Kreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 19: Premise (24) of the Feeling-Superior Argument
WHERE WE ARE
For a brief summary of what has been covered in Part 3 through Part 15 of this series, see the “WHERE WE ARE” section at the beginning of Part 16 of this series.
In Part 16 of this series, I argued that Kreeft and Tacelli’s first argument against Jesus being a lunatic FAILED because both premises of the argument are too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated and because Kreeft and Tacelli offer ZERO factual evidence in support of the SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS and HISTORICAL CLAIMS that are asserted in those premises.
In Part 17 of this series, I argued that there was another serious problem with the first argument against Jesus being a lunatic: the available historical evidence is insufficient to draw any firm conclusions about Jesus having a high degree of practical wisdom. Then I moved on to analyze and clarify Kreeft and Tacelli’s second point against Jesus being a lunatic. Their second point actually includes two very similar arguments against Jesus being a lunatic.
In Part 18 of this series, I argued that premise (21) of Kreeft and Tacelli’s Feeling-Superior argument for (5B) is too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated. Also, Kreeft and Tacelli offered ZERO facts or evidence to support the SCIENTIFIC GENERALIZATION that they are asserting in premise (21). This premise appears to be either FALSE or DUBIOUS on some interpretations, depending on the strength of the QUANTIFICATIONS that were intended.
I also pointed out that premise (24) of the Feeling-Superior argument, like premise (21) has a significant degree of VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION, and that Kreeft and Tacelli provide ZERO historical facts or evidence to support this HISTORICAL CLAIM about Jesus. I review ten examples of Jesus meeting people from Chapter 1 of the Gospel of Mark and conclude that four of those examples FAIL to provide support for premise (24) and that six of the examples provide some evidence against premise (24).
PREMISE (24) AND CHAPTER 5 OF MARK
In their second point against Jesus being a lunatic, Kreeft and Tacelli offer two similar arguments. I call the first argument the Feeling-Superior argument:
21. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person.
24. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable and this was NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.
5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.
I have already determined that the Feeling-Superior argument FAILS because there are serious problems with premise (21). However, I am continuing to critically examine this argument in order to evaluate premise (24). In Part 18 of this series, I pointed out two serious problems with premise (24): (a) it suffers from VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION, and (b) Kreeft and Tacelli provide ZERO historical evidence in support of this HISTORICAL CLAIM.
At the end of Part 18 of this series, I randomly selected one chapter from the early chapters of Mark, one chapter from the middle chapters of Mark, and one chapter from the ending chapters of Mark. This will give me a random sample of three chapters from the Gospel of Mark, which I will review for examples of where people or groups of people meet Jesus.
Those examples will now be examined to determine whether they are relevant to an evaluation of premise (24), and whether they provide evidence for or against premise (24). Chapter 5 was the chapter of Mark that I randomly selected from the early chapters of Mark.
There are five examples of groups that meet Jesus and eight examples of individuals that meet Jesus in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark. The first example is where an allegedly demon-possessed man comes into contact with Jesus:
1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes.Mark 5:1-5, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met him.
3 He lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain,
4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces, and no one had the strength to subdue him.
5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.
Based on the description of this man’s behavior, it is pretty clear that he was NOT a mentally healthy person, so this example of a person meeting Jesus is IRRELEVANT to an evaluation of premise (24).
The story about the demon-possessed man continues, and it portrays Jesus as casting the demons out of that man and into a large heard of swine:
12 and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.”Mark 5:12-14, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, stampeded down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.
14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. …
There were a number of swineherds present who saw this take place, and they then “ran off and told it” to people in the surrounding area. The swineherds do NOT say that they felt “uncomfortable” upon meeting Jesus, or in seeing Jesus allegedly cast demons into their herds of swine. The fact that they “ran off” to tell others what had happened doesn’t indicate whether they felt “uncomfortable” around Jesus or not. This example neither confirms nor disconfirms premise (24).
The next example concerns another group of people, namely the people who heard that Jesus was in the area, probably from the efforts of the swineherds:
14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened.Mark 5:14-17, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
15 They came to Jesus and saw the man possessed by demons sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion, and they became frightened.
16 Those who had seen what had happened to the man possessed by demons and to the swine reported it.
17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.
This group of people “became frightened” and “they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.” So, it is reasonable to say that these people felt “uncomfortable” about Jesus staying near them. Why did these people become frightened? What about Jesus made them feel afraid and beg him to leave? They don’t say, or at least the story doesn’t indicate that they gave any explanation for WHY they became frightened. It seems a bit odd, since if they believed that demons could possess people and make people act “insane”, why wouldn’t they want someone like Jesus to STAY in their area to protect them and their loved ones from demonic possession?
Perhaps they believed that demons were powerful and that any human who could have control over demons must be even more powerful. In that case, they believed that Jesus was a person who had great supernatural power, which is a kind of belief in the superiority of Jesus over other typical people, like themselves. On this interpretation, the fear of Jesus (their uncomfortableness with Jesus) was NOT based upon the belief that they were superior to Jesus, but was based upon the belief that Jesus was superior (in supernatural power) to them. So, this example could be interpreted in a way that it provides some support for premise (24).
Jesus then gets into a boat and crosses to the other side of the sea of Galilee. On the other side, a crowd gathers around him, and a leader from a local synagogue meets Jesus:
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him, and he was by the sea.
22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue, named Jairus, came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet
23 and pleaded with him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”
24 So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.Mark 5:21-24, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Nobody in the crowd says that they feel “uncomfortable” upon meeting Jesus. Jairus, who asks Jesus to heal his sick daughter, also does not say that he feels “uncomfortable” with Jesus. Jairus is presumably very concerned about his daughter and doesn’t care much about whether Jesus makes him feel comfortable or not. There is no evidence here that Jairus or the crowd feel “uncomfortable” upon meeting Jesus. There is not enough information in this passage to assess how people in the crowd felt about Jesus or how Jairus felt about Jesus. So, these examples neither confirm nor disconfirm premise (24).
In the next example a woman seeks to be healed by Jesus, and believes she will be healed if she can just touch his cloak:
25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from a flow of blood for twelve years.Mark 5:25-34, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
26 She had endured much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and she was no better but rather grew worse.
27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,
28 for she said, “If I but touch his cloak, I will be made well.”
29 Immediately her flow of blood stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my cloak?”
31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 He looked all around to see who had done it.
33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.
34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
The woman does NOT say that she felt “uncomfortable” upon meeting Jesus. She believes that Jesus has the power to heal her, so she has a kind of admiration for Jesus. She views Jesus as superior to herself and many others, at least in terms of the power to heal diseases. The writer of this passage states that when Jesus asks the crowd “Who touched my cloak?” the woman “came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.” Fear and trembling indicate feelings that are uncomfortable.
But the fear this woman felt, might well be attributable to Jesus knowing that someone had touched his cloak. She may well have inferred that Jesus was angry with her for obtaining healing without first making a public request for Jesus to heal her, thus denying him of an opportunity to publically demonstrate his powers of healing. In this case, it is not really Jesus who made the woman feel afraid. Jesus reassures her with kind words, and thus shows that her fear was misplaced. Jesus is not the sort of petty person who would become angry just because he missed an opportunity to show off his healing powers. At least that seems to be the view of the author of this passage in Mark.
Although this is a case of someone meeting Jesus and feeling uncomfortable during that meeting, the feeling is the result of a mistaken assumption about Jesus (“He is angry because I have deprived him of an opportunity to show off his supernatural healing powers.”). It is not Jesus’ actions or behavior that are causing her feelings of fear towards Jesus. So, this is not a relevant example that can be compared to how a mentally healthy person feels upon meeting an insane person. The uncomfortable feelings that a mentally healthy person feels upon meeting an insane person (in cases where this occurs) are based upon the actions and behavior of the insane person. Thus, this example does not provide confirmation of premise (24).
In the next passage from Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark, we have another group of people who meet Jesus, and we have three disciples who are with Jesus when he heals the daughter of Jairus:
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the synagogue leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?”Mark 5:25-34, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the synagogue leader, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
The people who arrive from Jairus’ house seem to want to be polite and not waste Jesus’ time. But this doesn’t tell us whether they felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus or not. They do NOT say that they feel uncomfortable with Jesus. There is not enough information about this group of people to determine how they felt about Jesus, so this example neither confirms nor disconfirms premise (24).
What about the disciples who tag along with Jesus? Peter, James, and John have already met Jesus and have become disciples or followers of Jesus. This raises a question about the MEANING of “meeting Jesus”. Can someone “meet Jesus” only one time? Or can a person “meet Jesus” on several different occasions?
My inclination is to say that “meeting Jesus” can only happen once, although that initial meeting could extend for a number of hours in some cases. Otherwise, if a person can repeatedly meet Jesus, then clearly the claim that people will ALWAYS feel uncomfortable when meeting Jesus, and that this will NEVER be because one feels superior to Jesus becomes an even stronger and more difficult claim to prove. So, to be fair to Kreeft and Tacelli, we should assume the weaker claim is being made, and that when they talk about someone “meeting Jesus”, they are talking about an initial meeting of Jesus, not about every repeated instance where a person comes into contact with Jesus.
Because the three disciples already knew Jesus by this point in time, the examples of them going with Jesus to Jairus’ house are irrelevant to an evaluation of premise (24).
The next passage from Chapter 5 of Mark talks about a group of people who are at Jairus’ house. Jesus takes Jairus and his wife into the room where their dying (or dead) child was:
38 When they came to the synagogue leader’s house, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.Mark 5:38-40, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.
The group of people who were gathered at Jairus’ house were “weeping and wailing loudly” so they were probably sad and upset about the (apparent) death of Jairus’ daughter. You could say they felt “uncomfortable”, but this was obviously NOT because of meeting Jesus. Nobody in the group says they felt uncomfortable because of meeting Jesus.
The fact that they laughed at Jesus’ claim that the girl was “sleeping” indicates that they felt superior to Jesus (looking down on him as a fool). If Jesus had made them feel uncomfortable, then this example would disconfirm premise (24). But there is no indication that meeting Jesus made these people feel uncomfortable. So, if this group did NOT feel uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus, then this example would disconfirm premise (24), but if this group DID feel uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus, then this example would still disconfirm premise (24), because they felt superior to Jesus. Either way, this example provides some disconfirming evidence against premise (24).
What about Jairus and his wife? Presumably, they too were upset about the apparent death of their daughter, but neither of them say that meeting Jesus made them feel uncomfortable, and there isn’t enough information in this passage to draw any conclusions about how either of them felt about Jesus at that point. The example of these two people meeting Jesus neither confirms nor disconfirms premise (24), at least not based on this passage.
In the final passage from Chapter 5 of Mark, we have the meeting of the dying (or previously dead) twelve-year-old girl and Jesus, and the reaction of her parents to Jesus healing her (or raising her from the dead):
41 Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”Mark 5:41-43, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
42 And immediately the girl stood up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.
43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this and told them to give her something to eat.
The young girl does NOT say that she felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. She doesn’t say anything at all, or at least the writer of Mark does not mention her saying anything. Jairus and his wife were “overcome with amazement” upon seeing their daughter suddenly revived. That doesn’t indicate that they felt uncomfortable with Jesus, nor that they felt comfortable with Jesus. There is not enough information here to determine whether or not the girl, Jairus, or the wife of Jairus felt uncomfortable because of meeting Jesus. So, these examples neither confirm nor disconfirm premise (24).
CONCLUSIONS FROM REVIEW OF CHAPTER 5 OF MARK
Of the thirteen examples of groups or individuals meeting (or contacting) Jesus in Chapter 5, here is how they relate to premise (24):
- One example was irrelevant because the person in question was NOT a mentally healthy person (the demon-possessed man).
- Three examples were irrelevant to premise (24) because the persons in question already knew Jesus (the disciples who went with Jesus to Jairus’ house).
- Four examples of individuals meeting Jesus neither confirm nor disconfirm premise (24).
- Three examples of groups of people meeting Jesus neither confirm nor disconfirm premise (24).
- One example of a group of people meeting Jesus provides some disconfirmation of premise (24).
- One example of a group of people meeting Jesus, on one plausible interpretation of a passage, provides some confirmation of premise (24).
Out of thirteen different examples, four are irrelevant to an evaluation of premise (24), and of the relevant examples, seven examples neither confirm nor disconfirm premise (24), one example provides some disconfirmation of premise (24), and only one example provides some confirmation of premise (24).
This is VERY WEAK support for premise (24) from thirteen examples of groups or individuals having contact with Jesus in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark. If the review of examples from other Chapters of Mark produces similar results, then we can reasonably conclude that the available evidence FAILS to show that premise (24) is true, and that this premise is DUBIOUS.