bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 5: Did Jesus Mean his Claim to be God Literally?

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue. I summarized the clarified version of their four dilemmas in this decision tree diagram:

In Part 4 of this series, I argued for some key points about the first dilemma in the above diagram:

Here are those key points:

  • When Kreeft and Tacelli added two more possible views to the TRILEMMA to make their QUINTLEMMA, they unknowingly changed the meaning of the key question in the first dilemma (“Did Jesus claim to be God?”), making the meaning of the question UNCLEAR.
  • Kreeft and Tacelli fail to clarify the key concept of the MYTH VIEW and make a mess of the first dilemma, requiring me to fix the first dilemma by specifying a simple and clear definition of the MYTH VIEW as well as providing a plausible interpretation of the key question: “Did Jesus claim to be God?”.
  • Given my repairs to the first dilemma, it turns out that the answer to this key question is “NO” and yet that the MYTH VIEW is FALSE, contrary to the logic of the first dilemma. So, the logic of the first dilemma is INVALID.
  • The QUINTLEMMA FAILS on the first dilemma of Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of dilemmas and thus the dilemmas FAIL to show that premise (1A) is true (that there are only FIVE possible views about the alleged divinity of Jesus).

THE SECOND DILEMMA SUPPORTING PREMISE (1A)

It is now time to examine the second dilemma or second part of the decision tree diagram that represents this second dilemma:

The second dilemma or second basic question supposedly leads to the GURU VIEW, if the answer to the question is “NO”:

In order to answer the question “Did Jesus mean his claim to be God literally?” we must first understand the meaning of the statement “Jesus meant his claim to be God literally.” This is easy, because this statement means exactly the same thing as the statement “Jesus claimed to be God” in the context of the TRILEMMA. Specifically, the meaning of this statement is this:

Jesus claimed to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

It is important to note that if Jesus said “I am God” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe” or “I am the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe” it is possible that he did not mean these statements LITERALLY. In that case, Jesus would not, in saying those things, be CLAIMING to be God, or CLAIMING to be “the eternal creator of the universe” or CLAIMING to be “the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe”. Jesus would be making some other sort of claims by means of uttering those sentences.

To mean those statements LITERALLY would involve Jesus CLAIMING to be God, and to NOT mean them LITERALLY involves Jesus NOT CLAIMING to be God, but would involve Jesus making some other less extreme claim.

RUNNING INTO A DEAD-END

In Part 4 of this series, I argued that Jesus did NOT say something that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. So far as we know, the historical Jesus, for example, never said “I am God” or “I am God incarnate” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe” or “I am the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe”. Thus, the answer to the first basic question, the question in the first dilemma was: NO.

But since the answer to the first basic question of the decision tree diagram is “NO”, that ENDS any further progress on the decision tree diagram; we hit a dead end and can go no farther. We are supposed to conclude that the MYTH VIEW is true, and that is the end of the story.

Although based on a “NO” answer to the first dilemma, we should stop and proceed no further, I would still like to attempt to understand and evaluate the second dilemma. But in order to answer the second basic question, the question that is the focus of the second dilemma, we need to identify particular statements made by Jesus that appear to be claims to be God, and then we can try to determine whether Jesus meant those statements LITERALLY.

Because my answer to the first basic question (“Did Jesus claim to be God?) was “NO”, there are no statements that have been identified as claims that IF TAKEN LITERALLY imply that Jesus was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe, so there are no statements that we can examine to determine whether Jesus meant them LITERALLY or not.

If we just imagine that Jesus had said “I am God” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe”, we could try to figure out whether Jesus would have meant those statements LITERALLY or not. But that seems a pretty hopeless task because we have no idea what the circumstances were when Jesus made those statements because we are simply PRETENDING that Jesus made such statements. So, how in the hell can we figure out what Jesus “meant” by making such statements when, to the best of our knowledge, he never actually made such statements? This seems too hypothetical, too speculative of a question to answer with any degree of confidence.

But if we have no good reason to believe that the historical Jesus ever said “I am God” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe”, or some other statements that IF TAKEN LITERALLY imply that Jesus was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe, then what statements of Jesus can we focus on and examine for an attempt to answer the second basic question: “Did Jesus mean his claim to be God literally?” ? Without specific statements that sound like claims to be God and that we have good reason to believe the historical Jesus actually uttered, then we cannot answer the basic second question.

One way around this dead-end is to focus on some of the key statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John, statements that Christian apologists typically offer as evidence that Jesus “claimed to be God”. I do not accept that the alleged “claims to be God” made by Jesus in the Gospel of John were actually uttered by the historical Jesus, and it seems DUBIOUS to me that those statements, even if uttered by the historical Jesus, imply that Jesus was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Nevertheless, it is possible that I could be wrong on one or both of those questions.

So, one way around the dead-end of a “NO” answer to the first basic question, is to assume for the sake of argument that the historical Jesus DID say some of the things attributed to him in the Gospel of John that Christian apologists (like Kreeft and Tacelli) consider to be claims to divinity by Jesus. That would provide specific claims allegedly uttered by Jesus, from specific alleged contexts, which could be evaluated in terms of whether those claims were intended LITERALLY by Jesus. We could examine such alleged statements in terms of whether they clearly imply that Jesus was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good ruler of the universe.

KEY PASSAGES FROM THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

Kreeft and Tacelli open Chapter 7 of HCA, the chapter where they argue for the divinity of Jesus, with a number of quotations of Jesus from the Gospel of John. They clearly believe that those verses are powerful evidence showing that Jesus claimed to be God. I will examine each of the quotations of Jesus that they put forward in the first two pages of Chapter 7 (HCA, p.150 & 151).

Here are the six verses from the Gospel of John that Kreeft and Tacelli quote in the opening pages of Chapter 7:

  • John 8:12
  • John 8:46
  • John 8:58
  • John 10:30
  • John 11:25
  • John 14:9

For the sake of being able to evaluate the second DILEMMA in Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of four dilemmas, I am going to temporarily set aside the serious problem of the historical UNRELIABILITY of the Gospel of John, and pretend (assume for the sake of argument) that the historical Jesus actually spoke the words attributed to Jesus in these six quotations. The question at issue then is whether Jesus meant these statements LITERALLY, and whether in making them he was LITERALLY claiming to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 4: Did Jesus Claim to be God?

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue. I summarized the clarified version of their four dilemmas in this decision tree diagram:

In this current post, we will examine just the first dilemma:

THE TRILEMMA VS THE QUINTLEMMA

In Chapter 7 of Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1972), Josh McDowell presents a TRILEMMA in support of the divinity of Jesus: “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic”. McDowell argued that there were only three possible views on this issue. In HCA (1994), Kreeft and Tacelli attempt to improve upon McDowell’s argument by adding two more possible views to the three views outlined by McDowell. They added the MYTH VIEW and the GURU VIEW to McDowell’s LORD VIEW, LIAR VIEW, and LUNATIC VIEW.

In effect, Kreeft and Tacelli rejected McDowell’s TRILEMMA argument because they point out two other possible views in addition to what McDowell had claimed were the only three possible views on this issue.

However, when Kreeft and Tacelli added the MYTH VIEW and the GURU VIEW as possible views, they not only showed that McDowell’s TRILEMMA was a BAD ARGUMENT, they also muddied the waters concerning the first dilemma (or the first basic question in the decision tree diagram that represents their reasoning). In McDowell’s TRILEMMA, the assertion that “Jesus claimed to be God” had a CLEAR MEANING. But in the QUINTLEMMA presented by Kreeft and Tacelli, the meaning of this key claim is problematic and UNCLEAR.

In McDowell’s TRILEMMA argument, the assertion that “Jesus claimed to be God” has a clear meaning, because this claim is clearly intended by McDowell to be understood LITERALLY, and thus what it means is this:

Jesus claimed to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent and omniscient and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

To claim to LITERALLY be God, means to claim to possess the key divine attributes of God, according to western theism.

The word “God” is a word in the ENGLISH language, and the ENGLISH language was formed in a culture dominated by Christianity. So, the primary meaning of the word “God” in the ENGLISH language was shaped by the Christian concept of God, which includes some key divine attributes: being eternal, being the creator of the universe, being the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, being omniscient, and being perfectly good. There are other divine attributes according to various Christian theologies and sects, but these are among the most common and widely accepted divine attributes.

It is fairly clear, to anyone who is familiar with the modern study of the historical Jesus, that Jesus did NOT ever claim to literally be God, to be the eternal creator of the universe, nor did Jesus claim to be the omnipotent and omniscient and perfectly good ruler of the universe. So, the basic assumption of the TRILEMMA is FALSE, and it can be dismissed as FAILING right out of the starting gate.

Unfortunately, such a decisive FAILURE is not obvious in the case of Kreeft and Tacelli’s QUINTLEMMA, because when they added the GURU VIEW as an outcome of the second dilemma (or as a result of answering the second key question in the decision tree), they made the statement “Jesus claimed to be God” into an UNCLEAR statement when it had previously been a clear statement in McDowell’s FAILED TRILEMMA.

The first dilemma in Kreeft and Tacelli’s reasoning supporting premise (1A) can be represented as a YES or NO question:

Did Jesus claim to be God?

We can answer this question only after we understand what the statement “Jesus claimed to be God” means. In McDowell’s TRILEMMA, the meaning of that statement was clear: it was to be understood as meaning that “Jesus claimed to literally be God”. Given that understanding, the answer to the question “Did Jesus claim to be God?” is clearly: NO.

But in Kreeft and Tacelli’s QUINTLEMMA we CANNOT interpret the statement “Jesus claimed to be God” as meaning “Jesus claimed to literally be God” because that is one answer to the SECOND QUESTION or second dilemma in Kreeft and Tacelli’s QUINTLEMMA:

If we were to interpret the first basic question in this decision tree as meaning “Did Jesus claim to LITERALLY be God?”, and if we answer “YES” that that question, then the second basic question becomes IRRELEVANT. The only possible answer to the second question would then be “YES”, because in answering the first basic question as “YES” we have already determined that Jesus meant his claim to be God LITERALLY. So, in order for the second dilemma or second basic question to have any significance, we must NOT interpret the first dilemma or first basic question as meaning “Did Jesus claim to LITERALLY be God?”

But then what DOES the first dilemma or first basic question mean? At a high level, it must mean something like this:

Did Jesus either (a) claim to literally be God or (b) claim to be God in some non-literal sense?

In order to give a “YES” answer to this question, one must either determine that Jesus claimed literally to be God or determine that Jesus claimed to be God in some non-literal sense. If one determines, as I have suggested, that the historical Jesus never claimed literally to be God, that is not sufficient to answer this question. One must then go on to determine whether the historical Jesus ever claimed to be God in some non-literal sense. But in order to make that determination, we must first understand what the following statement means:

Jesus claimed to be God in some non-literal sense.

It seems to me that there are MANY different possible non-literal senses of a statement where one “claims to be God”. It would be difficult to circumscribe all such possible statements and their non-literal meanings. If that is correct, then defining what it means to claim “to be God in some non-literal sense” may be very difficult or even impossible. I am confident that I have a fairly clear idea about what it means to claim to LITERALLY be God, but I am skeptical about the possibility of identifying all of the different possible ways one could claim “to be God in some non-literal sense”.

Given the VAGUENESS of the statement “Jesus claimed to be God in some non-literal sense”, it is difficult to give any sort of confident answer to the question “Did Jesus claim to be God in some non-literal sense?”, but in that case, it is difficult to answer the first basic question:

Did Jesus either (a) claim to literally be God or (b) claim to be God in some non-literal sense?

A SECOND INTERPRETATION OF THE FIRST BASIC QUESTION IN THE DECISION TREE DIAGRAM

Kreeft, or a defender of Kreeft’s QUINTLEMMA, might object that we don’t have to determine at this stage whether Jesus meant a claim to be God in some non-literal sense. If we simply determine that Jesus said “I am God” or “I am the eternal creator” or “I am the omnipotent and omniscient ruler of the universe”, we can call that “claiming to be God”, and temporarily set aside the question of whether Jesus meant these assertions LITERALLY.

This is not a bad suggestion. But it does imply a specific interpretation of the first dilemma or the first basic question in the decision tree diagram:

Did Jesus say something that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe?

We could answer this question “YES” without committing to the view that Jesus in fact meant these assertions to be taken LITERALLY. The question of the literalness of his assertion could be examined and answered at a later point in time.

However, on this second interpretation of the question “Did Jesus claim to be God?” we should still answer the question as “NO”, because the historical Jesus did NOT say things like “I am God” or “I am God incarnate” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe” or “I am the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe”. The historical Jesus did NOT say anything that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. The historical Jesus did NOT, in short, say that he was God. So, on this second interpretation of the first dilemma or the first basic question in the decision tree, we should answer the question as “NO”, and the QUINTLEMMA would FAIL immediately, just like Josh McDowell’s TRILEMMA FAILS immediately, out of the starting gate.

So, Kreeft’s QUINTLEMMA FAILS on the first dilemma or first basic question (in the decision tree diagram) on both plausible interpretations of the first basic question. Here again, is the first basic question:

Did Jesus claim to be God?

We cannot interpret this question to mean “Did Jesus claim to LITERALLY be God?” because then that would make the second dilemma IRRELEVANT and REDUNDANT. One plausible interpretation of this question is this:

Did Jesus either (a) claim to literally be God or (b) claim to be God in some non-literal sense?

We can give a clear and confident answer to the first part of this question: NO, because the historical Jesus did not claim to LITERALLY be God. But that doesn’t answer the whole question, because we then need to determine whether Jesus claimed “to be God in some non-literal sense”, but that question is difficult or impossible to answer with any confidence, because there are MANY different ways that someone could claim “to be God in some non-literal sense”, so it is difficult or impossible to know if all of these possibilities have been identified and considered. Thus, on this first plausible interpretation of the first dilemma or first basic question, there does not appear to be a clear answer to the question, because the question involves the VAGUE notion of claiming “to be God in some non-literal sense”.

A second plausible interpretation of the first dilemma or first basic question is this:

Did Jesus say something that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe?

This is an improvement over the first interpretation because it does NOT involve the VAGUE notion of claiming “to be God in some non-literal sense”. But because this question is clearer, we can determine the answer to this question with confidence. The answer is: NO, because the historical Jesus did NOT say “I am God” or “I am God incarnate” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe” or “I am the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe”. The historical Jesus did NOT say anything that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. On this second interpretation, Kreeft’s QUINTLEMMA FAILS right out of the starting gate, just like McDowell’s TRILEMMA. On the very first dilemma or first basic question (in the decision tree), the answer is: NO, and there is no point to moving on to the second dilemma or second basic question.

Therefore, on both plausible interpretations of the first dilemma, Kreeft’s QUINTLEMMA FAILS, either because the first question is too UNCLEAR to be answered with any confidence, or else the first question is sufficiently clear to be answered with confidence, and the answer is: NO, thus killing off Kreeft’s series of four dilemmas right out of the starting gate.

DOES THE MYTH VIEW FOLLOW FROM THE ANSWER “NO”?

According to the decision tree diagram, if we answer “NO” to the first basic question, then that implies that the MYTH VIEW is correct:

Before we can determine if this logic is correct, we must understand the meaning of the statement “Jesus claimed to be God”. We have seen that this statement does NOT mean that “Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God”. We have also seen that there are at least two other plausible interpretations of this claim.

Furthermore, before we can determine if this logic is correct, we must understand the meaning of the MYTH VIEW. In Part 2 of this series, I briefly discussed what Kreeft and Tacelli mean by the MYTH VIEW. Here is a quote from them about the MYTH VIEW:

All three previous hypotheses –Lord, liar and lunatic–assumed that Jesus claimed divinity. Suppose he didn’t. Suppose this claim is a myth (in the sense of fiction). Suppose the liar is not Jesus but the New Testament texts.

(HCA, p.161)

This view assumes that there was in fact a historical Jesus, but that the historical Jesus NEVER claimed to be God. In other words, the Gospels, and other New Testament writings, assert that Jesus claimed to be God but all such claims are FALSE and UNHISTORICAL. The idea that Jesus claimed to be God is FICTIONAL: it is a myth that Jesus claimed to be God.

Let’s temporarily set aside the problems of the UNCLARITY of the statement “Jesus claimed to be God” and assume this means what it meant in the TRILEMMA: “Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God”. I suggest doing this because there are other complexities and ambiguities in the idea of the MYTH VIEW that need to be identified and examined, and it will be easier to do so if we (temporarily) set aside the UNCLARITY of the basic statement “Jesus claimed to be God”.

First point of clarification: Do ALL of “the New Testament texts” assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God? or do only SOME of “the New Testament texts” assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God? Since the word “texts” is plural, does that mean the MYTH VIEW asserts that at least two of the New Testament texts assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God? or should we understand the MYTH VIEW to assert that MOST of “the New Testament texts” assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God? Here are the different options, so far:

  • At least ONE NT text asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • At least TWO NT texts assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • MOST NT texts assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • ALL NT texts assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God.

Kreeft and Tacelli FAIL to specify the quantification of this aspect of the MYTH VIEW. Suppose that the MYTH VIEW asserts that ALL of the New Testament texts assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God. In that case, if a skeptic can point to just ONE single New Testament text that does NOT assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God (for example, the Gospel of Mark), then the MYTH VIEW would be FALSE. Furthermore, in this scenario, the MYTH VIEW would be FALSE whether or not the historical Jesus claimed to be God!

Suppose that the historical Jesus did NOT claim to be God, and that at least ONE New Testament text (e.g. the Gospel of Mark) does not assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God. In that case, the answer to the first basic question would be NO (because the historical Jesus did NOT claim to be God), but the MYTH VIEW would FALSE (if we understand the MYTH VIEW to assert that ALL NT writings imply that Jesus claimed to be God), contrary to the logic in the decision tree diagram, and thus contrary to the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of four dilemmas.

Similar counterexamples are possible if we understand the MYTH VIEW to assert that MOST of the New Testament texts assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God. A skeptic might be able to show that it is NOT the case that MOST NT texts assert or imply this. That could be the case even if the evidence shows that the historical Jesus did NOT claim to be God. In this case, the answer to the first basic question would be NO (because the historical Jesus did NOT claim to be God), but the MYTH VEIW would be FALSE, contrary to the logic in the decision tree diagram, and thus contrary to the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of four dilemmas.

So, it is clearly important what sort of QUANTIFICATION Kreeft and Tacelli have in mind here, as being asserted by the MYTH VIEW.

There is another ambiguity introduced by Kreeft and Tacelli concerning the meaning of the MYTH VIEW when they talk about whether Jesus or the New Testament texts are LYING:

Suppose this claim is a myth (in the sense of fiction). Suppose the liar is not Jesus but the New Testament texts.

(HCA, p.161)

Texts, of course, are not liars. If the New Testament texts contain LIES about Jesus, then it is the authors of those texts who are LIARS. But as we have seen in the TRILEMMA, saying something FALSE does not necessarily mean that one is a LIAR. One might be a LUNATIC, or less dramatically, one might be sincerely mistaken about the point in question. By conceptualizing a false claim about Jesus as being a LIE, Kreeft and Tacelli introduce ambiguity and unclarity.

Suppose, as Kreeft and Tacelli undoubtedly assume, that there are several New Testament texts and authors who assert or imply (in those texts) that Jesus claimed to be God. There are many different possibilities here, and it is UNCLEAR which of these possibilities are included (or excluded) by the MYTH VIEW:

  • At least ONE New Testament text contains a FALSE historical claim that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • At least TWO New Testament texts contain a FALSE historical claim that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • MOST New Testament texts contain a FALSE historical claim that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • ALL New Testament texts contain a FALSE historical claim that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.

Each FALSE historical claim could either be (a) a LIE by the author or (b) a sincere but mistaken belief of the author:

  • At least ONE New Testament text contains a sincere but mistaken claim by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • At least ONE New Testament text contains a LIE by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • At least TWO New Testament texts contain a sincere but mistaken claim by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • At least TWO New Testament texts contain a LIE by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • MOST New Testament texts contain a sincere but mistaken claim by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • MOST New Testament texts contain a LIE by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • ALL New Testament texts contain a sincere but mistaken claim by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.
  • ALL New Testament texts contain a LIE by the author that implies that Jesus claimed to be God.

Obviously, if there are a number of false historical claims about Jesus spread across several NT writings, some of these FALSE claims might be lies and some of them might be sincerely mistaken beliefs of the authors. What exactly does the MYTH THEORY assert here? Does the MYTH THEORY insist that there are some LIES about Jesus in the NT writtings? or does it only require that the NT writings contain some FALSE claims about Jesus (specifically about Jesus claiming to be God)?

Because Kreeft and Tacelli use the term “liar” in relation to NT writings that assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God, it seems like they understand the MYTH THEORY to imply that at least SOME of the NT writings that assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God contain LIES by the authors of those writings about this historical issue. But in that case, if all of the instances where NT writings assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God were sincerely mistaken beliefs of the authors of those writings, then the MYTH VIEW would be FALSE, even if we decide that the historical Jesus did NOT claim to be God. In that case, the logic of the first dilemma would be wrong, because we would give a NO answer to the first basic question (“Did Jesus claim to be God?), but the MYTH VIEW would be FALSE, contrary to the decision tree diagram, and contrary to the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s first dilemma.

In short, Kreeft and Tacelli have FAILED to clearly specify the content and implications of the MYTH THEORY, and as a result, we cannot tell whether the logic of the first dilemma is good or bad, correct or incorrect.

FIXING THE MESS MADE BY KREEFT AND TACELLI

In case you haven’t noticed, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli are not the sharpest tools in the shed. They are UNCLEAR and SLOPPY in their thinking and arguments. It is no surprise to me that in their attempt to improve McDowell’s TRILEMMA, they have introduced UNCLARITY and CONFUSION. At this point, I have already put in a fair amount of work to clarify their argument and the logic of their series of four dilemmas, but my efforts are not yet sufficient to clean up the mess they have created. So, I’m going to jump in and help them by FIXING, as best I can, their first dilemma.

It should be clear that Kreeft and Tacelli have FAILED to specify what they mean by the MYTH VIEW. Furthermore, it is clear that by introducing the concept of LIES into their characterization of the MYTH VIEW, they introduce unnecessary complexity and ambiguity. So, the first thing I will do to try to fix their mess is toss out the notion of LIES. In order for the logic of the first dilemma to work, they need to keep the idea of the MYTH THEORY as simple and as circumscribed as possible and avoid any unnecessary complexity. Adding more elements to the MYTH THEORY just creates more ways for the logic of the first dilemma to FAIL. The main principle that Kreeft and Tacelli ignored was KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

There are two main elements of the MYTH THEORY. First, there is some assumption about the content of the New Testament writings concerning whether Jesus claimed to be God. Second, there is some assumption about this content being FALSE (thus the descriptions: “fictional” or “mythical”); the MYTH VIEW does not need to say anything about HOW or WHY this FALSE content came about:

The MYTH VIEW is true IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) at least ONE New Testament writing asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God,

AND

(b) it is NOT the case that Jesus claimed to be God.

Obviously, if the answer to the first basic question (i.e. “Did Jesus claim to be God?) is NO, then condition (b) would be satisfied. The only thing remaining that would need to be determined is whether condition (a) was also satisfied.

It seems to me that (a) MIGHT be satisfied because in the Gospel of John Jesus (allegedly) makes various astounding claims that indicate he believes himself to have a very close and unique relationship with God.

However, Jesus never, even in the Gospel of John, says “I am God” or “I am God incarnate” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe” or “I am the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe”. In other words, Jesus never claims to be God in a way that is clear and unambiguous. Therefore, whether Jesus claimed to be God according to the Gospel of John, is a matter of interpretation, and is, in my view, UNCERTAIN. But the Gospel of John is the only Gospel where Jesus makes such strong claims, so it is the best evidence available to show that condition (a) is satisfied.

My conclusion is that although (a) MIGHT be true (based on a careful analysis of the Gospel of John), it is also the case that (a) MIGHT be false (based on a careful analysis of the Gospel of John). Therefore, even given my very SIMPLE and UNCOMPLICATED interpretation of the MYTH VIEW, it is still not clear that the logic of the first dilemma works.

It appears that it might well be the case that (a) is FALSE, that NO NT writing asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God, and therefore even if we have good reason to conclude that it is NOT the case that Jesus claimed to be God, the MYTH THEORY might well be wrong, and thus the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s first dilemma would be mistaken. If the answer to the basic question “Did Jesus claim to be God?” is NO, it still might be the case that the MYTH THEORY was FALSE, because it might well be the case that no NT writing asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God.

FINAL EVALUATION OF THE FIRST DILEMMA

I have been temporarily setting aside the problem of the meaning of the statement “Jesus claimed to be God”. This statement had a clear meaning in Josh McDowell’s TRILEMMA argument:

Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

But when Kreeft and Tacelli altered the TRILEMMA and turned it into their QUINTLEMMA, they unknowingly changed the meaning of this statement and made its meaning UNCLEAR. In order for the logic of their series of four dilemmas (as represented in my decision tree diagram) to work, the statement must be understood in some other way. My best guess at how this statement should be understood is as follows:

Did Jesus say something that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe?

If we assume that this is what the question “Did Jesus claim to be God?” means in Kreeft and Tacelli’s QUINTLEMMA, then how should their first dilemma be evaluated?

As I have indicated above, my view is that the historical Jesus did NOT say something that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. For one thing, only in the Gospel of John does Jesus make any strong claims that might be taken as claims to divinity (e.g. “I and the Father are one”, “He who has seen me has seen the Father”, “Before Abraham was, I am”), but even in the Gospel of John Jesus NEVER clearly and unambiguously makes claims that IF TAKEN LITERALLY imply that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. For example, Jesus NEVER says “I am God” or “I am God incarnate” or “I am the eternal creator of the universe” or “I am the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe”, not even in the Gospel of John.

Second, the Gospel of John is the least historical, the least reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus, and it is clearly spouting the theological beliefs of a follower of Jesus about Jesus, and it does NOT accurately present the words of the historical Jesus. It is very unlikely that the historical Jesus ever said “I and the Father are one” or “He who has seen me has seen the Father” or “Before Abraham was, I am”. So, even the unclear and ambiguous claims to “divinity” by Jesus in the Gospel of John are probably UNHISTORICAL.

Therefore, the most reasonable answer to the first basic question, the question posed in the first dilemma of Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of four dilemmas, is: NO, Jesus did not say something that IF TAKEN LITERALLY implies that he is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

According to the logic of the first dilemma in Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of dilemmas, an answer of “NO” to the first basic question implies that the MYTH VIEW is correct. However, the MYTH VIEW, as I have argued above, implies this:

(a) at least ONE New Testament writing asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God,

This implication of the MYTH VIEW, it seems to me, is FALSE. If so, then the MYTH VIEW itself is FALSE, and if the MYTH VIEW is FALSE, then the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s first dilemma FAILS, because their logic asserts that an answer of “NO” to the first basic question implies that the MYTH VIEW is true. But in the case that I have described, and which I have argued is the reality about Jesus, this logic FAILS, because the correct answer to the basic question in the first dilemma is NO, yet the MYTH THEORY is FALSE.

Therefore, Kreeft and Tacelli’s QUINTLEMMA fails at the first dilemma, because the answer to that question is NO, thus killing off the remaining dilemmas as IRRELEVANT, and the logic of their first dilemma FAILS, because they are wrong in asserting that a NO answer to the first basic question in the first dilemma logically implies that the MYTH THEORY is true.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 12: Preliminary Investigation

WHERE WE ARE
I am working my way through Peter Kreeft’s 14 objections against the Hallucination Theory, the view that one or more of Jesus’s disciples experienced a hallucination or dream about Jesus after the death of Jesus, and this experience was mistakenly believed to be an ordinary sensory experience of a living and embodied Jesus who had risen from the dead, and that this experience (or those experiences) became the primary basis of the early Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.  Kreeft’s objections against this theory are presented in Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).
So, far I have shown that Kreeft’s first two objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL:

OBJECTION #3: FIVE HUNDRED WITNESSES
Kreeft presents his third objection against the Hallucination Theory in a single paragraph:

The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place.  This is even more remarkable than five hundred private “hallucinations” at different times and places of the same Jesus.  Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter.   (HCA, p.187)

The term “witnesses” in this context has this meaning, as I have previously argued:

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

Recall that Kreeft’s second objection was that “The Witnesses were Qualified”, which turned out to mean the claim that the TESTIMONY of the WITNESSES of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus was CREDIBLE.  Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory are concerned with the TESTIMONY of WITNESSES, which evokes the idea of a court trial.
The idea of proving the resurrection of Jesus in a court trial has been around for at least a few centuries.  Back in 1729, Thomas Sherlock wrote a defense of the resurrection of Jesus called The Tryal of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus.   This idea is a common theme in Christian apologetics:

In his book The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell fully embraces this idea in his discussion of the alleged five hundred witnesses:

Let’s take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial and place them in a courtroom.   Do you realise that if each of these 500 people were to testify only six minutes each, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firstshand eyewitness testimony?  Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you could well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.  (The Resurrection Factor, 2005 edition, p.79)

This is a wild apologetic fantasy by McDowell, and I will throw some cold water on this fantasy right now.  There is ONLY ONE firsthand testimony of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in the entire New Testament, namely that of Paul.  Speaking about Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and specifically about the opening verses of Chapter 15, the great New Testament scholar Raymond Brown points out Paul’s uniqueness in this regard:

…Jesus “was seen”…[by] Cephas (Peter), the Twelve, and more than 500; then James, all the apostles, and “last of all me.”  The concluding reference to himself is extremely important since Paul is the only NT writer who claims personally to have witnessed an appearance of the risen Jesus.  (An Introduction to the New Testament, 1997, p.534, emphasis added)

Paul never claims to have met or seen the historical Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life, and as far as we know he never had met or seen the historical Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life, so Paul had no way to IDENTIFY anyone as being Jesus of Nazareth.  Because Paul never met the historical Jesus, Paul’s “testimony” about seeing the risen Jesus is WORTHLESS as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
Furthermore, Paul did not see the crucifixion or burial of Jesus, so Paul did not himself witness the death of Jesus.  Thus, Paul did NOT know that Jesus had in fact DIED prior to the alleged appearance of Jesus to Paul.  That means that Paul did NOT know that the person who he “saw” and who he identified as Jesus, had risen from the dead.  Thus, there is ZERO credible firsthand testimony of an appearance of the risen Jesus in the New Testament.
If we take the idea seriously of there being five hundred “witnesses” who “testify” in a court trial about having experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, this turns Objection #3 by Kreeft into a pathetic joke (as well as Objection #1 and #2).  So, that is precisely what I shall now do.
 
PREPARATION FOR A MURDER TRIAL
When a person is charged with the crime of “murder”, that is a very serious matter, because we usually punish murder severely, with the death penalty or with life in prison.  We expect that person to have a fair trial in which he or she will be vigorously defended by a competent lawyer, and we expect that the prosecuting attorney to attempt to build a strong case for the guilt of the accused person using both eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, and documentary evidence.   The accused should only be found “guilty” of murder if all twelve members of the jury are persuaded by the evidence and arguments that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the accused did in fact commit the murder in question.
Before a witness for the prosecution testifies in a murder trial, that person has already previously been interviewed two or three or more times by a police officer and/or by one or more homicide detectives.  The prosecution already has a very good idea of what that person claims to have seen (or heard, or felt, or smelled, or tasted) relative to the murder or the murderer or the victim, and thus what that witness is likely to testify during the court trial.
So, let’s back up in time, to before the trial, to the time when the investigation and interviews of witnesses are just starting.
There is typically at least a “preliminary investigation” and a “follow-up investigation” of a murder scene and of relevant eyewitnesses.
 
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SCENE OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a preliminary investigation of a crime scene (from p.14 & 15 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

An appearance by Jesus to a crowd of people was not a crime, so we would not expect there to be a criminal investigation of this event.  Nevertheless, the claim that “Jesus physically rose from the dead” is a central claim of Christianity, so whether a risen Jesus did in fact visit a crowd of people is an important issue that should be carefully investigated.

Was there a “preliminary investigator” who carefully gathered evidence from the location where this alleged appearance of Jesus occurred?

We don’t know.  However, it is highly improbable that there was a “preliminary investigator” who carefully gathered evidence from the location where this alleged appearance of Jesus occurred.  First of all, the whole idea of a “detective” who carefully investigates a crime scene and witnesses is a modern idea:

The first private detective agency was founded in Paris in 1833 by Eugène François Vidocq, who had also headed a police agency in addition to being a criminal himself. Police detective activities were pioneered in England by the Bow Street Runners and later the Metropolitan Police Service in Greater London. The first police detective unit in the United States was formed in 1846 in Boston.  (from “Detective” in Wikipedia)

So, the alleged appearance of Jesus to the crowd of five hundred people took place about 1,800 years before there were any people who were professional detectives.
Furthermore, these “witnesses” were “brethren” according to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6), meaning that they were Christian believers.  They already believed in God, and in miracles, and that God had miraculously raised Jesus from the dead.  They were not the sort of people who would be skeptical about an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In fact, if one of them had “investigated” this event, we would have good reason to suspect that he or she was too BIASED to be an objective investigator.
Who else would carefully and objectively investigate an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus?  Non-Christian pagans would have little interest in this event.  Most pagans at that time believed in gods, ghosts, souls, magic, and other supernatural beings and forces.  They would not have been skeptical about an appearance of Jesus (although they might tend to think of the event as the appearance of a god or a ghost, rather than as the seeing of an embodied person who had previously died).
The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem generally were opposed to Christianity and wanted to suppress this religious movement, so they would not be interested in taking claims of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus seriously and doing a serious and objective investigation of such claims.  If they were really worried about stories of hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, they might try to hunt down and threaten or kill those witnesses, to silence them, but would not make a serious investigation into this event.

PI-B1. Did a preliminary investigator identify the person who had allegedly appeared to the crowd of five hundred people?

Probably not.  First of all, it is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this alleged event.   Second, even if there had been a preliminary investigator of this event, it is highly probable that he or she would not have investigated the event on the day it occurred, but rather some days or weeks or months later.  If there was no preliminary investigation on the day of the event, then whoever the person was who appeared to the crowd (if an actual physical person DID appear to the crowd), would have probably been long gone, so nobody could point this person out to the preliminary investigator at the time of the preliminary investigation.  The identification of this person would require descriptions and testimony from eyewitnesses who were present at the event.

PI-B2. Did a preliminary investigator determine/classify what crime or incident had occurred?

Probably not, because it is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  But if there had been a preliminary investigation, the investigator might well have tried to determine whether an actual physical man (whom some believed to be Jesus) had been visually observed by the crowd or if the experiences of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus were hallucinations or dreams or subjective visions.  Such a preliminary determination would probably be helpful to any later investigations, but because there probably was no preliminary investigator or investigation, we have no such determination to help us figure out what actually happened.

PI-B3. Did a preliminary investigator broadcast an updated description of the incident, perpetrator(s), and/or vehicle(s)?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that anyone began a preliminary investigation of this event, so it is highly improbable that anyone “broadcast” an updated description of the event, or of the man who had appeared to the crowd (whom some believed to be the risen Jesus).  Furthermore, there were no radios, telephones, cameras, video cameras, televisions, or newspapers in the first century, so “broadcasting” information about this event would be difficult, if not impossible, to do.  If some person was disguised as Jesus, or just happened to look like Jesus, and had appeared to the crowd, and then left town a short while later, it would have been difficult to track that person down, because of the lack of communication technology in the first century.

PI-B4. Did a preliminary investigator verify the identity of the witness(es)?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was any preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, if there had been a preliminary investigation, it probably did not occur on the same day as the event but took place days, weeks, or months later.
Since the five hundred people were Christian believers, they probably had gathered for a religious service or religious activity when the alleged appearance of Jesus took place.  But not everyone shows up for every religious service or every religious activity in their church or Christian community, so just being a member of that Christian community would NOT mean that one was present during this event.   Thus, it would be important for there to be a preliminary investigation on the same day as the alleged appearance, so that an accurate list of the names of people who were actually present during this event would be documented.
It would be too easy for people who were part of the local Christian community to later claim (and even believe) that they had been present during this event when they were in fact NOT present during the event.  Since it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation, and even more unlikely that someone conducted a preliminary investigation on the same day as the event or even the next day, it is extremely unlikely that anyone accurately identified and documented the names of the people who were actually present during this event.

PI-B5. Did a preliminary investigator separate witnesses and instruct them to avoid discussing details of the incident with other witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event, so it is highly improbable that anyone separated witnesses and instructed them to avoid discussing details of the incident with other witnesses.  Furthermore, the knowledge that discussion of details of an event between eyewitnesses to the event is likely to contaminate and distort the memories of those witnesses about the event is a very recent bit of scientific knowledge about the fragility of human memory.  So, even if there had been a preliminary investigator of this event, it is unlikely that the investigator would have cautioned the five hundred witnesses to avoid discussing details of the alleged appearance of Jesus with each other.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator separated witnesses and instructed them to avoid discussing details of the incident with each other.
Given that this event would have been viewed by the Christian believers who were present at the event to be a highly significant religious event, it is extremely probable that they would have discussed the details of this event with each other unless someone in a position of authority had instructed them to avoid discussing details of the event with each other.  In fact, even if there had been a preliminary investigator who instructed these Christian believers to avoid discussing details of this incident with each other, it is highly probable that they would have ignored this instruction and gone ahead and discussed the details of the event with each other.  Therefore, it is highly probable that the Christian believers who were present during this event discussed the details of the event with each other.  This is a serious problem for the credibility of any testimony of these witnesses to the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

PI-B6. Did a preliminary investigator canvass the area for other witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was any preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, since the event probably took place during a gathering of Christian believers for a religious service or religious activity, it would be very important to search for other witnesses who were NOT members of that Christian community, and thus who would NOT be subject to the religious biases and peer pressure of that Christian community.   An outsider could have provided a more objective point of view that would either confirm or disconfirm the testimony of the Christian believers who were present during the event.
A preliminary investigation is usually conducted at the scene of a crime, especially at the scene of a murder.  But it is highly improbable that a preliminary investigation took place in relation to the event where five hundred people allegedly had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  And even if there had been a preliminary investigation, it is unlikely to have satisfied the various criteria spelled out above for a proper preliminary investigation.  As noted in the guide by the National Institute of Justice, this has significant implications for any later investigation of this event:

The preliminary investigation at the scene forms a sound basis for the accurate collection of information and evidence during the followup investigation.  (Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement, p.15)

 
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE WITNESSES OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
A very important part of a preliminary investigation of a crime concerns eyewitnesses. Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a preliminary investigation of eyewitnesses (from p.15 & 16 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

PI-C1. Did a preliminary investigator establish rapport with the witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Also, since there were no professional detectives around in the first century, it is unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event would know that it is important to establish rapport with a witness before and during an interview of the witness.

PI-C2. Did a preliminary investigator ask about the condition of the witness?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Also, since this would not be a criminal investigation, there would not be any particular reason to be concerned about an injury of the witness or about trauma to the witness because of having experienced a violent event.  This second question also seems closely connected to the first question.  Asking about the condition of the witness is a way to help establish rapport with the witness.
If a witness was seriously injured at the scene of a crime, then another reason to ask about the condition of the witness would be to determine if the witness was conscious and in a state of mind to be able to clearly understand and to provide reasonable answers to, questions about the crime or event in question.   That sort of question would also be relevant in the case of a witness to an alleged appearance of Jesus.  Is the witness currently in a state of mind to be able to clearly understand questions about the event and to provide reasonable answers to those questions?   There probably was no preliminary interview of any witnesses to this alleged appearance of a risen Jesus, so this question was probably not asked.  If there was a preliminary investigation of witnesses, we have no idea whether this question was asked.

PI-C3. Did a preliminary investigator ask open-ended questions; augment with closed-ended questions? and avoid leading questions?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, since there were no professional detectives around in the first century, it is unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event would know that it is important to ask questions in the manner described here and to avoid asking leading questions.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event asked questions of witnesses in this manner and avoided asking leading questions.

PI-C4. Did a preliminary investigator clarify the information received with the witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  If there was a preliminary investigation, we have no idea whether the investigator clarified the information received with the witnesses.

PI-C5. Did a preliminary investigator document the information received from each witness, including the identity of each witness, in a written report?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Since most people in the first century were illiterate, even if there was a preliminary investigation of this event, the investigator probably could not write a report, and most other people would not be able to read a report if one had been written.  Since this was a matter of religious beliefs and disagreements and not a criminal investigation, it probably would not have been considered worthy of the effort to find investigators who could read and write reports of information obtained from witnesses to this event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator documented the information received from each witness, including the identity of each witness, in a written report.

PI-C6. Did a preliminary investigator encourage the witnesses to contact investigators with any further information?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, there were no telephones and no postal services available in the first century, so “contacting” an investigator in another city or town at a later date would probably be difficult to do.  A preliminary investigator would be unlikely to have significant power or authority over the witnesses (like a police detective or FBI agent has), so if there had been a preliminary investigator, that person would be unlikely to demand or even request that the witnesses contact them with further information after the investigator left the area.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator encouraged the witnesses to contact investigators with any further information.

PI-C7. Did a preliminary investigator encourage the witnesses to avoid contact with the media or exposure to media accounts of the incident?

Mass media accounts of current events did NOT exist in the first century, so this question does not apply as it is worded.  However, the purposes behind this question do apply to a first-century preliminary investigation of witnesses to an event.  Gossip and word-of-mouth allowed stories about current events to spread across a city or town, and even between cities and towns.
There are a few problems with gossip spreading a story or account given by a witness to an event.  First, gossip and word-of-mouth is an unreliable way of accurately transmitting a story or account, so this means of communication creates changes and distortions to the original story.  Second, to the extent that the original story is preserved and communicated through gossip, it can influence and corrupt the memories of other potential witnesses to the event.  Similarly, listening to gossip about the event could impact and corrupt a witness’s memory of that event.  But since there were no professional detectives in the first century, an investigator into this event would be unlikely to understand the fragility of human memory, and would be unlikely to encourage witnesses to avoid communicating their stories to others (initiating gossip), and would be unlikely to encourage witnesses to avoid listening to any stories being told about the incident (exposure to gossip).

PI-C8. Did a preliminary investigator encourage witnesses to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation into this event.  Furthermore, there were no professional detectives in the first century, and knowledge about the fragility of human memory is a recent scientific discovery,  so even if there had been a preliminary investigator into this event, it is unlikely that the investigator would have encouraged the witnesses to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator encouraged witnesses to this event to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SCENE AND WITNESSES OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
First of all, it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people.
Second, if there was a preliminary investigator and a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, it is very unlikely that this preliminary investigation satisfied the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation into an event.
Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful and proper preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, in accordance with the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation.
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 11: The Group Hallucinations Historical Claim

WHERE WE ARE
On page 187 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft presents his second of fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7 of this series,  I clarified, analyzed, and evaluated Peter Kreeft’s Objection #2 (Witnesses Were Qualified) against the Hallucination Theory, and in Part 7  I concluded that this objection FAILS.
On page 186 of HCA, Kreeft presents his first objection against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 8 of this series, I clarified Peter Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 9 of this series, I clarified the group-hallucination principle that is a key premise of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
In Part 10 of this series, I argued that we have good reason to doubt the group-hallucination principle that is a key premise of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses), and thus we have good reason to reject Objection #1.
In this post, I will examine the historical claim that is another key premise of Objection #1.
 
THE KEY HISTORICAL CLAIM IN THE ARGUMENT  CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1
Here is the core argument in the larger argument that constitutes Peter Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

This is a SOUND argument only if the group-hallucination principle in premise (B) is true AND the historical claim in premise (3a) is true.  I have previously argued that we have good reason to doubt that premise (B) is true.  It is now time to examine the key historical claim in Objection #1, namely premise (3a).
 
KREEFT’S ALLEGED EXAMPLES OF GROUP EXPERIENCES OF APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
In Part 3 of this series, I pointed out that the examples provided by Peter Kreeft of alleged experiences of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus include both individuals and groups:
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

The argument constituting Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) is based on a principle concerning GROUP hallucinations, specifically where more than two people have an experience at the same time that seems to them to be an experience of the risen Jesus.  Individual experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus are thus IRRELEVANT to Objection #1.   That is why I have used strikethrough font for the examples of individuals who allegedly experienced an alleged appearance of a risen Jesus.  I have also used strikethrough font for the example of the “two disciples at Emmaus” because the argument constituting Objection #1 is about when more than two people have an experience at the same time that seems to them to be an experience of the risen Jesus.  So, that example is also IRRELEVANT to Objection #1.
The example of five hundred people allegedly having an experience at the same time, an experience that allegedly seemed to them to be an appearance of the risen Jesus, obviously satisfies the requirement of being an experience where more than two people have such an experience at the same time.  However, I am excluding this example for now, because Kreeft uses this “evidence” as the basis for his Objection #3 (Five Hundred Witnesses), and it is UNFAIR and UNREASONABLE for him to use this same “evidence” twice, making basically the same objection twice.  Since Kreeft clearly wants this “evidence” to be considered a third objection, I will exclude consideration of this “evidence” in evaluating his Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
 
PREMISE (3a) IS DEAD ON ARRIVAL
That leaves us with just THREE alleged group experiences of the risen Jesus that are based on THREE different passages from the 4th Gospel:

  • the disciples minus Thomas (John 20:19-25)
  • the disciples including Thomas (John 20:26-28)
  • the fishermen on the shore (John 21:1-14)

Because all three alleged examples of group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus are based on the 4th Gospel, premise (3a) is DEAD ON ARRIVAL.  The 4th Gospel is the least historically reliable of the four gospels.  It was written in the closing decade of the first century, about sixty years after Jesus was crucified.  Most mainstream NT scholars conclude that it was NOT written by an eyewitness, but was likely written by an unkown disciple of an unknown disciple of Jesus, and that, at best, it contains some bits and pieces of historical data from the sermons of an unknown disciple of Jesus (who was NOT one of “the Twelve”).  Most of this gospel is fictional, and until recently the 4th Gospel was ignored by scholars who were interested in studying the historical Jesus, because it is so historically UNRELIABLE.
Apart from some careful scholarly arguments in defense of these particular stories from the 4th Gospel, one should be VERY SKEPTICAL about the historical reliability of these stories.  Since Kreeft only provides us with four fucking sentences on Objection #1, there is clearly no scholarly argument presented about any of these passages being an exception to the general unreliability of the 4th Gospel.  So, one could reasonably conclude at this point that premise (3a) is either FALSE or DUBIOUS, and this gives us a good reason to reject Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).

Ending of Luke and Beginning of John on the same page of Codex Vaticanus (c. 300–325)

KREEFT’S FIRST TWO EXAMPLES OF GROUP EXPERIENCES ARE PROBABLY FICTIONAL STORIES
The fact that the 4th Gospel is generally UNRELIABLE gives us a good reason to doubt the story about the alleged group experience of “the disciples minus Thomas”  and to doubt the story about the alleged group experience of “the disciples including Thomas” because both stories are found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel.  However, this is not the only good reason to doubt the historicity of these two stories.
No other Gospel has the “doubting Thomas” story that constitutes Kreeft’s second example of an alleged group experience of the risen Jesus.  So, this second example is without confirmation by any other Gospel.
Luke does have a story about an alleged appearance of Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday, so that is a partial confirmation of “the disciples minus Thomas” story found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel.  But there are inconsistencies between Luke’s story and the story found in the 4th Gospel.  Luke, for example, talks about “the Eleven” being present, which directly contradicts the claim that Thomas was absent for this alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”
35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
(Luke 24:33-36, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

If Luke’s account is accurate, then Thomas was present during this group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday, because Thomas was one of “the eleven”.  But if Luke’s account is accurate, then the whole “doubting Thomas” story in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel is clearly fictional, and the story of “the disciples minus Thomas” in that same Chapter of the 4th Gospel is at least mistaken on the important detail of whether Thomas was present or absent during the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
There are other details that differ between Luke’s account of this event and the account in the 4th Gospel.  For example, in Luke Jesus shows his hands and his feet to his disciples, but in John Jesus shows his hands and his side to his disciples.  Showing his side to the disciples is a reference to an alleged wound in Jesus’ side, a wound that is ONLY mentioned in the Gospel of John.  No other Gospel account of the crucifixion mentions a soldier stabbing Jesus in the side with a spear.  No other Gospel account of an appearance of the risen Jesus mentions a wound in the side of Jesus.  Those details about a wound in Jesus’ side are found ONLY in the 4th Gospel.   So, it looks like the spear wound in Jesus’ side is a fictional element in the 4th Gospel that is carried through to the fictional story of “doubting Thomas” which is also found ONLY in the 4th Gospel.
The contents of what the risen Jesus allegedly says to his disciples on Easter Sunday differs between Luke’s account and the account in the 4th Gospel, so that is another reason to doubt the historical reliability of the stories in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel. In Luke’s account Jesus tells his disciples that he will send the Spirit of God upon them in the near future:

46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”                                   (Luke 24:46-49, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

But in the 4th Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples the promised Spirit of God right on the spot:

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.
(John 20:21-22, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

In Luke’s account of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, Jesus makes a big deal about eating some fish in front of the disciples, to prove that he is not a ghost:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate in their presence.  (Luke 24:46-49, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

According to Luke, the disciples were “terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”  Furthermore, Jesus explicitly speaks about their being “frightened” and shows his hands and feet BECAUSE he wants to PROVE to them that he is NOT a ghost.  Nobody who was a disciple of Jesus who had such a terrifying experience, where Jesus explicitly talks about NOT being a ghost and takes steps to PROVE that he was NOT a ghost would have forgotten this very emotional event.  Yet the account given in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel says NOTHING about the disciples being “terrified”,  NOTHING about the disciples thinking Jesus was a ghost, NOTHING about Jesus eating a piece of fish “in their presence”, and NOTHING about the actions of Jesus being motivated by the purpose of PROVING that he was NOT a ghost.  So, the absence of these closely-related details in the 4th Gospel’s account of this alleged appearance of Jesus is clearly inconsistent with the account in Luke’s Gospel, and raises doubt about the historical reliability of both accounts of this alleged appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday.
The Gospel of Luke gives us a good reason to reject the “doubting Thomas” story from Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel as fictional, and thus to reject “the disciples with Thomas” example of an alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus from the 4th Gospel, and the Gospel of Luke partially corroborates “the disciples without Thomas” example from the 4th Gospel, but also casts doubt on the accuracy and reliability of both versions of this story, because of various inconsistencies in important details between Luke’s account and the account in the 4th Gospel.
But the most serious problem here is that both Mark and Matthew agree that Jesus did NOT appear to his disciples in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, but appeared to them for the first time in Galilee a week or more after Jesus was crucified, and thus his first appearance to his disciples was NOT in Jerusalem and NOT on the first Easter Sunday.  Because Mark is the earliest of the Gospels, and because both Matthew and Luke use Mark as a primary source of information about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus, Mark’s account of what happened on the first Easter Sunday should be given preference over the accounts found in Luke and John.
In terms of objective historical investigation, IF some of the disciples of Jesus actually did experience an alleged appearance (or appearances) of the risen Jesus, THEN the most likely scenario is that the experience(s) of the alleged appearance (or appearances) of the risen Jesus first took place in Galilee a week or more after Jesus was crucified.  (NOTE: Jesus and his twelve disciples had walked from Galilee to Jerusalem prior to Jesus being crucified in Jerusalem, and it would take a number of days for the disciples to walk back to Galilee from Jerusalem.  So, if the disciples started walking back to Galilee from Jerusalem on Easter Sunday or on Monday after that Sunday, then they would not have arrived back in Galilee until about a week after the crucifixion.)
The problem is not merely that the 4th Gospel has been found by NT scholars to be historically UNRELIABLE, but that the other Gospel accounts of what happened on the first Easter CONTRADICT the accounts of alleged group experiences of alleged appearances of Jesus found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gopsel.   The CONTRADICTIONS are not limited to details (like Luke’s account implying that Thomas was present with the other disciples on Easter Sunday), but concern basic historical claims, like that there was a group experience by several of Jesus’ disciples of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.  The earliest Gospel, Mark, clearly implies that this DID NOT HAPPEN, and the Gospel of Matthew agrees with Mark on this basic historical question.  Therefore, the stories about alleged group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem found in the 4th Gospel are not just questionable or dubious, they are PROBABLY FICTIONAL; they are PROBABLY FALSE.  They certainly cannot be used to PROVE premise (3a), or even to provide solid evidence for premise (3a).
 
ONE EXAMPLE OF A GROUP EXPERIENCE OF AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE IS INSUFFICIENT
Kreeft’s first two examples of group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were DEAD ON ARRIVAL, because the 4th Gospel is historically UNRELIABLE, and we have just seen that a more in-depth examination of those two particular stories reveals that they are PROBABLY FALSE and that IF some of the disciples of Jesus experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, this probably first occurred in Galilee a week or more after Jesus had been crucified.  So, we are left with ONLY ONE alleged example from Kreeft about an alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

  • the fishermen on the shore (John 21:1-14)

This example can be challenged on the basis of the view of most NT scholars that the 4th Gospel is historically UNRELIABLE, and thus, apart from a careful scholarly argument that this particular story is an exception to the rule, we have good reason to doubt the historicity of this story.   However, this appearance story takes place in Galilee at least a couple of weeks after Jesus was crucified, based on the 4th Gospel.   So, this appearance story, unlike the first two examples from Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel, does not directly contradict the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.  Furthermore, advocates of the Hallucination Theory agree with Kreeft on the following point:

A disciple (or some disciples) of Jesus experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at some time after he was crucified, and that experience (or experiences) led them to believe that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.

The disagreement they have is NOT that such experiences occurred, but is over the nature of those experiences, whether they were actual sensory experiences of an actually present living and embodied Jesus or hallucinations about Jesus or dreams about Jesus (without a living and embodied Jesus being present).  So, some advocates of the Hallucination Theory might be willing to accept the historicity of “the fishermen on the shore” example of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
It should be noted, however, that ONE EXAMPLE of such a group experience is NOT SUFFICIENT to support the key historical claim made by premise (3a):

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

This premise asserts that such group experiences took place on “multiple occasions”.  One example of such a group experience is NOT ENOUGH to prove that this happened on multiple occasions.  So, because two of Kreeft’s three examples of alleged group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus have been shown to be PROBABLY FALSE, the ONE questionable example that remains FAILS to establish his key historical claim.  Because Kreeft has only provided us with ONE questionable example of such a group experience, we have good reason to doubt premise (3a) and to reject Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
 
THERE ARE NO WITNESSES TO GROUP EXPERIENCES OF AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF THE RISEN JESUS
The word “witnesses” does not appear anywhere in the clarified version of the core argument of the argument constituting Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).  But note that this objection is labeled “Too Many Witnesses”.  So, if there are actually ZERO “witnesses” related to the alleged group experiences that are asserted to have occurred in premise (3a), then that should give us another good reason to doubt or reject Objection #1.  It seems to me to be the case that there are ZERO “witnesses” related to the alleged group experiences specified in premise (3a), so I will now attempt to argue for this view, and then see whether this thinking does provide us with another good reason to reject Objection #1.
In Part 2 of this series, I argued that the term “witness” as used by Kreeft in his case against the Hallucination Theory, should be understood one of two ways:

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.  

In Part 4 of this series, I argued that definition (6a) will not work for Kreeft to make his case, because his focus is on the credibility of the testimony of various people.  In order for the credibility of the testimony of various people to be of any help to his case, there must BE actual TESTIMONY that we now possess from some “witness”.  The fact that someone merely had the POTENTIAL to furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of an event is of no significance if that person NEVER ACTUALLY PROVIDED any testimony about that event.  So only a “witness” in the strong sense spelled out in definition (6b) will be of use for Kreeft to make his case against the Hallucination Theory.
But there is no account of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus that constitutes a firsthand account of that event.  The ONLY firsthand account that we have of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus comes from Paul, who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament.  The Gospels were NOT written by eyewitnesses to a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  The authors of Mark and Luke do NOT claim to be disciples who traveled with Jesus and do NOT claim to have ever laid eyes on the historical Jesus, and they do NOT claim to have seen an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  NT scholars don’t believe that Mark and Luke traveled around as disciples of the historical Jesus, nor that they personally experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
The author of Matthew does NOT claim to be a disciple who traveled with Jesus, does NOT claim to have ever laid eyes on the historical Jesus, and does NOT claim to have seen an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  There are very good reasons to doubt that “Matthew the tax collector” was the author of the Gospel named “Matthew”, one such reason being that there was probably no such person.  Jesus probably had a disciple named “Matthew” but that disciple was NOT a tax collector.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew borrows a story from the Gospel of Mark about Levi the tax collector and makes it into a story about “Matthew” one of the twelve disciples in the inner circle of the followers of Jesus.
Clearly, the real Matthew would not borrow a story from another Gospel about another person and make it into a story about himself.  The real Matthew would be able to tell lots of stories about himself and his relationship with Jesus, without having to borrow material from an author who never even met the historical Jesus.  Since the author of the Gospel named “Matthew” borrows a story from Mark about the disciple Matthew, that is a powerful reason for rejecting the view that the disciple of Jesus named Matthew was the author of the Gospel named “Matthew”.   Since the author of Matthew never claims to have been a direct disciple of Jesus, and never claims to have been an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel, and since there are good reasons to doubt that the disciple named “Matthew” was the author of this Gospel, there is good reason to doubt and to reject the view that the account of the alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus found at the end of this Gospel is an eyewitness account.  The author of Matthew was NOT an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel.
The author of the 4th Gospel was traditionally believed to be John the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  But most NT scholars do NOT accept this traditional view, and even some Evangelical NT scholars doubt that John was the author of the 4th Gospel.  A common view, argued by the great Catholic NT scholar Raymond Brown is that the 4th Gospel was composed by an unknown disciple (or disciples) of an unknown disciple of Jesus.  On this view, there may be bits and pieces in the 4th Gospel that are based on sermons given by an unknown disciple of Jesus (not one of the twelve).  But the material in the 4th Gospel has been strongly shaped by dramatic and theological and ideological purposes, and it has been significantly revised by a second or third-generation Christian believer (or believers) who was NOT an eyewitness to the events described in the 4th Gospel.
The strong shaping of the 4th Gospel by dramatic, theological, and ideological purposes, combined with the fact that the author and revisers of this Gospel were NOT eyewitnesses to the events described in the Gospel explains why this Gospel is so historically UNRELIABLE, and why it would contain stories about alleged group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus that are FICTION.
In short, the Gospels do NOT provide us with any eyewitness accounts of any alleged appearance of Jesus.  The one possible exception to this is the story of “the fishermen on the shore” found in Chapter 21 of the 4th Gospel.  But the problem with that story is that the 4th Gospel is in general historically UNRELIABLE, and was NOT composed by an eyewitness, so this is at best a secondhand telling of this story by an unknown disciple of a disciple of Jesus, and there is no way of telling, with any degree of certainty, whether this particular story originated with a disciple of Jesus or if it came from the imagination of an unknown disciple of an unknown disciple of Jesus.
The ONLY firsthand account of an alleged appearance of Jesus found in the NT is in the letters of Paul.  Paul claims to have had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  But Paul was NOT a disciple of the historical Jesus, and so far as we know Paul NEVER SAW the historical Jesus in person prior to having an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Since Paul had NOT previously seen the historical Jesus, Paul was in no position to identify anyone as BEING Jesus, so Paul’s experience has no real significance as EVIDENCE for the resurrection of Jesus.  Furthermore, Paul was NOT part of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, so his individual experience is IRRELEVANT to Kreeft’s key historical premise in Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory.
 
CONCLUSION
Two out of three of the alleged examples provided by Kreeft of group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus are PROBABLY FALSE.
That leaves only ONE example of a group hallucination (experienced by more than two people at the same time), but ONE example is INSUFFICIENT to show that the key historical claim of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) is true.
Furthermore, the ONE remaining alleged example provided by Kreeft of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus is DUBIOUS, because it comes from the historically UNRELIABLE 4th Gospel, and because that Gospel was NOT composed by a disciple of Jesus nor by someone who was an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel.
There are NO ACCOUNTS in the NT of a group experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus that are provided by an eyewitness who was actually present during that event.
For these reasons premise (3a), the key historical premise of Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses), is DUBIOUS.
I previously argued in Part 10 that premise (B), the group-hallucination principle, which is another key premise of Kreeft’s Objection #1, is DUBIOUS.
Since both key premises of Kreeft’s Objection #1 are DUBIOUS, we have good reason to reject that objection, and thus Kreeft’s Objection #1 FAILS.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 10: Evaluation of the Group-Hallucination Principle

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 9 of this series I began to examine the core argument of Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

I pointed out that it is natural for skeptics to raise objections to the historical claim made in premise (3a), but that premise (B), a generalization about group hallucinations, is in need of further clarification, and that I suspected that when the meaning of (B) became clear, it too would turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS.  So, I worked on clarifying the meaning of premise (B).  Probably the most important bit of clarification is that the term “hallucination” should be understood in a broad way, such that it includes DREAMS as being examples of hallucinations.  Here is the definition of “hallucination” that I proposed:

An apparent sensory experience S that seems to be of a person or object is a hallucination IF AND ONLY IF
there is no corresponding external object or actual person present during apparent sensory experience S.

Kreeft needs the term “hallucination” to be understood in this broad manner, otherwise, his case for the resurrection of Jesus immediately FAILS, because if “hallucination” is understood more narrowly, in a way the excluded DREAMS, then Kreeft would have no objection against, and thus no refutation of, the skeptical theory that one or more disciples had a DREAM about Jesus that they mistakenly believed to be experiences of a real and embodied risen Jesus, and that these dream experiences became the basis for their belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
 
KREEFT’S ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (B)
Here is the argument that was given in support of premise (B):

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

THEREFORE:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

Neither Josh McDowell nor Peter Kreeft provides a clear argument in support of premise (2a).  However, McDowell mentions the “details” of hallucinations as being a key idea in support of premise (2a) and that suggests a line of reasoning that I will now spell out.
 
THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
Even just a few “details” about a dream or hallucination can imply a huge number of possible alternative DESCRIPTIONS of that experience.  For example, a person might describe a portion of a dream this way:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

Each element of this sentence describing the dream could be replaced by some alternative possibility.  Instead of a full-grown cat, one could have dreamed about a kitten.  Instead of an orange cat, one could have dreamed about a black cat.  Instead of a tabby cat, one could have dreamed about a hamster or a puppy dog.  Instead of the cat walking slowly, one could have dreamed that the cat ran quickly.  Instead of the cat walking across the foot of a bed, the dream could have been about a cat walking across the floor or across the top of a table.
For the simple description “a full-grown orange tabby cat slowly walking across the foot of my bed” we can abstract various general categories:

  • AGE (newborn, infant, young, full-grown, old)
  • COLOR (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, gray, black, brown)
  • TYPE/ANIMAL (tabby cat, Shetland pony, pointer dog, rattle snake, Angus cow, etc.)
  • LOCOMOTION (walking, skipping, hopping, running, tumbling, crawling, etc.)
  • SPEED (very slowly, slowly, moderately, quickly, very quickly, at full speed)
  • LOCATION (the foot of, the middle of, the top of, underneath, along the side)
  • OWNERSHIP (my X, your X, Our X, Sam’s X, Mary’s X, etc.)
  • FURNITURE (bed, couch, dresser, table, easy chair, nightstand, bench, shelf, desk, etc.)

The possible permutations exceed five possibilities for each of eight categories, so the possibilities exceed 5 to the 8th power or 25 to the 4th power or 390,625 different possibilities.  If we identify six different alternatives for each of the eight categories, then the number of different possible scenarios would be 6 to the 8th power or  36 to the 4th power, or 1,679,616 different scenarios.  Therefore, the description “a full-grown orange tabby cat walked slowly across the foot of my bed” suggests well over a million different alternative scenarios, with just a little bit of thought about different possibilities concerning each of the eight categories referenced in that brief description.
This thinking is what I believe is behind McDowell’s reference to “great detail” in the “descriptions of the appearances” in his presentation of his “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory:

Christ appeared to many people, and descriptions of the appearances involve great detail… (TRF, p.84)

Detailed descriptions of experiences are significant because they suggest millions of possible alternative descriptions, and thus millions of alternative possible experiences/hallucinations/dreams.  Because there are millions of alternative possible dreams/hallucinations relative to a brief detailed description of one such experience, it seems highly unlikely that more than two people would experience the “same dream” or the “same hallucination” at the same time.
 
FACTUAL PROBLEMS WITH THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
It seems, at first thought, that because the following brief description suggests well over a million alternative scenarios, that it would be very unlikely for more than two people to have a hallucination or dream that fits this description:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

However,  as I have argued elsewhere, people in fact often do have similar dreams, and it is quite possible for two people to have the “same dream” at the same time:

The above example of two people dreaming about a full-grown orange tabby cat shows not only that it is possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, but that there is a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this happening.  There might be a full-grown orange tabby cat living in the house with this couple, and that cat may sometimes walk slowly across the foot of their bed.  In fact, the tabby cat might have slowly walked across the foot of their bed just before they went to sleep on the night in question, and thus it would not be a huge coincidence if both of them happen to dream that night about their cat slowly walking across the foot of their bed.  So, it is not merely possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, there is also a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this actually happening, from time to time.     (from my post on McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection)

Although more than two people having the same dream at about the same time is less likely than just two people having the same dream at about the same time, there is still a significant chance for this to happen (for example, if three people were in bed together and saw the tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of the bed, then it would be quite possible for all three people to dream of this happening that night).
Because dreams are based on our experiences, beliefs, and memories, and because the memories, beliefs, and experiences of groups of people can be similar, the contents of dreams by different people can be similar:

The subjects of the studies by Zadra and Nielsen were STUDENTS.  Note that some of their most common dreams involved common experiences and fears of students:  school, teachers, or studying,  and arriving too late, and failing an examination.  This is a strong indication that the contents of dreams are often related to the sorts of emotions and events that the dreamers have commonly experienced in their waking lives.
It is also important to note that according to one study of dream contents one of the more common types of dreams that people report is “A person now dead being alive”!!

 
Jesus was a religious preacher and teacher.  The word “disciple” basically means student.  So, people who devote their lives to following a particular religious teacher, are people who are likely to have dreams about that person and dreams about being taught by that person.  Furthermore, if their beloved teacher dies, then there is a good chance that some of the students or disciples of that religious teacher will experience dreams about that teacher who was then dead being alive.
So, the chance that some of the disciples of Jesus had dreams about Jesus being alive and about Jesus teaching people is quite good, and thus the possibility of two people having the “same dream” about Jesus at about the same time after Jesus died is much greater than one might initially think.  Although there are billions of different possible descriptions of different dream contents that we can imagine, the dreams people actually have are NOT random combinations of people and events; they are based largely on the past experiences and memories of the dreamers.  If a group of people share many common experiences, beliefs, and memories about a particular person (like Jesus), then the chances that two of these people will have a similar dream or even the “same dream” about that person are significant.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (2a) and PREMISE (B)
I have previously argued that the term “hallucination” must be interpreted broadly so that it includes DREAM experiences, otherwise the cases for the resurrection of Jesus presented by Josh McDowell and by Peter Kreeft will immediately FAIL.   Here is premise (2a):

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

This premise is TRUE only if the following claim is TRUE:

2b. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same DREAM at the same time.

But we have seen that premise (2b) is initially plausible because we are aware that there are billions of different possible alternative descriptions of dream experiences, and because we are tempted to assume that all of these billions of possible descriptions of the contents of a dream are equally likely to occur in a dream, and that each different dream description has only a very tiny probability of actually occurring in a particular dream.  But we have seen that people do in fact often have similar dreams because dreams are based largely on the experiences, beliefs, and memories of the dreamers and because groups of people can have very similar experiences, beliefs, and memories (e.g. college students or devoted followers of a religious teacher).  Therefore, claim (2b) is FALSE or at least DUBIOUS.
But if claim (2b) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (2a) is also FALSE or DUBIOUS.  But (2a) is the reason given in support of premise (B) in the argument for Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).  So, the reason given in support of premise (B) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, and thus we have good reason to doubt premise (B), and a good reason to reject the core argument for Objection #1 against the Hallucination Theory.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 9: Clarification of the Hallucination Principle

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 8 of this series, I focused on Peter Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument constituting his Objection #1 (“Too Many Witnesses”) against the Hallucination Theory.    I argued that this was a brief and UNCLEAR version of Josh McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory (found in his book The Resurrection Factor, hereafter: TRF).  On that basis, I was able to make sense out of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument.
The core argument constituting Kreeft’s Objection #1 in my clarified version of his argument goes as follows:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

This is a modus ponens argument; it has the form:

 IF P, THEN Q.   

 P. 

THEREFORE:

Q.   

So the logic of this core argument is fine (assuming that the meanings of the key terms don’t change between the premises or between the premises and the conclusion).  We only need to evaluate the truth or falsity of the two premises in order to determine whether this argument is a strong and solid argument against the Hallucination Theory (although there is one further inference required to arrive at the ultimate conclusion that it is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.)
 
INITIAL EVALUATION OF THE PREMISES
Premise (B) states a principle about hallucinations, particularly about “group” hallucinations.  Initially, this principle seems plausible and reasonable.   So, it is natural to focus on premise (3a), which asserts a historical claim about alleged experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.  I will argue that Kreeft FAILS to show that premise (3a) is true, and thus that this premise is DUBIOUS.  However, there is still some UNCLARITY in premise (B), and when that premise is further CLARIFIED it will cease to be plausible and reasonable.  So, I expect that in the end, I will argue that both premises of this core argument should be rejected, and thus that Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) FAILS to refute the Hallucination Theory,  just like Josh McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection (upon which Kreeft’s Objection #1 is based) FAILED.
 
UNCLEAR  TERMS IN PREMISE (B)
There are at least three UNCLEAR terms in premise (B):

  • the same experience
  • extremely unlikely
  • hallucination

Because premise (B) contains these UNCLEAR terms, it cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands.  These expressions need to be CLARIFIED before one can rationally evaluate the truth or falsehood of premise (B).
 
WHAT DOES “THE SAME EXPERIENCE” MEAN?
Conceptual vs. Empirical Claims about “the same experience”
First of all, “the same experience” cannot be had by even two people, in the sense that any experience, like a hallucination, is a SUBJECTIVE event.  My experiences are MINE, and your experiences are YOURS, and you CANNOT literally have “the same experience” that I just had.  Josh McDowell confuses this conceptual point about experiences and hallucinations with an empirical claim about experiences and hallucinations.  You CAN have experiences that are similar to mine, in that my DESCRIPTION of my experience can closely match your DESCRIPTION of your experience, and my DESCRIPTION of my hallucination can closely match your DESCRIPTION of your hallucination.
For example, a man can experience a dream and describe the contents of the dream this way: “I saw a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.”  If that man’s wife also has a dream, and she describes the contents of her dream this way: “I saw a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.”, then we can reasonably conclude that the man and his wife both had “the same dream” or “very similar dreams”.
In other words, I can give detailed descriptions of my own experiences, dreams, and hallucinations, and if those detailed descriptions match up with a detailed description that someone else gives of his/her experience, dream, or hallucination, then we have good reason to conclude that my experience, dream, or hallucination is “the same” or “very similar to” the other person’s experience, dream, or hallucination.  This is so, even though my experience CANNOT be someone else’s experience, because MY experiences occur in MY mind and CANNOT occur in anyone else’s mind.
An Experience vs. a Description of an Experience
A second important point of clarification is that experiences, especially visual experiences, cannot be fully captured in words or DESCRIPTIONS.  At any rate, the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is actually an extreme UNDERSTATEMENT.
A photographic image on my PC monitor has a resolution of 3840 by 2160.  That means that the color image on my monitor consists of 3,840 pixels across and 2,160 pixels vertically, and thus that this image consists of 8,249,400 individual pixels.  Each pixel can be a different color.  Because my monitor is 4K Ultra High Definition, each subpixel is 10 bits, and each pixel is 30 bits, which means there are over 1 billion different possible colors for each pixel. If we think of the 10 bits per subpixel as a “word” describing the type of RED or GREEN or BLUE that is part of the overall color of one pixel, then three “words” are used to define the color of each pixel.  Based on this analogy, there would need to be 3 “words” to define each of the 8,249,400 pixels = 24,748,200 “words” to define one high-definition color image on my PC monitor.  So, we need about twenty-five million words to fully define one high-definition color image.
But when we see an event, the visual data is more like a video or movie.  We see objects moving through space, changes in shadows, colors, shades, brightness, and shapes.  For a movie to look realistic you need between 30 frames per second and 60 frames per second.  So, ten seconds of a  60-frame-per-second movie would require 600 frames or images.  If each frame or image was of the 4K Ultra High Definition kind (like on my PC monitor), then each frame or image would require about 25 million “words” to define, so a ten-second portion of a 60-frame-per-second movie in Ultra High Definition would require 600 frames times 25 million “words” per frame = 15 billion “words”.  So, a picture, especially a moving picture, is worth a hell of a lot more than just 1,000 words.
Normally, when we DESCRIBE what we saw and experienced during an event, we do NOT use millions or billions of words.  So, the information contained in verbal DESCRIPTIONS of an experience, dream, or hallucination normally captures only a tiny fraction of the information contained in the original experience, dream, or hallucination.
Because when we compare experiences, dreams, or hallucinations between different people, we are actually comparing the DESCRIPTIONS of those experiences, dreams, or hallucinations, and because descriptions are almost always given in dozens of words, or hundreds of words, or in some cases thousands of words, and NOT in millions of words, nor in billions of words, we are comparing only a tiny fraction of the information contained in the original experiences, dreams, or hallucinations.  Therefore, it is virtually impossible to prove that an experience had by person A was “exactly the same” as an experience that was had by person B.  It is, of course, theoretically possible that person A had “exactly the same” experience as person B had, but verbal DESCRIPTIONS of these experiences only give us a high-level summary of the experiences, which does not allow us to compare experiences at the lowest level of details.
Point of View Affects Experiences
There is one more important point about the experiences of two people being “the same”.    Things look different from a different point of view.  The following images are of the same object but from different points of view:

BOWL VIEWED FROM ABOVE

BOWL VIEWED FROM THE FRONT

BOWL VIEWED FROM BETWEEN ABOVE AND THE FRONT

 
The image of the bowl is very different depending on the point of view one has of it.   The same is true of people, plants, animals, and physical objects.  How they look depends on the point of view one has while observing the person or thing in question.
If John is standing behind Jesus, and Peter is standing in front of Jesus, and Thomas is standing to the side of Jesus, on Jesus’ left, then if Jesus is looking straight ahead, John will see the back of Jesus’ head, Peter will see Jesus’ full face, and Thomas will see only the left side of Jesus’ face.  They will all have different visual experiences of Jesus even if they are all looking at a physically present Jesus at the same time.
So, having “the same experience” of Jesus at the same time does NOT mean having the exact same visual experiences of Jesus at the same time.  What it means is that the people in question have visual experiences of Jesus that we would expect them to have IF Jesus was actually and physically present, given their different points of view.   In other words, we understand that in three-dimensional space, different points of view of actual physically present people or objects produce different visual experiences, but the variations between those different visual experiences coordinate with each other in predictable ways.
 
WHAT DOES “EXTREMELY UNLIKELY” MEAN?
At the very least “Extremely Unlikely” means SIGNIFICANTLY MORE UNLIKELY than events that are just “Very Unlikely”.  But what does “Very Unlikely” mean? and exactly how much MORE unlikely does something have to be in order to be SIGNIFICANTLY MORE UNLIKELY?  In short, the expression “Very Unlikely” and the expression “Extremely Unlikely” are both VAGUE.  Furthermore, it makes a big difference what the precise meanings of these terms are because Kreeft is NOT merely trying to show that the Hallucination Theory is somewhat improbable; he is trying to DISPROVE the Hallucination Theory; he is trying to PROVE it to be FALSE.  One might reasonably argue that the qualified conclusion of the clarified version of Kreeft’s argument is TOO WEAK, given that his goal was to DISPROVE or REFUTE the Hallucination Theory:

A1.  It is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

If “very likely” means, for example, that there is an 80% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE, then Kreeft’s argument is TOO WEAK to be considered a REFUTATION because it leaves open a 20% chance (or one chance in five) that the Hallucination Theory is TRUE.  I would take that as a victory for skepticism.  If each of the four skeptical theories that Kreeft attacks have a 20% chance of being TRUE, then the disjunction of those theories could potentially have an 80% chance of being TRUE!  If there is an 80% chance that either the Hallucination Theory or the Conspiracy Theory or the Apparent Death Theory or the Myth Theory is TRUE, then skepticism about the resurrection is clearly the most reasonable position.
This is why Kreeft and other Christian apologists NEED to REFUTE or DISPROVE each one of the various skeptical theories about the resurrection.  There are a number of skeptical theories (actually many more than Kreeft realizes) and if each skeptical theory has some significant chance of being TRUE, then the disjunction of those skeptical theories can potentially be probable, or even “very likely”.
However, it is NAIVE and UNREASONABLE to expect that any historical argument about alleged events in the life of Jesus (or alleged events related to Jesus’ death) could be PROVEN or KNOWN to be TRUE.  Given the nature of ancient history in general, and the generally poor quality and the limited quantity of historical evidence available about the life (and death) of Jesus, we can only reasonably expect to arrive at conclusions that are PROBABLE, not conclusions that are CERTAIN.  So, Kreeft has a very narrow range of probabilities that will allow him to be successful in his apologetic quest.  Showing that a skeptical theory only has a 20% chance of being true is NOT GOOD ENOUGH!  But he has no reasonable hope of showing that a skeptical theory only has a 1% chance of being TRUE (or a 99% chance of being FALSE).
How close to showing that there is a 99% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE does Kreeft need to get in order to be successful?  Would showing that there is a 90% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE be good enough?  That would mean that there might well be a 10% chance that the Hallucination Theory is TRUE.  Once again, if each of the four skeptical theories has a 10% chance of being true, then that leaves open the possibility that the disjunction of the four skeptical theories that Kreeft rejects has a 40% chance of being TRUE.  That hardly amounts to PROVING that the Christian Theory is TRUE, and so this would NOT be good enough for Kreeft to obtain his apologetic goal.
Thus, Kreeft needs to show that the chance of the Hallucination Theory being FALSE is at least 95% (greater than 90% but less than 99%).   There is NO WAY that the weak dubious evidence available on this subject (mostly from the biblical Gospels) will support such a high level of probability.  I don’t think that ANYONE can even show that there is a 95% chance that Jesus actually existed, so showing that there is a 95% chance that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE is a wild fantasy.
In any case, neither McDowell nor Kreeft give us any indication of what they mean by “very unlikely” or “very likely” or “extremely unlikely” or “extremely likely”.  So, in order to evaluate claims in their arguments that use these terms, we need to make educated guesses (like I’m doing here) about what these terms NEED to mean in order for their apologetic arguments to be successful.
 
WHAT DOES “HALLUCINATION” MEAN? 
In his book The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell quotes three different definitions of the word “hallucination” and then provides a similar definition of his own:

…a hallucination is an apparent act of vision for which there is no corresponding external object.   (TRF, 1981 edition, p.84)

This is a fairly BROAD definition of “hallucination” and, although McDowell probably did not realize this, it includes DREAMS.  We have visual experiences when we dream, and “there is no corresponding external object” to the visual experiences of people, animals, and objects that we “see” in our dreams.  So, on McDowell’s definition of “hallucination”, every dream anyone experiences (that involves visual experiences) is a hallucination.
But what does “hallucination” mean to Kreeft?  Unfortunately, because Kreeft’s presentation of his objections against the Hallucination Theory is ridiculously brief, Kreeft provides NO DEFINITION of this key term.  However, since Kreeft appears to have borrowed Objection #1 from Josh McDowell, namely from McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection in The Resurrection Factor, it is reasonable to assume that Kreeft accepts McDowell’s broad definition of “hallucination”, and thus that the term “hallucination” correctly applies to DREAM experiences, as well as to other more typical kinds of hallucinatory experiences, like when a person who has taken LSD and “sees” a fire-breathing dragon is sitting in the middle of a freeway.
McDowell’s definition is, however, clearly wrong because many hallucinations do NOT involve vision or visual experiences.  One of the most common sorts of hallucination is audio, hearing sounds or voices that are not actually present.  But we can easily fix this problem with McDowell’s definition so that it includes other senses besides sight:

An apparent sensory experience S that seems to be of a person or object is a hallucination IF AND ONLY IF
there is no corresponding external object or actual person present during apparent sensory experience S.

This definition is still a broad one that includes DREAMS as being a subset of hallucinations.
As I pointed out when critically evaluating McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory, it is important that “hallucinations” include DREAMS, because if they don’t, then McDowell’s argument for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.  The same is true of Kreeft’s short and unclear version of McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection.
If “hallucinations” does NOT include DREAMS, then there is a significant skeptical theory that both McDowell and Kreeft have FAILED to address and thus FAILED to refute:  the theory that some disciples of Jesus had a DREAM about Jesus and mistakenly believed that the dream was a real experience of an actually present Jesus who had risen from the dead.  Neither McDowell nor Kreeft explicitly considers such a theory.  So, in order for their cases for the resurrection of Jesus to be successful, their objections against the Hallucination Theory must work against this DREAM theory.
Given that McDowell defined the word “hallucination” in a way that includes DREAMS, his argument ought to apply to the skeptical DREAM theory.  Given that Kreeft presumably accepts McDowell’s definition of “hallucination”, particularly for his “Too Many Witnesses” objection (since that objection was borrowed from McDowell), Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) also ought to apply to the skeptical DREAM theory.
If Kreeft wants to define “hallucination” more narrowly than McDowell, so that it excludes DREAMS, then his case for the resurrection of Jesus will immediately FAIL, because Kreeft has provided no objections against, and thus no refutation of, this skeptical DREAM theory.  So, if Kreeft’s case for the resurrection is to be successful as it stands, then Kreeft NEEDS to define “hallucination” in the broad manner that McDowell did so that DREAMS will count as examples of “hallucinations”.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 8: Too Many Witnesses

WHERE WE ARE
In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli; hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft attempts to disprove the Hallucination Theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead (see HCA, p.182).  If Kreeft FAILS to disprove the Hallucination Theory, like McDowell FAILED to disprove it (see my series of posts on McDowell’s objections to the Hallucination Theory), then Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.
Kreeft presents fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory (although his own numbering of the objections ends at Objection #13).  I have divided those objections into five groups, based on key problems or aspects of the objections:

I. The “Witnesses” Objections (Objection #1, #2, and #3)

II.  The Equivocation Objections  (Objection #4 and #5)

III. The Dubious-Hallucination-Principles Objections (Objection #6, #8, #9, and #10)

IV. The Self-Defeating Objections (Objection #7 and #14)

V. The Empty-Tomb Objections (Objection #11, #12, and #13)

I started my critical examination of these objections with the first set, the “Witnesses” Objections, specifically with Objection #2: The Witnesses were Qualified.
In Part 4 of this series of posts, I argued that premise (1a) in the argument constituting Objection #2 is DUBIOUS because it implies 102 historical claims about various people who lived 2,000 years ago, and yet Kreeft provided NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of ANY of those 102 historical claims.
Six of those historical claims are about Mary Magdalene.  Kreeft’s most important claim about Mary Magdalene is that she had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In Part 5 of this series of posts, I argued that the available HISTORICAL EVIDENCE not only FAILS to prove or establish this key historical claim about Mary Magdalene but that a careful and critical examination of the relevant HISTORICAL EVIDENCE indicates that this key historical claim is probably FALSE.
In Part 6 of this series of posts, I pointed out that 66 of the 102 historical claims implied by premise (1a) are about “the eleven” disciples and I argued that we know very little about eight of those eleven disciples so that any attempt to prove the truth of the 48 historical claims Kreeft implies about those eight disciples is doomed to FAILURE.  Thus, most of Kreeft’s historical claims about “the eleven” cannot be shown to be true because there is insufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to rationally evaluate 48 historical claims out of the 66 historical claims that he implies about “the eleven” disciples in premise (1a).
In the light of these serious problems, we are fully justified in REJECTING premise (1a) as being DUBIOUS, and unworthy of belief and acceptance.  Objection #2 FAILS because premise (1a) is DUBIOUS.
In Part 7 of this series of posts, I argued that a key inference in the argument constituting Objection #2 is ILLOGICAL.  Clearly, premise (3b) in the argument constituting Objection #2 does NOT FOLLOW from premise (1a), because (1a) only addresses one KIND of reason why the testimony of a person might be UNWORTHY of our confidence.  Premise (1a) only addresses the possibility of the witness being dishonest or deceptive; it only (at most) eliminates the possibility that the witness is a DECEIVER.  Premise (1a) does NOT eliminate the possibility that the witness was DECEIVED or MISTAKEN concerning his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Simple, honest, and moral people can be DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, and premise (1a) does NOT rule out ANY of the various potential causes of deception or error.
Because Objection #2 is based on a DUBIOUS premise and also relies on an ILLOGICAL inference,  I concluded that we ought to reject Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.

OBJECTION #1: TOO MANY WITNESSES
Kreeft states his first objection against the Hallucination Theory in one paragraph:

(1) There were too many witnesses. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective. Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples minus Thomas, to the disciples including Thomas, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the fishermen on the shore, to James (his “brother” or cousin), and even to five hundred people at once (1 Cor 15:3-8).  Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry; over five hundred is about as public as you can wish.  And Paul says in this passage (v. 6) that most of the five hundred are still alive, inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses—he could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true.   (HCA, p. 186-187)

I have used strikethrough text to indicate parts of this paragraph that are concerned with an alleged group of five hundred witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Kreeft has a separate objection concerning those alleged five hundred witnesses (Objection #3: Five Hundred Witnesses), so he is attempting to use that objection TWICE, which is unfair and unreasonable.  I will consider Objection #3 later, but for now, we should ignore Kreeft’s attempt to insert his third objection as part of presenting his first objection.  The strikethrough text should be considered to be part of his presentation of Objection #3, not part of his presentation of  Objection #1.
Because Objection #2 references the “witnesses” previously mentioned in Objection #1, in my analysis and evaluation of Objection #2 I have previously (in Part 4 of this series) spelled out the people that Kreeft is talking about in Objection #1.  I won’t repeat those lists of names here, because we need to clarify Kreeft’s argument first, and later when we evaluate premises about the “witnesses” we will need to spell out who those people were.
 
KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1
Here are some key claims in Kreeft’s argument that constitutes his first objection against the Hallucination Theory:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2. Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry.

3. There were too many witnesses.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

As with Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2,  I have provided the conclusion, based on the context.  This is an objection raised against the Hallucination Theory in order to REFUTE the Hallucination Theory, so the context strongly suggests that the UNSTATED conclusion is that “The Hallucination Theory is FALSE.”
Premise (1) makes three general claims about hallucinations.
Premise (2) asserts a general principle concerning situations where there are at least “three different witnesses” of an alleged event.
Premise (3) asserts a factual or historical claim about the quantity of witnesses who allegedly had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
Also, as with Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2, this argument is ridiculously brief and VERY UNCLEAR.  What does “psychological trigonometry” mean?  Kreeft does not bother to explain or clarify that idea.  Why are there “too many” witnesses?  What constitutes “too many” and why?  How does the subjectivity of hallucinations support premise (2) about “psychological trigonometry”?  Kreeft makes no effort to explain or clarify this messy and confusing argument.
However, I was able to clarify Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument constituting Objection #2 by referencing the likely source of that objection: a defense of the resurrection of Jesus by Humphrey Ditton, so I will once again identify the likely source of Kreeft’s Objection #1.  That way we can try to make some sense of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument above.
It seems fairly clear to me that Kreeft borrowed his Objection #1 from Josh McDowell.  McDowell presents seven objections against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF) which was originally published by Here’s Life Publishers in 1981, thirteen years before Kreeft published his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Intervarsity Press, 1994).
McDowell’s second objection against the Hallucination Theory is the “Very Personal” objection, and that objection references all three of the concepts in premise (1) of Kreeft’s argument above.  Here is Kreeft’s claim:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

Here are similar statements made by McDowell in presenting his “Very Personal” objection:

…hallucinations are linked to an individual’s subconscious and to his particular past experiences(TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

A “hallucination” is a very private event — a purely subjective experience… (TRF, p.85, emphasis added)

The third premise of Kreeft’s argument is also very similar to statements McDowell makes in his “Very Personal” objection.  Here is Kreeft’s third premise:

3. There were too many witnesses.

Here are similar statements made by McDowell in presenting his “Very Personal” objection:

Christ appeared to many people(TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

The many claimed hallucinations would be a far greater miracle than the miracle of the resurrection. (TRF, p.85, emphasis added)

Premise (2) of Kreeft’s argument focuses on the idea of “three different witnesses” having an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, and this can be explained in relation to a key statement that McDowell makes in presenting his “Very Personal” objection.  Here is Kreeft’s second premise:

2. Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry.

Here is a key claim McDowell makes in his “Very Personal” objection that is closely related to Kreeft’s second premise:

…making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time. (TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

Kreeft has focused on the idea of “three different witnesses” experiencing an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time because that is “more than two persons” having such an experience at the same time, which according to McDowell would be “very unlikely” to occur if these experiences were hallucinations.  Kreeft’s UNCLEAR premise (2) thus appears to be BASED UPON McDowell’s clearer principle concerning hallucinations.
ALL THREE of the key claims in Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #1 correspond with statements made by McDowell in the presentation of his “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory, and  McDowell’s book The Resurrection Factor was published 13 years before Kreeft published Handbook of Christian Apologetics, so it is reasonable to conclude that Kreeft borrowed this objection from McDowell.
 
 
CLARIFICATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1
If we assume that Kreeft’s Objection #1 is basically a shortened and less clear version of McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory, then we can make sense out of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

THEREFORE:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

D. IF it is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations, THEN it is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

THEREFORE:

A1.  It is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

Premise (1) is Kreeft’s summary of three key claims made by McDowell in McDowell’s  “Very Personal” objection.
Premise (2a) is McDowell’s claim that apparently was the BASIS for Kreeft’s UNCLEAR premise (2).  So, we can clarify Kreeft’s argument by replacing his UNCLEAR second premise with the clearer related claim from McDowell’s statement of this objection.  Premise (2a) provides the specific “principle” about hallucinations that is essential to this argument.
Premise (B) is an inference from McDowell’s principle to a principle that applies to the circumstances Kreeft has in mind, namely that there are MULTIPLE instances when more than two people had the same experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus at the same time.
Premise (3a) is a significant revision and clarification of Kreeft’s VAGUE and UNCLEAR premise (3), and this clarification is needed so that this key historical premise logically connects with the clarified principle about hallucinations that is asserted in premise (B).  The principle about hallucinations must closely correspond to the historical claim about witnesses to alleged appearances of the risen Jesus so that the logic of the argument will work.
The UNSTATED sub-conclusion (C) is a logical inference from (B) and (3a), and the UNSTATED assumption (D) allows us to infer the desired conclusion (A1), which is a qualified version of our initial interpretation of Kreeft’s UNSTATED conclusion.
Here is a diagram of the logical structure of this argument:

 
 
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 7: More Problems with Objection #2

WHERE WE ARE
Here is my clarified version of Peter Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:

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.

In Part 4 of this series of posts, I argued that premise (1a) is DUBIOUS because it implies 102 historical claims about various people who lived 2,000 years ago and yet Kreeft provided NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of ANY of those 102 historical claims.
Six of those historical claims are about Mary Magdalene.  Kreeft’s most important claim about Mary Magdalene is that she had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In Part 5 of this series of posts, I argued that the available HISTORICAL EVIDENCE not only FAILS to prove or establish this key historical claim about Mary Magdalene but that a careful and critical examination of the relevant HISTORICAL EVIDENCE indicates that this key historical claim is probably FALSE.
In Part 6 of this series of posts, I pointed out that 66 of the 102 historical claims implied by premise (1a) are about “the eleven” disciples and I argued that we know very little about eight of those eleven disciples so that any attempt to prove the truth of the 48 historical claims Kreeft implies about those eight disciples is doomed to FAILURE.  Thus, most of Kreeft’s historical claims about “the eleven” cannot be shown to be true because there is insufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to rationally evaluate 48 historical claims out of the 66 historical claims that he implies about “the eleven” disciples in premise (1a).
In the light of these serious problems, we are fully justified in REJECTING premise (1a) as being DUBIOUS, and unworthy of belief and acceptance.  Objection #2 FAILS because premise (1a) is DUBIOUS.
 
PREMISE (2a) IS REDUNDANT
Premise (2a) of Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #2 goes like this:

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

If someone was a “witness” that implies (in this context) that he or she had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
Anyone who had such an EXPERIENCE would clearly have “firsthand knowledge of the facts”.  That is to say, such a person would be in a position to provide an accurate description of what his or her EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus was like, and would be in a position to provide an accurate description of his or her circumstances at the time that this EXPERIENCE took place.
Thus premise (2a) merely spells out explicitly an implication of premise (1a), and it does not ADD any further information beyond what premise (1a) already contains.  The truth of premise (1a) would logically imply the truth of premise (2a), so we don’t need to consider the question of whether premise (2a) is true or false.  We only need to evaluate the truth or falsehood of premise (1a).
 
 THE INFERENCE FROM PREMISE (1a) to PREMISE (3b)
So, the main question to consider next is whether (1a) logically implies that sub-conclusion (3b) is TRUE (or whether (1a) provides a strong reason that makes (3b) highly probable):

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

THEREFORE:

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

 
Although I have made a significant effort to clarify the third premise of Kreeft’s argument, it would be helpful to clarify what is now the most important term in this premise: “credible”.
The first and most basic point to note about “credible” testimony, is that it can be FALSE.  In other words, “credible testimony” does NOT MEAN “true testimony”.
What does it MEAN for testimony to be “credible”?    We should try to answer this question BEFORE we attempt to evaluate the inference from (1a) to (3b).
 
WHAT DOES “CREDIBLE TESTIMONY” MEAN?
My American Heritage College Dictionary (4th edition) gives two definitions of the word “credible”:

credible…adj. 1. Capable of being believed; plausible. …2. Worthy of confidence; reliable.

The first definition seems more descriptive than evaluative, and the second definition is clearly evaluative.
Obviously, the Christian movement grew in the second and third centuries, so MANY people in fact believed the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, and that some of his original followers experienced a living and embodied Jesus in the days and weeks following his crucifixion.   So, the alleged “testimony” of some of Jesus’ followers was clearly “Capable of being believed”.   The main problem with this descriptive definition of “credible” is that MANY PEOPLE ARE FOOLS, especially uneducated religious believers living in Palestine in the 1st Century, especially when it comes to SUPERNATURAL or MIRACLE claims.  It is no surprise, for example, that MANY people in that time and place believed that demons were a cause of various sorts of diseases.
Educated people in the 21st century believe that diseases have physical causes, like parasites, microscopic organisms, injuries, toxins, and genetic mutations.  Most of us do not accept SUPERNATURAL explanations of diseases.   The MIRACLE claim that “God raised Jesus from the dead” is something that uneducated religious Jews living in superstitious and pre-scientific age would be inclined to accept without any firm factual evidence.  Therefore, the fact that this MIRACLE claim was “Capable of being believed” by MANY uneducated superstitious religious believers in the 1st Century does NOT help to make the case for the truth of this MIRACLE claim.  If we interpret the word “credible” in terms of the first definition above, then premise (3b) will not help Kreeft to make his case against the Hallucination Theory.
The second definition, which is clearly a positive evaluation, would be more useful for Kreeft’s case.  If the alleged testimony of some of Jesus’ original followers asserted that they saw and spoke with a living and embodied Jesus in the days or weeks following his crucifixion and if that testimony was “Worthy of confidence”, then that testimony might well give us a good reason to think that Jesus had in fact risen physically from the dead.  So, in order for Kreeft’s argument to have any chance of success, we need to interpret the word “credible” in premise (3b) in terms of the evaluative definition, the second definition given above:

The testimony T of person P is credible IF AND ONLY IF  the testimony T of person P is worthy of confidence.

But we still need to figure out what makes a given instance of testimony “worthy of confidence”.
 
TWO WAYS TESTIMONY CAN BE UNWORTHY OF CONFIDENCE
It seems easier to start with the opposite idea: testimony that is UNWORTHY of our confidence.  Christian apologists have traditionally focused on two different ways that the testimony of a person can be UNWORTHY of our confidence:

  • DECEIVER
  • DECEIVED

Christian apologists argue that the eleven disciples who were members of “the twelve”, his inner circle of followers, were neither DECEIVERS nor were they DECEIVED.  Clearly, these are two different ways that the testimony of an original follower of Jesus about an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus might reasonably be set aside as being UNWORTHY of our confidence.  If we have reason to believe that a person is a DECEIVER on the subject at hand, then the credibility of his/her testimony is damaged or destroyed.  If we have reason to believe that a person is DECEIVED on the subject at hand, then the credibility of his/her testimony is damaged or destroyed.
Why might a follower of Jesus intentionally give FALSE testimony about an alleged experience of an appearance of the risen Jesus?  What motivation could someone have for doing this?  Here are some possible motivations for intentionally giving FALSE testimony about such an experience:
DECEIVER

  • PEER PRESSURE
  • THREATS/BRIBES
  • ATTENTION/ADMIRATION
  • SOCIAL STATUS/AUTHORITY
  • LOVE/FRIENDSHIP
  • FOOD /MONEY /PROPERTY

People who give FALSE or INACCURATE testimony about an event have different motivations for doing this.  One thing we do to determine whether the testimony of T by person P is worthy of our confidence is to examine their interests and possible motivations that might influence them to give a FALSE or INACCURATE account of the event in question.
Another way in which testimony can be UNWORTHY of our confidence is if we have reason to believe that the person giving the testimony was DECEIVED concerning the subject about which they are testifying.  There are different possible causes of deception or error in the case of testimony about an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:
DECEIVED

  • FOOLED/MISLED/GULLIBLE/SUPERSTITIOUS
  • INTOXICATED/DRUGGED
  • MISTAKEN IDENTITY
  • POOR EYESIGHT/POOR HEARING
  • UNRELIABLE MEMORY/FALSE OR DISTORTED MEMORY
  • HALLUCINATION/DREAM
  • MENTAL ILLNESS/PHYSICAL STRESS/EMOTIONAL STRESS

People who give FALSE or INACCURATE testimony about an event sometimes honestly and sincerely believe that their testimony is TRUE and ACCURATE, but they are mistaken.  One thing we do to determine whether the testimony of T by person P is worthy of our confidence is to examine their behavior and character and their circumstances and state of mind at the time of the event in question to see if there is reason to believe that one of these possible causes of deception or error was operative in his/or her case, reason to believe he/she was DECEIVED or mistaken in relation to the subject of the testimony.
If a person’s motivations do NOT appear to push them towards giving a FALSE or INACCURATE description of the event in question, and if that person’s motivations appear to push them towards giving a TRUE and ACCURATE description of the event in question, then that gives us reason to view his/her testimony about that event to be worthy of our confidence.  If a person’s behavior, character, and circumstances do NOT appear to provide a cause for their being DECEIVED or mistaken about the event in question and appear to indicate that their sincere and honest beliefs about the event are TRUE and ACCURATE, then that gives us reason to view his/her testimony about that event to be worthy of our confidence.
I don’t intend to investigate the behavior, character, and circumstances of each of the eleven disciples (of whom Kreeft claims that they all testified about having had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus) to determine whether alleged testimony by any of these disciples is worthy of our confidence.  I have argued previously that we have little or no knowledge about eight of the eleven, so we are clearly in no position to make a reasonable evaluation of any alleged testimony by most of the eleven disciples concerning experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  There is simply not enough INFORMATION to make any sort of confident judgment about whether they might have been DECEIVERS or might have been DECEIVED.  For all we know they were all DECEIVERS, or all DECEIVED, or some were DECEIVERS and others were DECEIVED.
Most importantly, however, we don’t actually have TESTIMONY about their supposed experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.  The only first-hand account of an alleged appearance of Jesus that we have is from Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament.  But Paul was not one of the eleven, nor was Paul a disciple of Jesus, nor did Paul know Jesus when Jesus was a preacher and faith healer in Palestine.   Because Paul never met the historical Jesus, Paul would not be in a position to IDENTIFY anyone as being the historical Jesus.  So, the only first-hand account of an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus was written by a person who was in no position to IDENTIFY anyone as being Jesus.
 
THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH THE INFERENCE FROM (1a) to (3b)
 
Here again, is the inference from (1a) to (3b) in Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:
 

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

THEREFORE:

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

 
Suppose that (1a) were true (even though there is good reason to doubt this), would premise (3b) follow from that assumption? Clearly, (3b) does NOT FOLLOW from (1a), because (1a) only addresses one KIND of reason why the testimony of a person might be UNWORTHY of our confidence.  Premise (1a) only addresses the possibility of the witness being dishonest or deceptive; it only (at most) eliminates the possibility that the witness is a DECEIVER.  Premise (1a) does NOT eliminate the possibility that the witness was DECEIVED or MISTAKEN concerning his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Simple, honest, and moral people can be DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, and premise (1a) does NOT rule out ANY of the various potential causes of deception or error listed above.

Furthermore, just as we have insufficient evidence to conclude that all of “the eleven” disciples were “simple, honest, moral people”, so we also have insufficient evidence to conclude that all of “the eleven” disciples were free from any of the potential causes of deception or error  INCLUDING HALLUCINATIONS.  Because of our IGNORANCE about most of “the eleven” we simply don’t have enough information to make a reasonable evaluation about whether they were subject to being DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, just as our IGNORANCE about most of “the eleven” means that we don’t have enough information to make a reasonable evaluation about their honesty and moral character.
 
EVALUATION OF OBJECTION #2
We have good reason to REJECT Objection #2, because premise (1a) is clearly DUBIOUS, and because premise (3b)  clearly DOES NOT FOLLOW from the premise (1a).  Premise (1a) only deals with the potential issue of the witnesses being DECEIVERS but does not deal with the equally important potential issue of the witnesses being DECEIVED or MISTAKEN.  Because Objection #2 is based on a DUBIOUS premise and also relies on an ILLOGICAL inference, we ought to reject Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.
NOTE: The inference from (1a) to (3b) could (theoretically) be repaired by the addition of further factual premises.  However, in order for this inference to be solid, those additional factual premises would have to rule out HALLUCINATION as a potential source of ERROR in each testimony by each relevant witness.  But in that case, Kreeft would be REFUTING the Hallucination Theory in order to make this inference work.  But the point of the inference is to be the first step towards a refutation of the Hallucination Theory.  In other words, it appears to me that the argument that constitutes Objection #2 BEGS THE QUESTION, and does so unavoidably.  Before Kreeft, or any other Christian apologist can fix this argument, they will have to FIRST REFUTE the Hallucination Theory!  But the purpose of the argument is to do just that.  So, this argument CANNOT BE FIXED even with the addition of more factual premises.  In other words, to make the inference in this argument work, one must eliminate the possibility that the witnesses were DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, but in order to do this one must FIRST show that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

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.