bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 6: The Ignorance of Peter Kreeft

WHERE WE ARE
There are at least two kinds of pleasure for a skeptic who critically examines the arguments of Christian apologists:

  • First, there is the pleasure of shooting fish in a barrel.  When I am dealing with the arguments of intellectually deficient philosophers like Peter Kreeft and Norman Geisler, finding problems with their crappy and pathetic arguments provides the pleasure of shooting fish in a barrel.
  • Second, there is the pleasure of winning a chess game against a chess master.  There are some brilliant Christian philosophers, like Richard Swinburne and William Alston, who argue in defense of Christian beliefs.  When I find a serious problem in an argument by Swinburne, I experience the pleasure of winning a chess game against a chess master.

Although I have already provided sufficient reason to conclude that the first premise of Kreeft’s argument (constituting his Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory) is DUBIOUS, I’m going to continue to hammer on this premise and show that there are further good reasons for rejecting that first premise.  In other words, I’m going to enjoy shooting a few more fish.
Here is the first premise of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

Premise (1a) implies at least six claims about each of the alleged “witnesses”:

______ EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

______ TESTIFIED about his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

We currently possess the TESTIMONY of ______ about his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

______ was a SIMPLE person.

______ was an HONEST person.

______ was a MORALLY GOOD person.

Eleven of the seventeen alleged “witnesses” who Kreeft points out are from an inner circle of Jesus’ disciples known as “the Twelve”.  One of “the Twelve” was Judas Iscariot who allegedly betrayed Jesus, and so left (or was kicked out of) the group, leaving eleven disciples in the group.  Here is a list of the eleven remaining disciples:

  • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
  • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
  • James (son of Zebedee)
  • John (son of Zebedee)
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Matthew
  • Thomas
  • James (son of Alphaeus)
  • Simon (called the Zealot)
  • Judas (son of James)

Premise (1a) thus implies six different historical claims about each of these eleven disciples.  So, Kreeft implies 66 different historical claims about these disciples of Jesus.
In this post, I will argue that not only did Kreeft FAIL to provide ANY HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to support ANY of these 66 different historical claims but that if someone were to try to provide sufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to establish these 66 historical claims, they would inevitably FAIL.  Therefore, we ought to reject premise (1a) as being a VERY DUBIOUS claim.
 
THE IGNORANCE OF PETER KREEFT
One of the benefits of a good education is that it teaches a person some intellectual humility.  The more one knows the more one realizes how little one knows.  IGNORANT people think they know everything when they actually know almost nothing.
Millions of IGNORANT Americans believe they know better than experienced expert epidemiologists about the danger of COVID, the safety and efficacy of vaccinations for COVID, and the efficacy of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID.  It is likely that about a million Americans will die as a result of such IGNORANCE because so many Americans are blissfully unaware of their own IGNORANCE about COVID.
Peter Kreeft is an IGNORANT person because he is blissfully unaware of his own IGNORANCE.  This is particularly the case with respect to his IGNORANCE about Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.  Kreeft thinks he knows a lot about the character and the activities of “the twelve” disciples who were the inner circle of Jesus’s followers.  But Kreeft is in fact IGNORANT about the character and activities of “the twelve”, for the same reason that we are all ignorant about “the Twelve”: The New Testament tells us very little about the lives of the apostles.
 
JOHN MEIER’S  MAGNUM OPUS: A MARGINAL JEW
The full-strength antidote for the intellectual sloth involved in Kreeft’s Objection #2, 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 some 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 Last Supper, a depiction of the last supper of Jesus and his Twelve Apostles on the eve of his crucifixion. Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.

 
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)

Setting aside Peter, James, and John, we know very little about the remaining eight disciples in the group of eleven disciples about whom Kreeft makes several specific historical claims.
Since Kreeft makes six specific historical claims about each of the eleven disciples, he makes a total of 66 specific historical claims about the eleven disciples, and he makes 48 specific historical claims about the eight disciples about whom we know very little.  Thus, MOST of these specific historical claims are about disciples about whom we know very little.  So, anyone who attempts to provide sufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to establish the 48 specific historical claims about eight of the eleven disciples is doomed to FAILURE.
 
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 probably 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.  (AMJ3, 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 probably 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 characters from the Gospel of Mark.
 
MEIER’S CONCLUSIONS ON OUR IGNORANCE ABOUT SPECIFIC MEMBERS OF “THE TWELVE”
Here is a summary of some of the key points about “the Twelve” apostles from Chapter 27 of John Meier’s A Marginal Jew, Volume 3:

  • 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.
  • We know VERY LITTLE about Philip.
  • We know NOTHING about Bartholomew.
  • We know NOTHING about Matthew.
  • We know almost nothing about Thomas.
  • James of Alphaeus is a member of the Twelve about whom we have ZERO knowledge.
  • We know almost nothing about Simon the Cananean.
  • We know almost nothing about Jude of James.

Claims that Kreeft makes about the alleged activities and good character of these disciples cannot be established on the basis of solid historical evidence.
 
CONCLUSION
The main problem with premise (1a) of Objection #2 is this: we know very little about the lives of “the Twelve” apostles, so there is insufficient historical knowledge to back up Kreeft’s many historical claims about these disciples, particularly the 48 specific historical claims that he makes about eight of the disciples from the inner circle of “the Twelve” disciples, about whom we know very little.
Kreeft does not make ANY effort whatsoever to provide HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to support ANY of his 66 specific historical claims about the character and activities of the eleven apostles who he claims to be “witnesses” of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus, but even if he were to someday make a serious effort to support his historical claims with HISTORICAL EVIDENCE, he would still FAIL, because the historical evidence that he needs for this objection simply does not exist.
==================
NOTE: Kreeft raised a similar objection in his case against the Conspiracy Theory, another skeptical theory about the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  I wrote a series of posts in 2019 arguing that Kreeft’s case against the Conspiracy Theory was a miserable failure.  In some of those posts I argued that we are IGNORANT about the lives of most of “the Twelve” disciples because the New Testament provides very little information about most of “the Twelve”.  Most of my post above is taken from those previously published posts.  If you want more details on this question, please check out the following two posts from 2019:
Defending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 5: Our Ignorance of The Twelve
Defending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 6: More about Our Ignorance
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 5: Historical Evidence about Mary Magdalene

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 4 of this series, I argued that Peter Kreeft’s Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory was a MISERABLE FAILURE.  This is because the first premise of his argument constituting this objection implies 102 specific historical claims about people who lived two thousand years ago, and yet Kreeft FAILED to provide ANY historical evidence whatsoever in support of  ANY of those 102 historical claims.  Kreeft’s Objection #2 is a clear example of EVIDENCE-FREE Christian Apologetics (a type of IDIOCY that, unfortunately, is not confined solely to the writings of Peter Kreeft).
Kreeft’s Objection #2 is a BAD JOKE.  It is a steaming pile of dog crap.  And we have only just begun to evaluate this objection.
 
WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY ABOUT MARY MAGDALENE?
Here is the first premise of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

Premise (1a) implies at least six claims about Mary Magdalene:

  • Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene TESTIFIED about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • We currently possess the TESTIMONY of Mary Magdalene about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene was a SIMPLE person.
  • Mary Magdalene was an HONEST person.
  • Mary Magdalene was a MORALLY GOOD person.

Kreeft provides NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of ANY of these six historical claims.
However, it is obvious that if pressed to provide HISTORICAL EVIDENCE for these claims, Kreeft would point us to various passages in the New Testament, specifically to some passages from the Gospels.
I am familiar with the Gospels, so I am aware of the passages in the Gospels that talk about Mary Magdalene, so we can consider those passages and determine whether or not they provide strong HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of Kreeft’s historical claims.

Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena (1835) by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov.

DID MARY EXPERIENCE AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF THE RISEN JESUS?
Let’s start with the first historical claim listed above:

  • Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

Did Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus?  The occurrence of such an EXPERIENCE would not by itself settle the larger issues here because such an experience could be explained as being a hallucination or dream or as an ordinary sensory experience of someone who looked like Jesus (a case of mistaken identity).
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Mary did have such an experience on the first Easter Sunday:

1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  (Matthew 28:1-10, New Revised Standard Version)

This passage does not explicitly state that Mary Magdalene experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, but Mary Magdalene is named as one of the women who visited Jesus’ tomb around dawn on Sunday morning less than 48 hours after Jesus’ dead body was allegedly placed in the tomb.  This passage talks about an angel speaking to “the women”, which would have included Mary Magdalene, and then the passage states that “Jesus met them” referring again to “the women”. The passage also states that “they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him”, which clearly implies that “the women” believed themselves to be in the presence of a living (risen) Jesus, and since “the women” included Mary Magdalene, this passage implies that Mary Magdalene had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
The Gospel of John also implies that Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday (see John 20:1-18).  So, it might initially seem that Kreeft was right about this first historical claim about Mary Magdalene.  But upon further investigation, it turns out (as we shall soon see) that the historical evidence indicates that Mary Magdalene DID NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, and that Kreeft’s first–and most important–claim about Mary Magdalene is probably FALSE.
Although Matthew and John agree that Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, their stories about this contradict each other on several key points, and this seriously undermines the credibility of both of these accounts about what happened on the morning of the first Easter Sunday.
In Matthew’s account two or more women go to the tomb on Sunday morning. In John’s account, there is no mention of anyone going along with Mary Magdalene to the tomb.  In Matthew’s account, there is “a great earthquake” and an angel descends dramatically from heaven.  In John’s account, no earthquake is mentioned, and there is no dramatic descent of an angel from heaven.  In Matthew’s account, there are soldiers present who were guarding the tomb.  In John’s account, there is no mention of any soldiers being present at the tomb.
In Matthew’s account, the women are first spoken to by ONE ANGEL present at the tomb, who gives them a message to take to Jesus’ male disciples, and then they leave the tomb to take the message to those male disciples.  In John’s account, Mary finds the tomb empty and there is no mention of an angel or of an angel giving Mary a message to take to Jesus’ male disciples.  Mary leaves the tomb to get Peter and another disciple and brings them back to the tomb, and there is still no mention of any angel being present.  Later Mary is standing near the tomb and sees TWO ANGELS inside the tomb, and they speak to her.  But they do NOT give her any message to take to the male disciples.
In Matthew, both the angel and Jesus ask the women to take a specific message to the male disciples:  Jesus is heading to Galilee and the disciples are to do the same in order to meet Jesus in Galilee.  But in John, the angels do NOT request that Mary take any message to the disciples, and Jesus says NOTHING to Mary about heading to Galilee nor about Mary giving a message to his male disciples to meet him in Galilee. In fact, John has Jesus stay in Jerusalem and go visit his male disciples that evening, contradicting his own message (in Matthew) that he was heading to Galilee.
Clearly, if Matthew’s account is true and accurate, then John’s account is false and inaccurate, and if John’s account is true and accurate, then Matthew’s account is false and inaccurate.  It is also quite possible that both accounts are false and/or inaccurate.   The two primary pieces of historical evidence supporting Kreeft’s first claim about Mary contradict each other and cast serious doubt on the credibility of each other.
There are further contradictions between the various Gospel accounts of Mary’s visit to the tomb, and those contradictions point us to the conclusion that Mary did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
According to the Gospel of Mark, the women who visited the tomb on Easter Sunday find a “young man” in the tomb who tells them to give a message to Jesus’ male disciples.  The women do NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of Jesus in Mark’s account of this event:

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 
3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 
4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 
8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  (Mark 16:1-8, New Revised Standard Version)

Clearly, the “young man” in the tomb was NOT Jesus, because he specifically tells the women that “Jesus of Nazareth…is not here.”  If the “young man” was Jesus, then the first words of the risen Son of God were a LIE!  But Jesus is supposed to be “God incarnate” and thus a perfectly morally good person, so Jesus LYING to these women would be powerful evidence that Jesus was NOT the Son of God, NOT “God incarnate”.  It is not an option for Christian Apologists to claim that the “young man” inside the tomb was actually the risen Jesus.  They would be shooting themselves in both feet with such a move.
In the verses immediately following the above passage, it is stated that Mary DID EXPERIENCE the risen Jesus and DID TELL his disciples about this:

9 Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping.
11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.  (Mark 16:9-11, New Revised Standard Version)

This is rather CONFUSING!  Mark just finished telling us that the women visiting the tomb only met a “young man” in the tomb, and then “fled from the tomb” and “they said nothing to anyone”.  Now he says that the risen Jesus appeared to Mary and that she “went out and told those who had been with him” (his disciples) that she had seen the risen Jesus.  Why does Mark CONTRADICT HIMSELF in the verses immediately following his initial account of Mary’s visit to the tomb given in the first eight verses of Chapter 16?
The solution to this puzzle is very simple.  According to most NT scholars, verses 1 through 8 were part of the original Gospel of Mark, and the remaining verses in Chapter 16 were added sometime after the Gospel was initially published (circulated).  The earliest and best manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at verse 8.  Furthermore, it appears that the added verses were derived from other Gospels in a clumsy attempt to reconcile the ending of Mark’s Gospel with the endings of the other Gospels.
Mark is the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  It was composed between 60 and 70 CE.  Matthew and Luke were composed later, between 75 and 85 CE, and John was the last of the Gospels, composed between 90 and 100 CE.  So, Mark, as the earliest of the Gospels, is the best historical source we have on the life and ministry of Jesus.  When Mark’s account of an event conflicts with the accounts found in some other Gospel or Gospels, Mark’s account should be preferred other things being equal.
Mark’s account of the visit of the women to the tomb given in verses 1-8 of Chapter 16 conflicts with the accounts given in Matthew and John, in that Mark’s account implies that Mary Magdalene DID NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, but the accounts in Matthew and John imply that Mary did experience an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Because Mark’s Gospel was composed earlier than Matthew and John, we should prefer Mark’s version of this event to the accounts in Matthew and John other things being equal.
Furthermore, we have already seen that Matthew’s account contradicts John’s account on several key points, so those two Gospel’s undermine the credibility of each other’s accounts of the visit to the tomb.  So, things are NOT equal in this case–things (relevant considerations) FAVOR Mark’s version of this event over Matthew’s and John’s accounts.
John is the least historically reliable of the four canonical Gospels, so we can reasonably ignore the contradiction between Mark and John on this matter, and cast John’s account aside.  But what about Matthew’s account?  Could it be that Matthew’s account is accurate and Mark’s account is not?  That is possible but unlikely.  Not only was Matthew’s Gospel composed later than the Gospel of Mark, but Matthew’s Gospel, especially the ending of it, is filled with DUBIOUS events and details not found in other Gospels.
Furthermore, the Gospel of Matthew relies heavily on the Gospel of Mark as a primary source of information about the life and ministry of Jesus, so Matthew’s reliance on Mark is a vote in favor of the reliability of Mark, but the reverse is NOT the case.  Mark does not use Matthew as a primary source, nor does Luke, nor does John.  No canonical Gospel relies on Matthew as a primary source of information, so no Gospel provides a vote of confidence for the reliability of Matthew.  Also, if Mark provides an historically UNRELIABLE account of the life and ministry of Jesus, then so does Matthew because Mathew uses Mark as a primary source of information about the life and ministry of Jesus.
In Matthew’s Gospel the women go to the tomb on Easter Sunday “to see the tomb” (Matthew 28:1).  Mark and Luke provide a much more plausible reason for the visit to the tomb: to anoint the body of Jesus with spices.  Thus the very first sentence in Matthew’s account raises doubt about the accuracy and reliability of this account of the visit to the tomb.  The second verse in Matthew’s account also raises doubt about the accuracy and reliability of this account of the visit to the tomb:

2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  (Matthew 28:2, NRSV)

There is no “great earthquake” mentioned in Mark’s account of the visit to the tomb, nor in Luke’s account.  There is no earthquake of any sort mentioned.  There is no dramatic “descending from heaven” by an “angel of the Lord” in Mark’s account of the visit to the tomb, nor in Luke’s account.
In verse 4, Matthew provides us with another reason to doubt the accuracy and reliability of his version of the visit to the tomb:

4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:4, NRSV)

Matthew’s Gospel includes stories about soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus to prevent his disciples from stealing the body of Jesus (and then falsely claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead).  These stories about there being guards at the tomb of Jesus are found ONLY in the Gospel of Matthew.   No soldiers or guards at the tomb are mentioned in Mark, or Luke, or John.  Many NT scholars view these stories about soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus as an apologetic legend.  These stories were probably invented by early Christian believers as a response to Jewish objections that the body of Jesus had been stolen by his disciples so that they could fool people into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Verses 9 and 10 provide further reason to doubt the accuracy and reliability of Matthew’s version of the visit to the tomb:

9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:9-10, NRSV)

This is not plausible, from a Christian point of view.  If Jesus is the divine Son of God or “God incarnate”, then Jesus had previously commanded the angels at the tomb to give this message to the women.  If Jesus is “God incarnate”, then he is all-knowing and knew that the angels had already delivered his message to the women, so there is NO POINT in him meeting the women to give them the same message a second time a few minutes later.  Also, it looks suspiciously like the author of Matthew simply borrowed the words of the angels to the women (taken from Mark’s account of this event) and stuck them into the mouth of Jesus.  It looks like the author of Matthew is just making this shit up, using his primary source Mark and plumping the story up by adding in this appearance of Jesus.
The ending of the Gospel of Matthew is filled with DUBIOUS events and details that are NOT FOUND in other Gospels, and that have the function of making the end of this Gospel DRAMATIC.  The Gospel of Matthew is the Steven-Spielberg version of the end of the life of Jesus.  There is one final bit of evidence for this that occurs near the end of Chapter 27, the previous chapter of Matthew (just before the chapter about the resurrection and the visit of the women to the tomb on Easter Sunday):

50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 
52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 
53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.   (Matthew 27:50-53, NRSV)

Mark’s account of Jesus’ death makes no mention of tombs opening up and dead Jews walking around in Jerusalem.  Luke’s account of Jesus’ death makes no mention of tombs opening up and dead Jews walking around in Jerusalem.  John’s account of Jesus’ death makes no mention of tombs opening up and dead Jews walking around in Jerusalem.  That would have been a pretty AMAZING and DRAMATIC event, but somehow NONE of the authors of the other Gospels ever heard about this.  It seems much more likely that this is simply a legend invented by early Christian believers that the author of Matthew gullibly believed (or made use of without any concern about the veracity of this story) and included in his version of events surrounding the death of Jesus.
Michael Licona is an Evangelical Christian and an apologist who defends the resurrection of Jesus, but even Licona could not accept this story in Matthew as being an actual historical event.  He questioned the historicity of this event and got himself into hot water with other Evangelical Christians, particularly with the Evangelical Christian apologist Norman Geisler.  If an Evangelical Christian apologist who defends the resurrection of Jesus finds this story in Matthew 27 to be implausible and unhistorical, then it is certainly reasonable for a critical thinking non-Christian to doubt the historicity of this story.
So, we have very good reasons to doubt the accuracy and reliability of the stories found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, and thus we have very good reasons to prefer Mark’s account of the visit to the tomb over Matthew’s account of that event.
Furthermore, Luke’s account of the visit to the tomb agrees with Mark’s account on the key point at issue:  Mary Magdalene does NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Mary and the other women with her experience “two men in dazzling clothes” but not the risen Jesus when they find the tomb of Jesus empty (Luke 24:1-11, NRSV).
According to Mark, Mary Magdalene did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.  According to Matthew and John, Mary DID EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday, but Luke agrees with Mark that Mary did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.   Because the Gospels contradict each other on the main question at issue, we cannot determine with any certainty what actually happened on the first Easter Sunday.  However, since Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels, we should give preference to Mark’s version of the story of the women visiting the tomb other things being equal.  Furthermore, the Gospel of John is viewed by NT scholars as last of the Gospels to be written and as the least historically reliable of the four Gospels.  So, in the conflict between Mark and John about what Mary EXPERIENCED on the first Easter, we should toss John’s account aside, and prefer Mark’s account.
That still leaves us with a conflict between Mark and Matthew concerning what Mary EXPERIENCED on the first Easter.  Because Matthew used Mark as a primary source of information about the life and ministry of Jesus, and because Mark was composed before Matthew, we should give preference to Mark’s version of the story of the women visiting the tomb on Easter other things being equal.  Since the end of Matthew’s gospel contains a number of dubious events that are very dramatic and are found in no other Gospel, and since Luke agrees with Mark that Mary did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, we have very good reason to doubt the accuracy and reliability of Matthew’s version of these events and to prefer Mark’s account of these events over Matthew’s account.  Therefore, although we cannot be certain that any of these Gospel stories are true or accurate, it is MORE LIKELY that Mark’s account is correct on the point in question than that Matthew’s account is correct.  So, according to the HISTORICAL EVIDENCE found in the four canonical Gospels, it is PROBABLY the case that Mary Magdalene did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT PREMISE (1a) OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING HIS OBJECTION #2
So, Kreeft provided NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER in support of ANY of the 102 historical claims implied by the very first premise of his argument that constitutes his Objection #2, and after critically examining the relevant HISTORICAL EVIDENCE concerning Kreeft’s first and most important historical claim about Mary Magdalene, it turns out that the EVIDENCE from the New Testament goes AGAINST his claim!  Based on the EVIDENCE of the NT, it is PROBABLE that Mary Magdalene DID NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.  Furthermore, if Mary did NOT have such an experience, then any TESTIMONY that she might have given about having such an experience would be FALSE or INACCURATE.
So, it would be reasonable at this point to remove Mary Magdalene from Kreeft’s list of alleged WITNESSES.  It would obviously take a good deal of time and effort to critically examine each of the 102 historical claims implied by premise (1A) of Kreeft’s argument.  Since Kreeft did not bother to provide ANY evidence for ANY of those claims, and since the first and most important historical claim he made about Mary Magdalene is PROBABLY FALSE, I think it is unnecessary to continue to take premise (1A) seriously.
Kreeft just barfed up a whole lot of historical claims without any serious thought and without any concern about whether those numerous historical claims were true or supported by relevant evidence.  So, we have no obligation to take premise (1a) seriously, and we have good reason to view that premise as being DUBIOUS.  Given the large number of claims implied by (1a) about people who lived 2,000 years ago, it was LIKELY from the start that many of those claims would turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS, and we see that is indeed the case with the first and most important historical claim Kreeft makes about Mary Magdalene.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 4: Were There Qualified Witnesses?

THE CLARIFICATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT FOR OBJECTION #2
In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) Peter Kreeft presented his Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences:

Presenting an argument for the falsehood of the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences is IDIOTIC.  One reason this is IDIOTIC is that this argument is UNCLEAR, and yet Kreeft provides ZERO clarification of it.
However, in Part 3 of this series I fixed the argument for Kreeft so that his argument is now much clearer:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

B. IF the witnesses were qualified, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

Furthermore, I have previously clarified the meaning of premise (3) as follows:

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

Although Kreeft does not make this explicit in his statement of this argument, the witnesses of interest to Kreeft are witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.
So, premise (3) can be further clarified to make this qualification explicit:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

 
FURTHER CLARIFICATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #2
Because premise (3) has been significantly revised to make the meaning of that premise clear, the rest of the argument also needs to be revised accordingly:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

2a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

B1. IF the testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

 
 

 
CLARIFICATION OF “THE WITNESSES”
There is one remaining problem of UNCLARITY in this much-improved version of Kreeft’s argument: who are “the witnesses” who testified about the alleged appearances of the risen Jesus?
The phrase “the witnesses” in Kreeft’s argument refers back to the people he mentioned in Objection #1, and I have previously spelled out who those people are:
INDIVIDUALS

  • Mary Magdalene
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

GROUPS

  • the disciples minus Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • the disciples including Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • Thomas
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • two disciples at Emmaus
    • Cleopas
    • an unnamed disciple at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Thomas
    • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
    • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
    • a second unnamed disciple by the Sea of Tiberias
  • five hundred people
    • unnamed males and females in an unknown location and with unknown religious and cultural backgrounds

 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1A)
Here is the first premise of Kreeft’s argument that constitutes his Objection #2:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

The phrase “The witnesses” refers to the above list of people.  The first person on Kreeft’s list is: Mary Magdalene.
In applying the term “witness” to Mary Magdalene, Kreeft implies that Mary satisfies one or the other of the following two definitions of “witness”:

Definition 6a: One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

Definition 6b: One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

In the context of Kreeft’s argument against the Hallucination Theory, only Definition 6b will help Kreeft make his case.  If Mary Magdalene were merely POTENTIALLY able to furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, then that would be of no use or help to Kreeft, because his argument is about the CREDIBILITY of a witness’s TESTIMONY.
There can be no TESTIMONY from Mary Magdalene unless Mary ACTUALLY furnished evidence by giving a firsthand account of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  The mere POTENTIAL or POSSIBILITY that Mary could have or might have provided such evidence is IRRELEVANT.  The only way that Mary Magdalene is relevant to Kreeft’s argument about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of witnesses is if Mary actually testified about an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Apart from actual TESTIMONY from Mary, there is nothing that can be evaluated as being CREDIBLE TESTIMONY from Mary.  Only Definition 6b implies that TESTIMONY EXISTS about experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus that can be positively evaluated as being CREDIBLE TESTIMONY.
So, when Kreeft calls Mary Magdalene a “witness” he implies not only that Mary could have or might have furnished evidence by giving a firsthand account of an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, but that Mary actually did furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Kreeft’s argument about CREDIBLE TESTIMONY will work ONLY IF he uses the term “witness” in accordance with Definition 6b.
Premise (1a) implies at least six claims about Mary Magdalene:

  • Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene TESTIFIED about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • We currently possess the TESTIMONY of Mary Magdalene about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene was a SIMPLE person.
  • Mary Magdalene was an HONEST person.
  • Mary Magdalene was a MORALLY GOOD person.

NOTE: If we do NOT possess the TESTIMONY of Mary Magdalene about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, then the CREDIBILITY of her testimony is WORTHLESS and IRRELEVANT for use in Kreeft’s argument which is focused on the question of whether or not the TESTIMONY of some particular witnesses is CREDIBLE.
If ANY one of these six claims about Mary Magdalene is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (1a) is FALSE or DUBIOUS.
Premise (1a) implies the same six different specific claims about EVERY person in Keeft’s list of  “witnesses”.  If one of those six claims about ANY of the people in his list is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (1a) is FALSE or DUBIOUS.
So, even before we examine any evidence on these questions, it seems obvious that it is VERY LIKELY that premise (1a) is FALSE or DUBIOUS because this premise asserts six different specific claims about many different people who lived about 2,000 years ago.  Even if we set aside “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses” we still have eleven apostles, plus Mary Magdalene, plus James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus), plus “the beloved disciple”, and Cleopas, and two other unnamed disciples.  Seventeen people times six claims equals 102 claims.
Setting aside “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses”, with premise (1a) Kreeft has implied 102 different specific historical claims, and thus he needs to provide historical evidence supporting each of those 102 specific historical claims, and it seems very likely that one or several of those claims will turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS.  We should at this point set aside “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses” because Kreeft’s third objection is focused on “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses”.  We should evaluate the significance of “the five hundred” separately when we critically examine Objection #3, and ignore “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses” for now, while we are critically examining Objection #2.  
Now that we have fully clarified the meaning of the first premise of Kreeft’s argument that constitutes his Objection #2, we see that (a) he is making 102 specific historical claims, and (b) he has provided NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER for any of these 102 specific historical claims:

This chart makes it very clear that Kreeft’s Objection #2 FAILS miserably, because of the IDIOCY of attempting to make an argument against the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences.  Kreeft has provided us with a perfect example of EVIDENCE-FREE APOLOGETICS.  He makes 102 specific historical claims in the very first premise of his argument but provides NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER in support of ANY of those 102 specific historical claims.  Only a MORON (or fan of Donald Trump) would be persuaded by such an intellectual turd as Kreeft’s Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 3: The Witnesses Were Qualified

WHERE WE ARE
Peter Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter HCA) can be summarized this way:

Objection #1:  There were too many witnesses(HCA, p.186, emphasis added)

Objection #2: The witnesses were qualified. (HCA, p. 187, emphasis added)

Objection #3: The five hundred [eyewitnesses] saw Christ together at the same time and place. (HCA, p.187 emphasis added)

In Part 2 of this series, I argued that we should understand the term “witness” in terms of one or the other of the following two definitions:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

I think Objection #1 is going to take a fair amount of time and effort to critically examine, so I will get us started with Objection #2, which I think I can dispatch more quickly and more easily.

 
OBJECTION #2: THE WITNESSES WERE QUALIFIED
Here are the entire contents of Kreeft’s Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:

Here is Kreeft’s argument in standard form:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

The most obvious problem with this argument is that it says NOTHING about the Hallucination Theory!   In order for this argument to be RELEVANT to the question at issue, it must say something about the Hallucination Theory (duh!), namely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.  So, if this objection is RELEVANT to the question at issue, then the logic of Objection #2 goes like this:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

On the face of it, this appears to be a non sequitur.  The conclusion (A) DOES NOT FOLLOW from premise (3).
However, we can repair this logically broken argument by adding an additional premise:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

B. IF the witnesses were qualified, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

Now the argument is more logical and is RELEVANT to the question at issue.  However, the additional premise (B) seems rather dubious, but I’m going to hold off on evaluating the argument until I have clarified it further.
Premise (3) is UNCLEAR because the subject of (3) is UNCLEAR and the predicate of (3) is UNCLEAR.  Before we can evaluate the sub-argument for premise (3), we need to understand what (3) means, and in order to understand what (3) means, we need to CLARIFY the subject of (3) and CLARIFY the predicate of (3):

  • Subject: “The witnesses”
  • Predicate: “were qualified”

 
THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE “THE WITNESSES” IN PREMISE (3)
The SUBJECT of premise (3) is “The Witnesses” and we can clarify WHO this expression is talking about based on the fact that this expression refers to “the witnesses” previously mentioned in Objection #1, and also based on the NT passages relevant to specific alleged appearances of the risen Jesus mentioned in Objection #1 (see the ADDENDUM at the bottom of this post for the details):
INDIVIDUALS

  • Mary Magdalene
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

GROUPS

  • the disciples minus Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • the disciples including Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • Thomas
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • two disciples at Emmaus
    • Cleopas
    • an unnamed disciple at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Thomas
    • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
    • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
    • a second unnamed disciple by the Sea of Tiberias
  • five hundred people
    • unnamed males and females in an unknown location and with unknown religious and cultural backgrounds

 
In referring to these people as “The witnesses” Kreeft implies that each of these people was a “witness”, meaning that he is claiming that each of these people satisfies one of the following definitions of a “witness”:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

What is the “something” about which these people can allegedly give a firsthand account?   To say that these people can give a firsthand account of an interaction with a physically resurrected Jesus would BEG THE QUESTION.  One cannot “give a firsthand account of an interaction with a physically resurrected Jesus” if Jesus remained dead and the experiences of these people were just hallucinations about Jesus.  Kreeft cannot ASSUME that the Hallucination Theory is false, and that the resurrection of Jesus is a fact, because that is precisely the issue that skeptics and Christians disagree about here.
The “something” that some people might be able to give a firsthand account about in this context is an experience had by one or more people which SEEMED to them to be an experience of a physical, living, and conscious Jesus.  Whether it is reasonable to accept this interpretation of such an experience is a separate question from whether such experiences were had by particular people in particular places at particular times.
An important question here is whether Kreeft is using the term “witnesses” in the sense of someone who could POTENTIALLY furnish evidence, sense (6a), or in the sense of someone who ACTUALLY furnished evidence, sense (6b).  This distinction makes a big difference in terms of whether Kreeft has any ACTUAL EVIDENCE against the Hallucination Theory.
 
THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE “WERE QUALIFIED” IN PREMISE (3)
The predicate of premise (3) is also UNCLEAR:  “were qualified”.  What the hell does that mean?  Presenting an argument to disprove the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences is IDIOTIC.  But it is even more IDIOTIC to assert as your main premise a statement that has such a VAGUE and UNCLEAR predicate as “were qualified”, and then provide ZERO explanation of what this means.
Presumably, Kreeft wants us to take these “witnesses” seriously; he wants us to believe the TESTIMONY of these witnesses, to BELIEVE what they have to say about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.  So, my initial guess is that the term “qualified” is just a rather STUPID substitute for the clearer notion of credibility:

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

However,  I have noticed that William Craig, another Christian philosopher (who specializes in defending the beliefs that Jesus rose from the dead and that God raised Jesus from the dead), also uses the UNCLEAR term “qualified” in relation to “the witnesses” of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus:

Humphrey Ditton in his Discourse Concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1712) argues that the apostles could not have been mistaken about the resurrection.    In the first place, the witnesses to the appearances were well qualified.  There were a great many witnesses, and they had personal knowledge of the facts over an extended period of forty days.      (Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p.237)

Craig, like Kreeft, FAILS to define or clarify what the term “qualified” means here.  But Craig is just summarizing the reasoning of the Christian apologist Humphrey Ditton, so it appears that the use of the term “qualified” to characterize the various people who were “the witnesses” of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus goes back at least to early in the 18th century when Ditton published his case for the resurrection of Jesus.
 
DITTON AND THE MEANING OF THE UNCLEAR PHRASE “WERE QUALIFIED”
It is likely that premise (3) of Kreeft’s argument can be traced back to Ditton’s case for the resurrection, so we should look at how Ditton used the word “qualified” and see if his use of this word is any clearer than the UNCLEAR use of it by both Kreeft and Craig.
In looking over passages where Ditton uses the terms “qualifications” and “qualified” (actually “qualify’d” in Ditton’s 18th century English), it is clear that he was in fact talking about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of witnesses.  Consider, for example, pages 162 through 164 of Ditton’s Discourse Concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ On page 162, Ditton uses the phrase “credibility of testimony” three times, and uses the term “credible” to describe “testimony” three times:

On the very next page, Ditton uses the phrase “Qualifications and Conditions” as being what determines the “Degree of rational Credibility” of a particular instance of “Testimony”:

Note that the phrase “Credibility of Testimony” occurs four times and that the word “credible” occurs twice as a description of “Testimony” on the above page.
On page 164, Ditton is still clearly focused on the “Credibility of Testimony” but he uses the phrase “well qualify’d” to describe some “Witnesses”, again implying that the “qualifications” of witnesses help determine the CREDIBILITY of their testimony:

Furthermore, it is clear that Kreeft’s Objection #2 has historical roots in Ditton’s defense of the resurrection because the considerations briefly mentioned by Kreeft line up with some of Ditton’s reasons why we should take the “testimony” of the apostles (Jesus’ inner circle of disciples) about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus to be “credible”.  Recall the first premise of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

Here is how William Craig summarizes Ditton’s reasoning on this question:

A second popular argument against the disciples’ being deceivers was that their character precludes them from being liars.  Humphrey Ditton observes that the apostles were simple, common men, not cunning deceivers.  They were men of unquestioned moral integrity and their proclamation of the resurrection was solemn and devout. …Finally, they were evidently sincere in what they proclaimed.  In the light of their character so described, asks Ditton bluntly, why not believe the testimony of these men?                    (Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p.340-341)

Ditton asserted that the apostles were “simple”  and that they were “not cunning deceivers” (i.e. they were honest people) and that they had “moral integrity”. These are among the reasons Ditton gives as the basis for taking their TESTIMONY to be CREDIBLE.
Kreeft’s use of the odd and UNCLEAR term “qualified” to describe “the witnesses” of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus suggests that Objection #2 derives from Humphrey Ditton’s case for the resurrection, but in addition to that, the very reasons that Kreeft gives in support of his UNCLEAR sub-conclusion, premise (3), are the same as some of the reasons that Ditton gave in support of the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of the apostles, in Ditton’s case for the resurrection.  Clearly, Objection #2 has historical roots in Ditton’s argument about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of witnesses who allegedly had experiences of a risen Jesus.
Because Keeft’s Objection #2 was derived from Ditton’s case for the resurrection of Jesus, it is reasonable to interpret premise (3) of Kreeft’s argument constituting this objection, in the way that I initially suggested prior to learning about the relationship between Kreeft’s objection and Ditton’s discussion about the credibility of the testimony of the apostles:

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

We can toss aside the VAGUE and UNCLEAR term “qualified” used by both Kreeft and Craig, and substitute the clearer idea about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of a WITNESS,  because that was the focus of Ditton’s argument concerning witnesses of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus, and because Kreeft’s Objection #2 derives from Ditton’s argument on this question.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 
*The image above of the quotation of Objection #1 is taken from a web page, and the web page mistakenly substituted the word “fisherman” for the word “fishermen”.
========================== 
ADDENDUM: FIGURING OUT THE PEOPLE REFERRED TO BY THE PHRASE “THE WITNESSES”
========================== 
The phrase “The witnesses” in premise (3) is a referring expression, and it refers back to the people that Kreeft was talking about in Objection #1:

The expression “The witnesses” in premise (3) refers to this list of people.  The list gives us only three named “witnesses”:

  • Mary Magdalene
  • Thomas (one of “the twelve” disciples)
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

This list also contains a number of expressions that need to be clarified:

  • the disciples minus Thomas
  • the disciples including Thomas
  • two disciples at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
  • five hundred people

Although Kreeft does not bother to clarify these expressions, those who are familiar with the New Testament can easily connect these expressions to specific stories or passages in the NT:

  • The expression “the disciples minus Thomas” is a reference to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 20:19-25).
  • The expression “the disciples including Thomas” is a reference to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 20:26-28).
  • The expression “two disciples at Emmaus” is a reference to an appearance story found in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 24:13-32).
  • The expression “the fishermen on the shore” is a reference to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 21:1-14).
  • The expression “five hundred people” is a reference to the mention of an appearance found in one of Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Unfortunately, the NT passage that corresponds to the phrase “the disciples minus Thomas” does NOT SPECIFY who “the disciples” were:

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
[…]
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. (John 20:19-25).

However, this passage does hint at the meaning of the phrase “the disciples” by pointing out that Thomas was “one of the twelve”.  Presumably, “the disciples” includes other members of “the twelve”, making the absence of Thomas an exception.  According to the gospels, Jesus had selected TWELVE followers to be an inner circle of disciples.  So it seems like the expression “the disciples” in the above quote from Chapter 20 of John includes most of “the twelve” disciples who were selected by Jesus to be part of an inner circle of his followers. The Gospel of John, however, does not provide a list of “the twelve” disciples.  So, the phrase “the disciples” in this passage is an UNCLEAR reference.
But the Gospel of Luke has a similar story about Jesus appearing to some of his disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday.  In Luke’s version, Thomas was present at this event, so Luke contradicts the appearance story in John.  In Luke’s account of this appearance “the eleven and their companions gathered together” in the evening of the first Easter (Luke 24:33).  The reference to “the eleven” by Luke is a reference to “the twelve” minus the disciple Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.  The Gospel of Luke, unlike the Gospel of John, provides a list of “the twelve” who made up the inner circle of Jesus’ followers, so we can use Luke’s list of “the twelve” to determine who at least some of “the disciples” were in the appearance stories found in Chapter 20 of John:

13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:
14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,
15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot,
16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.      (Luke 6:13-15, NRSV)

We can remove Judas Iscariot, because he betrayed Jesus and thus was no longer part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples who (allegedly) gathered together in the evening on the first Easter, according to Luke:

  1. Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
  2. Andrew (Peter’s brother)
  3. James
  4. John
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Matthew
  8. Thomas
  9. James (son of Alphaeus)
  10. Simon (called the Zealot)
  11. Judas (son of James)

According to the Gospel of John, Thomas was not present during this Easter Sunday event, so no more than ten of “the twelve” were present for this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, based on the account in the Gospel of John.
Who were the “two disciples at Emmaus”?  The passage in Luke where this appearance story is found (Luke 24:13-32) only names one of the two disciples who allegedly saw the risen Jesus:

Cleopas (Luke 24:18).

Luke makes it clear, though, that neither of these two disciples was part of “the eleven” (Luke 24:33); neither of them had been selected by Jesus to be part of his inner circle of disciples.
Who were “the fishermen on the shore”? This phrase refers to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 21:1-14). In this story, the author of the 4th Gospel provides more information about who was present:

1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.
2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 
(John 24:1-2)

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, and the sons of Zebedee are part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples.  The “sons of Zebedee” are “James” and “John” mentioned third and fourth in the above list of disciples by Luke.
Additionally, in this group of fishermen, we have “Nathanael of Cana in Galilee” and “two others of his disciples”.  Who were these other people?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus specifically calls Nathanael to be his disciple, so the Gospel of John makes it seem that Nathanael was one of the twelve disciples, one of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples.  However, none of the lists of “the twelve” include the name “Nathanael”.  One plausible hypothesis is that “Nathanael” is the same person as “Bartholomew”.  There are a few reasons that support this hypothesis.  First, the Gospel of John never mentions a “Bartholomew”.  Second, “Bartholomew” means “son of Ptolemy” which implies that this disciple had another name, a first name. Third, the first two names in Luke’s list of “the twelve” are brothers: Peter and Andrew, and the second two names in Luke’s list are also brothers:  John and James (the sons of Zebedee), so it might well be that the next two names in Luke’s list were also brothers (or close friends): Philip and Bartholomew.  In the story in the Gospel of John where Jesus calls Nathanael to become his disciple, there is an indication that Philip and Nathanael were close to each other (see John 1:3-51).  So, I think it is reasonable to assume that the “Bartholomew” mentioned in Luke is the same person as “Nathanael” mentioned in the 4th Gospel, and thus that Nathanael was one of “the eleven”, part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples.
What about the “two others of his disciples” who were among “the fishermen at the shore”?  One of them was Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John 21:20).  There is much debate and disagreement over who this person was, but the evidence is fairly clear that this person was NOT among “the eleven”.  The beloved disciple appears to be a follower of Jesus from Jerusalem or near Jerusalem, not from Galilee.  The 4th Gospel was probably written by disciples of “the beloved disciple” a follower of Jesus who founded a Christian church or community in the first century.
So, “the fishermen on the shore” refers to the following group of people:

  • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
  • James (son of Zebedee)
  • John (son of Zebedee)
  • Thomas
  • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
  • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
  • a second unnamed disciple (by the Sea of Tiberias)

Who were “the five hundred” people who allegedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus? We don’t know the name of a single person in “the five hundred”.  We don’t know where these people were when this event took place.  We don’t know whether any or all of them were Jewish followers of Jesus or non-Jewish Christian believers at the time this “appearance” happened. We know virtually NOTHING about “the five hundred” because there is only one brief sentence about them in one of the letters of Paul:

6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  (1 Corinthians 15:6)

The phrase “brothers and sisters” here does not mean biological siblings; it means male and female Christian believers.  Paul does not say whether some, most, or all of these people were already Christian believers when this alleged “appearance” of Jesus took place.
The SUBJECT of premise (3) is “The Witnesses” and we can now clarify who this expression is talking about.  It is talking about two individuals and five groups of people:
INDIVIDUALS

  • Mary Magdalene
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

GROUPS

  • the disciples minus Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James
    • John
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • the disciples including Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James
    • John
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • Thomas
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • two disciples at Emmaus
    • Cleopas
    • an unnamed disciple at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Thomas
    • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
    • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
    • a second unnamed disciple by the Sea of Tiberias
  • five hundred people
    • unnamed males and females in an unknown location and with unknown background(s)

bookmark_borderFeser’s Perverted Faculty Argument – Part 2: Clarifying the Conclusion of the Core Argument

WHERE WE ARE
Edward Feser has put forward a version of the Perverted Faculty Argument (hereafter: PFA) against homosexual sex, so I will now examine that argument in the hopes that it is an actual argument consisting of actual claims.  Based on his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Feser understands the need to define and clarify the meanings of keywords and phrases in philosophical arguments.  I am hoping that in his presentation of PFA,  Feser will define and/or clarify the meanings of keywords and phrases in his version of PFA so that it constitutes an actual argument that is composed of actual claims.  If I find his effort to constitute an actual argument, then I will attempt to rationally evaluate that argument.
In Part 1 of this series of posts, I attempted to clarify the core argument in Feser’s PFA, based on his summary of that argument in his book Neo-Scholastic Essays (hereafter: NSE) on pages 403 and 404.
 
THE REVISED CORE ARGUMENT OF FESER’S PFA

3a. A situation where a human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings AND where that activity is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

4a. In any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts, that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings.

THEREFORE:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

This revised core argument is significantly more CLEAR than the statement by Feser.  However, all three sentences here still make use of UNCLEAR words and phrases, so I’m not yet willing to admit that these three sentences make actual claims, nor that this is an actual argument.  It depends on whether Feser defines or clarifies the various UNCLEAR  words and phrases in these three sentences.
In this post I will address this crucial question:

Does Feser provide useful definitions or clarifications of the meanings of the keywords and phrases in these sentences that are, apart from such efforts, too UNCLEAR to make it so the sentences may reasonably be treated as actual claims?

 
WHAT DOES THE CONCLUSION MEAN?
Because the conclusion of an argument is the main point of the argument, it is generally best to start an examination of an argument by focusing on the conclusion.  Because CLARIFICATION is often needed to understand the meaning of a statement and thus be in a position to rationally evaluate the statement, it is generally best to start an examination of a statement by working to clarify the meaning of that statement.  I have already made one attempt to clarify the conclusion of the core argument in Feser’s PFA, but it is still UNCLEAR.  So, I will continue to work at achieving a better understanding of this statement:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

There are at least three UNCLEAR phrases in this statement:

  • human being H engages in homosexual acts
  • activity A is good for human being H
  • situation S is a metaphysically impossible situation

Because NONE of these three phrases has a clear meaning, (5a) is UNCLEAR and cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands.  These are three main parts or components of the statement (5a), and each part must be CLARIFIED.  Apart from a definition or clarification of each one of these phrases, it will not be possible to have a clear understanding of the meaning of (5a), and apart from such a clear understanding, it will not be possible to rationally evaluate this statement, nor to rationally evaluate an argument given in support of this statement.
Breaking down (5a) into its main parts or components, into these three phrases, is part of the process of ANALYSIS.  The point is to take a big task or problem, like CLARIFYING (5a), and turn it into smaller, easier to manage problems.  So, instead of having one big problem, we now have three smaller problems to manage.
 
WHAT DOES THE PHRASE “ENGAGES IN HOMOSEXUAL ACTS” MEAN?
In my previous examination of a PFA presented by Tim Hsiao one of the reasons that I rejected that argument as a worthless piece of intellectual garbage is that Hsiao made NO EFFORT to clarify the meanings of the key phrases “homosexual activity” and “sexual activity”.  So, we are walking down the same path with Feser’s version of a PFA.  The main question now is whether Feser made any effort to clarify the meaning of the UNCLEAR phrase “engages in homosexual acts”.  If Feser attempted to clarify the meaning of this phrase, then his version of PFA might be able to go beyond the FAILED attempt by Hsiao to present a version of PFA.
According to Feser, his article “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument” in Neo-Scholastic Essays is his most detailed and systematic treatment of sexual morality (as of June in 2015):

 
The phrase “homosexual acts” occurs not only in the conclusion of the core argument in his PFA but also in the ultimate conclusion of PFA:

Feser uses the phrase “homosexual acts” thirteen times in his article defending PFA.  However, he NEVER DEFINES what this phrase means, and he NEVER attempts to CLARIFY the meaning of this phrase.  Because the phrase “homosexual acts” is an UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS phrase, we don’t know what the hell the conclusion of the core argument in PFA means, and thus it is not possible to rationally evaluate the core argument of Feser’s PFA.
 
THE GENERAL UNCLARITY OF FESER’S PFA
This lack of clarity is not confined to just the key phrase “homosexual acts”.  There are other key phrases in Feser’s PFA that he also FAILS to DEFINE or to CLARIFY:

The phrases in bold red font appear in Feser’s summary of the PFA, and the other terms and phrases in blue font are closely related terms that appear in the article.  There are a total of 73 instances of these terms and phrases in the article, and as you can see from the chart above there are ZERO DEFINITIONS of these terms, and ZERO attempts to provide CLARIFICATIONS of these terms by Feser.
Although the phrase “sexual faculties” does not appear in the conclusion of Feser’s PFA, nor in the conclusion of the core argument in PFA, it does appear in three out of the six premises of his PFA, and is clearly a key concept in the argument:

 
I don’t know what Feser means by the key phrase “homosexual acts”, nor do I know what Feser means by the other key terms and phrases in his PFA.  So, it is NOT possible for me to rationally evaluate this argument.   CLARITY is a gateway standard of Critical Thinking.  If a statement is UNCLEAR, then one literally does not know what that statement MEANS, and one cannot rationally evaluate a statement when one does not know what that statement means.

 
CONCLUSION
Feser’s PFA is just as UNCLEAR as the PFA presented by Timothy Hsiao.  In both cases we are dealing with a PSEUDO argument, something that looks and sounds like an argument, but that is composed of UNCLEAR statements which cannot be rationally evaluated, and thus neither “argument” is an actual argument, because an argument consists of CLAIMS, statements that are clear enough to be understood and to be rationally evaluated.
According to Feser his article in Neo-Scholastic Essays defending his version of the Perverted Faculty Argument is the “most detailed and systematic treatment of sexual morality” he has ever written, but that article is a pathetic piece of intellectual garbage that presents us with a PSEUDO argument that only pretends to be an actual argument.