name in a list of the Twelve (Acts 1:13).  So there is no information about what Thomas said or he did in the months and years after the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
We know almost nothing about Thomas.


SIMON THE CANANEAN
…Simon the Cananean appears nowhere outside the lists of the Twelve…(AMJ3, p.205)
We know almost nothing about Simon the Cananean.


JUDAS ISCARIOT
Down through the ages, Judas has been a magnet for the artistic imagination of Christians.  Literature and the pictorial arts have expanded his story and personality to such huge proportions that it is difficult to remind even critical readers that we know only two basic facts about him: (1) Jesus chose him as one of the Twelve, and (2) he handed over Jesus to the Jerusalem authorities, thus precipitating Jesus’ execution. (AMJ3, p.208)
We know very little about Judas Iscariot.


MATTHIAS
The ONLY mention of Matthias in the NT is at the end of Chapter 1 of Acts (1:21-26), and Matthias doesn’t say anything.  What we learn is that Matthias was selected to be one of the Twelve, as the replacement for Judas Iscariot.
We know virtually nothing about Matthias.


Now we know that our ignorance about the Twelve includes Thomas, Simon the Cananean, Judas Iscariot, and Matthias:

  • We know almost nothing about Thomas.
  • We know almost nothing about Simon the Cananean.
  • We know very little about Judas Iscariot.
  • We know virtually nothing about Matthias.

That bring us to ELEVEN apostles out of the total of fourteen who were members of “the Twelve”. Given that we know either nothing or very little about ELEVEN out of fourteen apostles, there is simply no way that Peter Kreeft, or any other Christian apologist could REFUTE the Conspiracy Theory, as I have defined it.
TCT asserts that MOST of the apostles met together soon after Jesus’ crucifixion and agreed with each other to preach the lie that they had all physically seen the risen Jesus after Jesus was crucified.  In order for Objection #1 to show that it is NOT the case that MOST of the apostles met together and made this agreement, Kreeft would have to establish some historical claims about the character and actions of at least EIGHT apostles, including actions that took place in the months and years following the crucifixion of Jesus.
Specifically, Kreeft would need to show that at least EIGHT apostles continued for years to preach that they had physically seen the risen Jesus AND that for years those EIGHT apostles faced frequent serious attempts at bribery and frequent serious threats of imprisonment, torture, or death, where the bribe was conditioned specifically on them renouncing the claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus, and where the threats would clearly disappear if they renounced the claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus.    Although there were probably fourteen individuals who were part of the Twelve, at any given point in time there were only twelve who were active members, so a meeting of MOST of the twelve implies that at least SEVEN of the apostles met and agreed to lie about the resurrection appearances of Jesus, according to TCT.
In order to use Objection #1 to eliminate this possibility that SEVEN (or more) of the apostles met to conspire to lie about physical resurrection appearances of Jesus by pointing to the continued preaching of the apostles in the face of frequent and serious attempts at bribery and threats of imprisonment, torture, or death, Kreeft must show that at least EIGHT of the fourteen apostles were NOT involved in such a conspiracy, and he must do so on the basis of them continuing to preach about the resurrection for years in the face of frequent serious attempts at bribery and frequent serious threats of imprisonment, torture, or death. That would leave only SIX (or fewer) apostles, out of the fourteen, who might have participated in a conspiracy.  Therefore, in order to REFUTE TCT by means of Objection #1, Kreeft must make and establish some significant historical claims about the character, experiences, and activities of at least EIGHT apostles.
Kreeft would need to show that at least EIGHT apostles continued for years to preach that they had physically seen the risen Jesus AND that during those years those EIGHT apostles faced frequent serious attempts at bribery and frequent serious threats of imprisonment, torture, or death AND that those bribery attempts were specifically focused on getting the apostles to recant their claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus AND that those threats were specifically focused on getting the apostles to recant their claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus. But we are ignorant about the character and activities of ELEVEN out of the fourteen apostles, so it is impossible for Kreeft or any other Christian apologist to make and establish significant historical claims that would be sufficient to rule out TCT on the basis of Objection #1.


PETER, JAMES, and JOHN
In the end, of all the members of the Twelve, only Peter and, to a lesser degree, the sons of Zebedee [James and John] emerge from the shadow of the group to stand on their own as knowable individuals. (AMJ3, p.199)
The BEST CASE SCENARIO for Kreeft is that he could establish various significant historical claims about just THREE of the apostles: Peter, James, and John.  It is (in theory) possible for Kreeft or some other apologist, to show that Peter, James, and John were NOT participants in a conspiracy to lie about physically seeing the risen Jesus.  But that still leaves open the possibility that SEVEN or more of the other apostles did conspire to lie about physically seeing the risen Jesus, and thus the BEST CASE SCENARIO for Kreeft would still FAIL to refute TCT.


 

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 5: Our Ignorance of The Twelve

There are five different possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, according to Peter Kreeft:

 
 
The Conspiracy Theory is one of the skeptical theories about the resurrection.  See Part 3 of this series for my clarification of the content of TCT.
 
THE ABSENCE OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE
In Part 4 of this series I replied to Objection #1 of Peter Kreeft’s seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT).
In today’s post, I will provide evidence to support one of my main replies to Objection #1:


1. This ASSUMES without any proof that there were powerful people in Palestine in the years immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus who had a strong motivation to persuade or pressure the apostles to deny that they had physically seen the risen Jesus.
2. This ASSUMES without any proof that ALL of the apostles actually and frequently faced attempts at bribery, and serious threats of imprisonment, torture, and death, specifically in order to make them recant their claim to have personally and physically seen the risen Jesus.
What is the HISTORICAL EVIDENCE for these assumptions? The NT tells us very little about the lives of the apostles, especially about their lives after the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
[…]
In the end, Kreeft doesn’t provide a single scrap of historical evidence, not even a single quote from the NT!  His Objection #1 to TCT is a miserable and pathetic failure, a clear indication of intellectual carelessness and a delight in ignorance.  It suggests that Kreeft has ZERO concern about historical truth or facts.  Sadly, Kreeft is not alone in this attitude; it is nearly universal among Christian apologists.


 
JOHN MEIER’S  MAGNUM OPUS: A MARGINAL JEW
The full-strength antidote for the intellectual sloth involved in Kreeft’s Objection #1, is to read Chapter 27 of A Marginal Jew, Volume III: Companions and Competitors by John P. Meier (hereafter: AMJ3).  However, I will provide a healthy dose of Meier’s medicine by presenting many of the key points made by Meier, points supporting my claim that, “The NT tells us very little about the lives of the apostles, especially about their lives after the alleged resurrection of Jesus.”
John Meier:
…is a professor of the New Testament at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.  He has been both president of the Catholic Biblical Association and the general editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly. (from the back flap of AMJ3)
Meier is a leading scholar concerning the historical study of Jesus.
 
THE EXISTENCE OF THE TWELVE
It is NOT an established historical FACT that Jesus actually had an inner circle of twelve disciples:
…a number of distinguished  critics throughout the 20th century have considered it probable or certain that the group called the Twelve actually arose in the early church and was later retrojected into the ministry of Jesus. (AMJ3, p.128)
But in Chapter 26, Meier goes on to present a careful and scholarly defense of the view that Jesus did actually have an inner circle of twelve disciples (i.e. “the Twelve”).  He summarizes his case for the historicity of “the Twelve” this way:
In sum, Mark, John, Paul, probably L [the special sources used by the author of the gospel of Luke], and probably Q give multiple attestation from independent sources that the Twelve existed as an identifiable public group during the public ministry [of Jesus]. (AMJ3, p.141)
Since I have doubts about the historicity of Jesus, I also have doubts about the historicity of “the Twelve”, but at least Meier puts forward a careful and scholarly case for the historicity of “the Twelve”.
I will grant, for now, the assumption of the historicity of “the Twelve”.  This is in keeping with a defense of TCT, since TCT itself assumes that Jesus actually existed and that “the Twelve” actually existed.  It is important, however, to bear in mind that the historicity of “the Twelve” is NOT an established historical fact, but is at best an historical claim which can be supported by a careful and scholarly case that makes use of actual historical evidence.
 
THERE WERE ACTUALLY FOURTEEN PEOPLE IN “THE TWELVE”
Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and then killed himself, according the the NT.  So, another disciple of Jesus was promoted to take the position left vacant in the Twelve by the departure of Judas:
Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
(Acts 1:24-26, New Revised Standard Version)
Matthias replaced Judas and was probably the fourteenth member of “the Twelve”, because it appears that there had previously been thirteen individuals in “the Twelve”.   During Jesus’ ministry, before Judas Iscariot left the Twelve, there was another disciple in the inner circle who left and was replaced: it is likely that Thaddeus was replaced by Jude of James during Jesus’ ministry.
There are four lists of the names of the Twelve in the NT.  In the lists from Mark and Matthew (Mark 3:16-19 & Matthew 10:2-4) we find a disciple named “Thaddeus”, but in the lists from Luke and Acts (Luke 6:14-18 & Acts 1:13), we don’t find “Thaddeus”, and instead we find “Jude of James”.  Some commentators explain this discrepancy by claiming these are different names for the same person, but John Meier doesn’t find that to be a plausible view: “…this solution smacks of harmonization.” (AMJ3, p.131)
Instead, Meier thinks it is more plausible that one of the Twelve was replaced during Jesus’ ministry:
Considering Jesus’ stringent demands on the Twelve to leave family, home, and possessions to be his permanent entourage on his preaching tours through Galilee and Judea, we should not be astonished that, sometime during the two years of the ministry, at least one member left the group.  Any number of reasons might be suggested for the departure: voluntary leave-taking, dismissal by Jesus, illness, or even death.  Whatever the cause, it may well be that one member of the Twelve departed and was replaced by another disciple. (AMJ3, p.131)
In other words, it is more likely that Thaddeus and Jude of James were two different people, and that one of them replaced the other during the ministry of Jesus.  Since the gospel of John places a second Judas (i.e. Jude) at the Last Supper (John 14:22), it appears that Jude of James had replaced Thaddeus sometime prior to the Last Supper, although Meier says that it is “by no means certain that Jude of James is to be identified with the ‘Judas, not the Iscariot’ who asks Jesus a question at the Last Supper…” (AMJ3, p.200)
Contrary to common belief, the group known as “the Twelve” probably contained at least fourteen different individuals, because of departures and replacements of individuals (Matthias for Judas Iscariot, and Jude of James for Thaddeus).
 
THE IMAGINARY APOSTLE
The Gospel of Matthew provides a list of the Twelve, and that list includes a person who probably did NOT exist:
…and Matthew the tax collector…(Matthew 10:3)
The author of the First Gospel was probably NOT Matthew the apostle.  One reason for doubting that Matthew the apostle was the author of the First Gospel is that the list of the Twelve contains an imaginary Matthew.  Although there was a person named “Matthew” among the Twelve, Matthew was NOT a tax collector, so far as we know.  The author of the First Gospel used the Gospel of Mark as a primary source, but revised and edited the material from Mark, including changing the name of a person:
The variations in the second block of four names [in the lists of the Twelve] are likewise due to the First Evangelist’s redactional activity: he changes the name of Levi the toll collector in Mark 2:14 to that of Matthew the toll collector in Matt 9:9.  He thus assures that every named individual who is directly called to discipleship by Jesus winds up in the list of the Twelve.  The First Evangelist hammers home the identification by appending the designation “the toll collector”…to the name of Matthew in the list of the Twelve.  (AMJ, p.132)
In other words, Levi the tax collector was NOT one of the Twelve, but was just an ordinary disciple, but the author of the First Gospel (the Gospel of Matthew) changed the story that came from his primary source Mark, to turn Levi the tax collector into one of the Twelve by changing his name to “Matthew”, the name of one of the Twelve in Mark’s list.  So, Levi the tax collector was probably an actual person, but he was NOT among the Twelve, and there was a disciple named Matthew who was among the Twelve, but Matthew was NOT a tax collector (at least it is very unlikely that Matthew also happened to be a tax collector).  So, the person called “Matthew the tax collector” probably did not exist.  This is a fictional character created by combining features of two different historical individuals.
 
OUR IGNORANCE ABOUT INDIVIDUALS IN THE TWELVE
The assumption of the actual existence of “the Twelve” does NOT mean that we can assume anything in particular about the individual people who make up that group.  In the opening pages of Chapter 27, John Meier indicates that we have very little knowledge about these people:
With the exception of very few of them, the lives of the Twelve, however full and exciting they may have been in the 1st century, have been lost to our ken forever.  (AMJ3, p.198)
If we restrict our question to what we can know about the individual members of the Twelve during the public ministry of Jesus, then the answer, apart from a few special cases, must be almost entirely negative.  In fact, even if we extend our glance into the early church, the result is still zero, with a few precious exceptions. 
>>>If we document this inverse insight (i.e., one comes to know that there is nothing further to know), I will examine in turn each member of the Twelve, touching only in passing on the endless pious legends or gnostic fantasies of a later period.  Most of the space given to each individual will be taken up with pointing out that later legends yield no historical data for our quest. (AMJ3, p.199)
In the end, of all the members of the Twelve, only Peter, and, to a lesser degree, the sons of Zebedee emerge from the shadow of the group to stand on their own as knowable individuals. (AMJ3, p.199)
Let’s consider each one of the Twelve, one at a time, to reinforce these general points by Meier.


BARTHOLOMEW
To start with the absolute dead ends: Bartholomew is mentioned in all four lists of the Twelve, and nowhere else in the NT.   (AMJ3, p.199)
We know NOTHING about Bartholomew.
One down; thirteen more to go.


JUDE OF JAMES
Jude (or Judas or Judah) of James is even more of an unknown [than Bartholomew], occurring only in the Lucan lists of the Twelve (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). …It is possible but by no means certain, that Jude of James is to be identified with the “Judas, not the Iscariot” who asks Jesus a question at the Last Supper in John 14:22. …       (AMJ3, p.200)
We know almost nothing about Jude of James.
Two down; twelve more to go.


THADDEUS
Once one rejects the identification of Jude of James with Thaddeus, there is nothing to be known or said about the latter–except that, by way of Jude, he too became identified with the ever-popular Thomas.   (AMJ3, p.200)
We are completely ignorant about Thaddeus.
Three down; eleven to go.
Noticing a pattern here?


JAMES OF ALPHAEUS
James “of Alphaeus” (probably in the sense of James the son of Alphaeus) always begins the third group of four names in the lists of the Twelve.  That is all we know about him.  (AMJ3, p.201)
James of Alphaeus is a member of the Twelve about whom we have ZERO knowledge.
Four down; ten to go.


MATTHEW
… both the Marcan and the Lucan Gospels distinguish between Levi, a toll collector whom Jesus called to be a disciple (Mark 2:14||Luke 5:27), and Matthew, who appears in the lists of the Twelve, who has no description after his name, and about whom nothing else is known (Mark 3:18||Luke 6:15).  It is the Matthean Gospel that creates a cross-reference and identification [between Levi and Matthew]… …the change of names is a redactional intervention of a Christian evangelist toward the end of the 1st century and tells us nothing about an original member of the Twelve named Matthew.  (AMJ3, p.201)
We know NOTHING about Matthew.
Five down; nine to go.


PHILIP
In the Synoptics [i.e. Matthew, Mark, & Luke] and Acts, he [Philip] exists as an individual nowhere outside the lists of the Twelve.  In contrast, he is one of the more prominent disciples in John’s Gospel, usually appearing in the company of Andrew. (AMJ3, p.201)
However, the Gospel of John is NOT a reliable source of information about Philip:
…Philip, like everyone else in John’s Gospel, can serve as a mouthpiece or symbol of Johanine theology. …One cannot help but detect here the deft theological hand of the evangelist.  Hence it is difficult to know how much of the special Johannine material about Philip may reach back to reliable information about him circulating in the early church.  (AMJ3, p.202)
But there are a few points about Philip in John’s Gospel that Meier thinks might be historical:
Since no particular theological points seem to be scored by the assertions that Philip was from Bethsaida and that he was a companion of Andrew, these may be nuggets of historical tradition.  Critics have likewise been willing to grant that Philip…may well have met Jesus for the first time in the circle of the Baptist’s disciples.   (AMJ3, p.202)
But overall, we don’t have any significant information about Philip:
Even if we accept these points as historical, they tell us very little about Philip as an individual.  We know nothing about his activity in the early church.   (AMJ3, p.202)
We know VERY LITTLE about Philip.
Six down; eight to go.


ANDREW
In the Gospel of John:

  • Andrew is the brother of Peter. (John 1:40)
  • Like Philip, Andrew is from the city Bethsaida. (John 1:44)
  • At the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Andrew asks Jesus a question: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” (John 6:9)
  • Philip and Andrew inform Jesus that some Greeks who are visiting Jerusalem are seeking to meet Jesus. (John 12:20-22)

In the Synoptic Gospels (points from AMJ3, p.203):

  • Jesus calls Peter and Andrew together to become “fishers of men” in Mark 1:16-18||Matthew 4:18-20. 
  • Mark–and only Mark–also mentions Andrew in the company of Peter, James, and John at the beginning of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (1:29). 
  • With the exception of the list of the names of the Twelve (Mark 3:18), Andrew disappears from the rest of the public ministry in Mark.
  •  Mark brings Andrew back (13:3) in the company of Peter, James, and John at the beginning of Jesus’ eschatological discourse…
  • Apart from a few parallels to Marcan pericopes in Matthew and Luke, and the four lists of the Twelve, Andrew figures nowhere else in the Synoptics and Acts.

In Acts:
…Andrew completely disappears from Acts, and hence the history of the early church after his name is listed among the Eleven in Acts 1:13. (AMJ3, p.203)
There is a little bit of information in the NT about Andrew during the ministry of Jesus, and there is NO INFORMATION about Andrew after the crucifixion and alleged resurrection of Jesus.
Seven down; seven to go.


To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 4: Objection #1

There are five different possible theories, according to Peter Kreeft, about the alleged resurrection of Jesus:

 
 
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT).
See Part 3 of this series for my clarification of the content of TCT.
In today’s post, I will consider Kreeft’s first objection to TCT.
 
OBJECTION #1 AGAINST TCT
For his first objection to TCT, Peter Kreeft quotes Blaise Pascal:
…The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost. … (Pensees, 322)
NOTE:  Kreeft might be referencing page #322 from some edition of Pensees (?).  In any case, this quote is NOT from thought #322; it is from thought #801: “Proof of Jesus Christ”.
MY REPLIES TO OBJECTION #1
1. This ASSUMES without any proof that there were powerful people in Palestine in the years immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus who had a strong motivation to persuade or pressure the apostles to deny that they had physically seen the risen Jesus.
2. This ASSUMES without any proof that ALL of the apostles actually and frequently faced attempts at bribery, and serious threats of imprisonment, torture, and death, specifically in order to make them recant their claim to have personally and physically seen the risen Jesus.
What is the HISTORICAL EVIDENCE for these assumptions? The NT tells us very little about the lives of the apostles, especially about their lives after the alleged resurrection of Jesus. What the NT does say about the lives of the apostles is very questionable: written by unknown biased Christian authors, based on second or third-hand accounts, written several decades after the events in question, written in a time when historical accuracy and objectivity was of little concern, etc.
3. Suppose that the apostles did face frequent and serious threats of “imprisonment, tortures and death” related to their Christian preaching; many of them might have been killed off or imprisoned BEFORE they had much of an opportunity to confess that their claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus was an intentional deception.
This would likely have been the case if such threats were aimed at simply silencing them as opposed to making them recant their claims to have physically seen the risen Jesus. If most of the apostles were imprisoned or killed within a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, then only the few who remained alive and free would need to keep the conspiracy a secret for the decades following the crucifixion of Jesus.
The most natural response of powerful authorities who oppose a religious or ideological movement is to simply silence the leaders of the movement, and NOT to try to argue against the beliefs of the followers of the movement. It is difficult to persuade believers in a cause to change their religious or ideological beliefs, even if one has powerful evidence against those beliefs. It is easier to simply instill fear and to kill or imprison leaders in order to prevent the movement from spreading openly and publicly.
4. What does the phrase “they would all have been lost” mean? Does this mean that the planned deception would have FAILED and the Christian movement would have quickly died out if just one apostle had recanted his testimony about physically seeing the risen Jesus?
If the idea here is that all it would take is for just one apostle to say that the whole group of apostles had conspired to spread lies about physical appearances of the risen Jesus to the apostles, then this is another very questionable assumption, especially if bribery and/or death threats were commonplace for the apostles. The other apostles could have simply pointed to the constant pressure and threats that they faced and claimed that the one apostle had given in to temptation and lied about there being a conspiracy, in order to obtain a large bribe and/or to avoid “imprisonment, tortures and death”.
That would have been a strong and persuasive response to this charge of “conspiracy”. To the extent that bribes and threats to the apostles to motivate them to recant their testimony were serious and frequent, that would provide an excellent reason for believers to IGNORE the claim of one or two apostles that the resurrection appearance stories of the other apostles was an intentional deception.  On the other hand, if such bribes and threats were implausible or infrequent, there would have been a good chance for the conspiracy to remain a secret.
 
KREEFT’S COMMENT ON OBJECTION #1
Kreeft adds his own comment to Pascal’s objection to TCT:
The “cruncher” in this argument is the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake, a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ, and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy.
 
MY REPLIES TO KREEFT’S COMMENT
1. This ASSUMES without any proof that ALL of the apostles actually and frequently faced attempts at bribery, and plausible threats of imprisonment, torture, and death specifically in order to make them recant their claim to have personally and physically seen the risen Jesus.
2. This ASSUMES without any proof that NONE of the apostles EVER stated or implied that the resurrection appearance stories told by the apostles were false or an intentional deception.
Kreeft, like Pascal, FAILS to provide any HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to support his questionable historical assumptions. No historical evidence means that this objection doesn’t even attempt a refutation of TCT.  Objection #1 is not even in the ballpark for a “refutation”.
Since the NT provides very little information about the lives of the twelve apostles, especially in the years and decades after Jesus was crucified, there is no historical basis for making such a broad universal negative claim.  For all we know, most of the apostles were killed in the first few years after Jesus was crucified, and they never had much opportunity to confess to a conspiracy.
For all we know, most of the apostles abandoned faith in Jesus and went off to live quiet and solitary lives, never preaching about Jesus or the resurrection, and thus never facing threats of “imprisonment, tortures and death”, or perhaps most of them did preach about Jesus and the resurrection for a year or two, and then drifted away from the movement, thus taking themselves out of the spotlight, and avoiding persecution and any threats of “imprisonment, tortures and death” that might have made them admit to a conspiracy.
In the end, Kreeft doesn’t provide a single scrap of historical evidence, not even a single quote from the NT!  His Objection #1 to TCT is a miserable and pathetic failure, a clear indication of intellectual carelessness and a delight in ignorance.  It suggests that Kreeft has ZERO concern about historical truth or facts.  Sadly, Kreeft is not alone in this attitude; it is nearly universal among Christian apologists.

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 3: Improved Definition

In Part 2 of this series, I argued that Peter Kreeft suggested at least seven different definitions of “The Conspiracy Theory” (herafter: TCT), each of which was WRONG.  In order to refute TCT, Kreeft must clearly characterize or define TCT, so his refutation FAILS right out of the starting gate.
But in order to evaluate Kreeft’s objections to TCT, we need some sort of definition of TCT that is clearer than what Kreeft provided, and that has some plausibility.  So, I’m going to review the various FAILED attempts of Kreeft to define this theory, and see if I can construct a definition that is clearer and more plausible than any of his attempts, but that borrows elements from his attempts and that builds upon his attempts, so that I am not foisting upon Kreeft a definition of TCT that is a complete departure from his thinking and understanding of TCT.
Three out of seven of Kreeft’s definitions include the statement that “Jesus died” (Definitions #1, #5, and #6).  This is problematic because it is VAGUE.  As I repeatedly pointed out in Part 2,  Jesus could have died by drowning in the Sea of Galilee when he tried to walk on water.  But that scenario would NOT comply with TCT.  So, we need to clarify this vague statement.  Since I have done a good deal of thinking and writing about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, I have a couple of statements of historical claims already at hand, that I can loan to Kreeft for the purpose of fixing his vague criterion:
JWC:  Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE.
DOC: Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross on the same day he was crucified.
Jesus’s death on the same day he was crucified is an important detail for the Christian view, but it is not essential to the skeptical view of someone who advocates TCT, so (DOC) should be modified a bit:
Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross.
There are many details provided in the Gospels about the trials and crucifixion of Jesus, but we don’t want to saddle TCT with affirmation of every little detail in those Gospel accounts about the crucifixion and death of Jesus, nor do we want to saddle the Christian theory with every little detail in those Gospel accounts.  The Christian belief in the resurrection could be true even if some of the details in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion were false.
It seems to me that (JWC) and (DOC) get at the crucial and basic historical claims involved in the Christian view of the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
Furthermore, although TCT accepts these aspects of the Christian view or theory, those who advocate TCT reject the bottom line of the Christian theory:
JRD: Jesus rose from the dead.
Furthermore,  TCT supports the rejection of (JRD) by supporting the rejection of another claim that is part of the Christian theory:
JAW:  Jesus was alive and walking around in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after he was crucified.
If Jesus had died on the cross, and if Jesus was alive and walking around in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after his crucifixion, then that, according to Kreeft and other Christian believers, would explain why the apostles claimed to have seen and spoken with the risen Jesus (i.e. they actually did see and speak to the risen Jesus), and why the apostles became devout and dedicated Christian believers who preached about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and thus it would explain why the apostles were willing and able to persuade hundreds or thousands of people to become Christian believers, and to believe that Jesus had died on the cross for their sins, and that God had raised Jesus from the dead.
But if (JAW) is false, then how can skeptics account for the witness of the apostles who preached about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and thus explain how belief in Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead would spread to hundreds or thousands of people in the second half of the first century? TCT provides a skeptic with a way to reject (JAW) and yet have a plausible explanation for early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
The conspiracy theory, at least according to Kreeft, involves the claim that: “The apostles were deceivers.” (Definitions #1 and #3) or that “Jesus’ disciples lied.” (Defintion #4).  This part of Kreeft’s definition (just like “Jesus died”) is VAGUE, and needs further clarification.  As I repeatedly pointed out in Part 2, this VAGUE criterion would be satisfied if the apostles were all having affairs and they all lied to their wives, each claiming to never have had an affair.
In this case some of Kreeft’s attempted definitions provide a bit more clarity about this vague claim:

  • The apostles knew Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. (from Definition #2)
  • The apostles conspired to foist a lie on the world. (from Definition #3)
  • Jesus’ disciples made up the whole story about Jesus’ resurrection. (from Definition #5)
  • After Jesus died, the twelve Apostles met and conspired to say that Jesus had risen from the dead. (from Definition #6)
  • The whole story of the resurrection of Jesus was a lie, a deliberate deception. (from Definition #7)

The phrase “Jesus’ disciples” is too vague, but the phrase “the twelve Apostles” seems too specific.  Judas was one of “the twelve apostles” but Judas supposedly killed himself before the other apostles did much preaching about the resurrection of Jesus, so neither the Christian theory nor The Conspiracy Theory holds that ALL of “the twelve Apostles” preached the resurrection of Jesus.
I think there are three different elements to Kreeft’s VAGUE TCT statement “the apostles were deceivers”:

  • The twelve apostles KNEW that they did not physically see or speak with the risen Jesus after Jesus died on the cross.
  • MOST of the twelve apostles met after the crucifixion of Jesus and agreed that they would preach that Jesus had physically risen from the dead and that they had physically seen and spoken with the risen Jesus after Jesus died on the cross.
  • MANY of the twelve apostles preached that Jesus had physically risen from the dead and that they had physically seen and spoken with the risen Jesus after Jesus died on the cross.

The first element is needed in order for the preaching of the apostles to be a “lie” or “deception”; they had to know that their claim to have seen and spoken with the risen Jesus was FALSE.  The second element is needed in order for the preaching of the apostles to be legitimately called a “conspiracy”.  The third element is needed in order for TCT to be able to account for the existence of early Christian belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus; a mere agreement among apostles to preach a lie does not mean that the preaching of the lie actually happened, but the preaching must actually happen in order for many others to be persuaded to adopt the belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Now we can provide a clearer definition of TCT that is at least somewhat plausible.  TCT asserts the following five claims:
1. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE.
2. Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross.
3. None of the twelve apostles physically saw or spoke with the risen Jesus after Jesus died on the cross.
4. Most of the twelve apostles met after the crucifixion of Jesus and agreed that they would preach that Jesus had physically risen from the dead and that they would preach that they had physically seen and spoken with the risen Jesus after Jesus died on the cross.
5. Many of the twelve apostles preached that Jesus had physically risen from the dead and that they had physically seen and spoken with the risen Jesus after Jesus died on the cross.
The whole point of this theory is to support skepticism about the resurrection of Jesus, so those who advocate TCT do so in support of the following skeptical claims:

  • It is NOT the case that Jesus was alive and walking around in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after he was crucified.
  • It is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead.

But one does not have to prove these two skeptical claims in order to prove the truth of TCT.  In fact, the truth of TCT is logically compatible with it being the case that Jesus rose from the dead.  The disciples could have conspired to lie about Jesus rising from the dead even if Jesus had in fact risen from the dead.  The point of TCT is NOT to prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but rather to offer a plausible natural explanation for Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus, an explanation that does not involve or require the actual physical resurrection of Jesus.
===================
LOGIC NOTE  4/14/2019
===================
The table of five theories presented by Peter Kreeft appears to imply that TCT asserts “Jesus didn’t rise”:

 
 
 
 
 
I have, however, defined TCT in a way that it does NOT assert “Jesus didn’t rise”.  My motivation was, in part, to avoid begging the question.  The purpose of TCT, it seems to me, is to provide SUPPORT for the skeptical view that “Jesus didn’t rise”.  In order for TCT to provide support for this skeptical view, TCT cannot assert that “Jesus didn’t rise”; otherwise, an inference from TCT to the conclusion “Jesus didn’t rise” would commit the fallacy of begging the question.
In thinking about this apparent “modification” that I was making to Kreeft’s characterization of TCT, it occurred to me that the LOGIC of his argument suggests, or is at least compatible with, my understanding and characterization of TCT.  At the highest level, Kreeft’s argument involves a dilemma:
EITHER Jesus rose from the dead OR it is not the case that Jesus rose from the dead.
Kreeft then analyzes the second horn of the dilemma into four theories:
IF it is not the case that Jesus rose from the dead, THEN either:
(a) the swoon theory is true, or
(b) the deception theory is true, or
(c) the myth theory is true, or
(d) the hallucination theory is true.
Kreeft then attempts to refute each one of these four skeptical theories.
Let’s abbreviate by assigning a letter for each of the four skeptical theories:
S: The swoon theory is true.
D: The deception theory is true.
M: The myth theory is true.
H: The hallucination theory is true.
We can also use an abbriviation for the Christian theory:
R: Jesus rose from the dead.
Now we can symbolize the argument:

  1. R  v  ~R
  2. ~R  É  (S v D v M v H)
  3. ~S
  4. ~D
  5. ~M
  6. ~H

THEREFORE:

7. R

Note that in premise (2) the skeptical claim ~R implies that one of the four skeptical theories is true.  Logical implication goes in one direction.  Thus, even if one could prove that one of the four skeptical theories was true, that would NOT logically imply that ~R was the case, at least not based on what premise (2) asserts.
To infer the skeptical claim ~R from the truth of the disjunction  of the four skeptical theories would be to commit the fallacy of AFFIRMING THE CONSEQUENT.  Thus, the following inference is logically invalid:

  1. ~R  É  (S v D v M v H)
  2. (S v D v M v H)

THEREFORE:

3. ~R

In other words, we cannot validly infer the truth of the skeptical claim ~R from the truth of one of the skeptical theories, at least not based on premise (2) of Kreeft’s argument.
This is OK from a skeptical point of view, because the purpose of these skeptical theories is to provide SUPPORT for the skeptical claim ~R, and they can provide such support in a non-question-begging manner ONLY IF they do not assume or logically imply ~R to be the case.  So, the elimination of alternatives logic that Kreeft’s argument uses, suggests that we ought NOT define any of the skeptical theories as including the assertion that “It is not the case that Jesus rose from the dead”.  Since TCT is one of the skeptical theories, we ought NOT define it as including the skeptical assertion that “It is not the case that Jesus rose from the dead”.

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 2: Defining the Theory

Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) was co-authored by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli.  In HCA, Kreeft attempts to prove that Jesus rose from the dead by disproving four skeptical theories related to the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  One of the skeptical theories that Kreeft attempts to disprove is called “The Conspiracy Theory” (which I will refer to as: TCT).
Before Kreeft can disprove TCT, he must clearly characterize or define that theory.  But Kreeft is too vague and unclear in his thinking to bother providing a clear and well-thought-out description of TCT.  Instead, what we get is at least seven different unclear and poorly-thought-out descriptions/characterizations of TCT.
Kreeft FAILS right out of the starting gate!  He literally does not know what he is talking about.  Since Kreeft fails to clearly define TCT, it is simply not possible for him to refute TCT.  One cannot PROVE a theory to be false when one does not have a clear idea of what that theory asserts and implies.
 
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEFINITION #1 (based on Kreeft’s Five-Theories chart):
Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus in HCA is reprinted in a series of six posts on the Strange Notions website.  In Part 1 of the series, Kreeft presents a chart with five possible theories, including TCT:

 
Based on this chart, one could reasonably infer that TCT consists of three claims:
1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.
3. The apostles were deceivers.
This characterization of TCT is clearly mistaken.  The following scenario shows that all three claims could be true, and yet there would be no conspiracy to explain the alleged resurrection of Jesus:
⦁ Jesus drowned in the Sea of Galilee when he tried to walk on water.
⦁ Jesus remained dead after drowning.
⦁ The apostles each had extra-marital affairs and then lied to their wives: each denied ever having had an affair.
Definition #1 FAILS to correctly characterize TCT.
 
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEFINITION #2 (based on initial description from Part 1):
In Part 1 of Kreeft’s series of posts, he provides an initial description of TCT:
Theories 2 and 4 constitute a dilemma: if Jesus didn’t rise, then the apostles, who taught that he did, were either deceived (if they thought he did) or deceivers (if they knew he didn’t).
From this characterization one could reasonably infer that TCT consists of these three claims:
1. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.
2. The apostles taught that Jesus rose from the dead.
3. The apostles knew Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.
But the truth of these three claims is consistent with the MYTH theory, which is a separate theory from TCT.  Suppose the following scenario was the reality:
⦁ Jesus never existed.
⦁ The apostles taught that Jesus existed and rose from the dead.
⦁ The apostles knew that Jesus was a fictional character who never existed.
In this scenario, the three claims ascribed to TCT are all true.  The non-existence of Jesus is one skeptical theory that is contrary to the belief that Jesus rose from the dead, but it is a different theory than TCT, so DEFINITION #2 also FAILS to correctly characterize TCT.
 
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEFINITION #3 (based on second description from Part 1):
Kreeft provides another characterization of TCT in Part 1 of his series of posts on the resurrection of Jesus:
…the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history…
Based on this description, one could reasonably infer that TCT consists of just two claims:
1. The apostles were deceivers.
2. The apostles conspired to foist a lie on the world.
This is clearly too vague to constitute a clear definition of TCT.  These two claims would both be true in the following scenario:
⦁ The apostles each had extra-marital affairs and then lied to their wives: each denied ever having had an affair.
⦁ The apostles conspired to foist on the world the false claim that the Jews wanted the Romans to remain in control of Palestine, and they all knew that this claim was false.
However, this has nothing to do with the alleged resurrection of Jesus, so Definition #3 also FAILS to correctly characterize TCT.
 
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEFINITION #4 (based on the title of Part 3):
Part 3 of Kreeft’s series of posts is supposed to refute the Conspiracy Theory, so the title of that post could be taken as a characterization of TCT:
Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie
This suggests that TCT makes just one single claim:
1. Jesus’ disciples lied.
But we already know that this claim could be true and yet have nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus.  Suppose the following scenario was the case:
⦁ Jesus’ disciples each had extra-marital affairs and then lied to their spouses: each denied ever having had an affair.
In that case Jesus’ disciples would have lied, but there is no conspiracy here and no skeptical explanation of the alleged resurrection.  Definition #4 obviously FAILS to correctly characterize TCT.
 
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEFINITION #5 (based on an initial description by Kreeft in Part 3):
In Part 3 of Kreeft’s series of posts on the resurrection, he provides a brief characterization of TCT:
But supposing he [Jesus] did actually die, why couldn’t the disciples have made up the whole story about his resurrection?
From this comment one could reasonably infer that TCT consisted of the following two claims:
1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus’ disciples made up the whole story about Jesus’ resurrection.
This is, once again, inadequate as a characterization of TCT.  Both of these claims would be true if the following scenario were the case:
⦁ Jesus drowned in the Sea of Galilee when he tried to walk on water.
⦁ Jesus’ disciples co-authored a fictional story about Jesus rising from the dead, but they never presented the story as anything but fiction.
Merely inventing a fictional story is NOT the same as persuading others to believe that story to be factual and an accurate description of historical events.  Definition #5 FAILS to correctly characterize TCT.
 
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEFINITION #6 (based on quote from Pascal in Part 3):
In Part 3 of Kreeft’s series of posts, he includes a quote from Pascal, which contains a characterization of TCT:
The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead.
Based on the quote from Pascal, one could reasonably infer that TCT consists of the following two claims:
1. Jesus died.
2. After Jesus died, the twelve Apostles met and conspired to say that Jesus had risen from the dead.
But these claims could both be true without there being any skeptical explanation of the resurrection. Suppose the following scenario was what happened:
⦁ Jesus drowned in the Sea of Galilee when he tried to walk on water.
⦁ After Jesus died, the twelve Apostles met and conspired to say that Jesus had risen from the dead.
⦁ But before the Apostles left that meeting, they were surrounded by a contingent of Roman soldiers and they were all beaten to death by the soldiers, right then and there.
An agreement between the twelve apostles to proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead does not by itself provide an explanation for how belief in that story spread during the first and second centuries.  Definition #6 FAILS to correctly characterize TCT.
 
CONSPIRACY THEORY DEFINITION #7 (based on second characterization by Kreeft in Part 3):
In Part 3 of Kreeft’s series of posts on the resurrection, he provides another brief characterization of TCT:
…no one…ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake, a lie, a deliberate deception.
Based on this comment one could reasonably infer that TCT consisted of just one single claim:
1. The whole story of the resurrection of Jesus was a lie, a deliberate deception.
This, however, is clearly inadequate as a definition of TCT.  For one thing, the apostles could have had nothing to do with the story of Jesus’ resurrection.  Suppose the following scenario was the case:
⦁ The whole story of the resurrection was a lie, a deliberate deception invented by the authors of the Gospels (none of whom were apostles) AFTER the twelve Apostles had all died.
Also, the MYTH theory could fit this definition.  Suppose the following scenario was what happened:
⦁ Jesus never existed.
⦁ The apostles taught that Jesus existed and rose from the dead.
⦁ The apostles knew that Jesus was a fictional character who never existed.
While this scenario fits with the MYTH theory, and is contrary to the Christian view, it does NOT fit with the Conspiracy Theory, so definition #7 also FAILS to correctly characterize TCT.
 
CONCLUSION
In baseball you get THREE strikes, then you are out.  Kreeft has had SEVEN strikes now; he made seven different attempts to characterize The Conspiracy Theory and he FAILED each and every time.
Kreeft literally does not know what he is talking about, so he simply cannot PROVE that The Conspiracy Theory is FALSE.  He FAILS at the starting gate, because he has not clearly and carefully defined what The Conspiracy Theory means, what it asserts and implies.  That should have been the very first step in his attempt to disprove TCT.  Unclarity, vagueness, incompleteness, and general intellectual sloppiness prevent Kreeft from making it out of the starting gate.

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 1: Defeating an OLD Apologetic Argument

At the NW Miracles Conference, I discussed the question “Is it ever reasonable to believe miracle claims?” with Christian thinker Hans Vodder, who has graduate degrees in both philosophy and theology. We were, however, just the warm-up act for the big closing event of the conference: a debate between Michael Shermer and Luuk van de Weghe about the miracles of Jesus.
Luuk used the very old (ancient?) apologetic argument for the resurrection of Jesus: the apostles were neither deceived nor deceivers. Shermer made a number of good skeptical points in the debate, but he never touched on the main objection that I would have raised against Luuk’s argument: the historical assumptions about the twelve disciples/apostles have no solid basis in historical facts. We know very little about the twelve disciples during the ministry of Jesus, and we know almost nothing about them after the crucifixion of Jesus. Luuk’s apologetic argument rests upon very shaky historical claims.
So, although I would not argue that we KNOW the twelve disciples of Jesus to be deceivers, I think that Luuk and Christian apologists in general, have no solid grounds for a “refutation” of the Conspiracy Theory.  Luuk and other apologists argue that the twelve disciples would not have boldly proclaimed that they had personally witnessed the resurrected Jesus if this were not true, because they suffered martyrdom for preaching this claim.
In order to raise my favored objection against Luuk’s apologetic argument, I plan in future posts to defend the Conspiracy Theory against various objections, namely objections that have been put forward by Peter Kreeft in his Handbook of Christian ApologeticsKreeft’s objections to the Conspiracy Theory can be found at the Strange Notions website.
Kreeft believes there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and the Conspiracy Theory is one of those theories:

bookmark_borderThe Resurrection of Dr. Sean George – Part 1: Summary

In addition to discussing the question “Is it ever reasonable to believe miracle claims?” at the NW Miracles Conference with Hans Vodder (a Christian thinker with graduate degrees in both philosophy and theology), Hans and I were given an opportunity to “cross examine” Dr. Sean George, concerning his claim that God had raised him from the dead. Dr. Sean George was also a speaker at the conference, and he had previously given a presentation in support of this miracle claim.
I came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation called “The Resurrection of Sean George” which contained lots of relevant information and skeptical points about Dr. Sean George’s miracle claim. But because of time constraints and concerns about switching between different PowerPoints by different speakers, I did not present this PowerPoint at the conference. Because of the time constraints, I had very little time to cross examine Dr. Sean George and to make my various skeptical points at the conference. So, I am planning to lay out those points fully, clearly, and in detail here at The Secular Outpost.
Here is a summary of Dr. Sean George’s alleged resurrection:

 
Here is a summary of my skeptical points about Dr. Sean George’s miracle claim (CA = Cardiac Arrest; IHCA = In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest):

bookmark_borderBelief in Miracles – Part 1: Summary

I was invited to be a speaker at the NW Miracles Conference, thanks to Bob Seidensticker who suggested to the conference organizer that I could represent a skeptical viewpoint on the question “Is it ever reasonable to believe miracle claims?”
I came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation called “Belief in Miracles”, but because of time constraints and concerns about switching back and forth between different speakers with different PowerPoints, I had to rely on my memory of the contents of the PowerPoint, with a little help from the paper copy of the PowerPoint that I brought with me to the conference.
Here is a summary of the main points I had planned to make at the conference:

 
I did manage to remember and express most of these points, so my time and effort preparing the PowerPoint was not wasted.  However, because of the limited amount of time available, I was not able to make all of these points, nor was I able to make them as clearly and in as much detail as I would have liked.
So, I’m planning to take my time making these skeptical points fully, clearly, and in more detail here at The Secular Outpost.