bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 8: Conclusions about the Second Dilemma

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 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).

Because Jesus did NOT make a claim that if taken literally would be a claim to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe, the answer to the question posed in the FIRST DILEMMA is: NO. That put an end to the series of dilemmas presented by Kreeft and Tacelli, and their attempt to prove premise (1A) FAILS right out of the starting gate.

However, in order to attempt to evaluate the SECOND DILEMMA, we examined six verses from the Gospel of John that were put forward by Kreeft and Tacelli as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God. A careful examination of those verses showed that, even on the dubious assumption that the historical Jesus actually said the things those verses claim he said, those verses FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God. So, based on a careful examination of those six verses, the answer to the question posed in the SECOND DILEMMA is: NO.

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

The question at issue concerning our evaluation of the second DILEMMA is thus 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.

Here are the six verses from the Gospel of John that Kreeft and Tacelli quote in the opening pages of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):

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

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the statements Jesus makes in these passages imply that Jesus is claiming to LITERALLY be God, that is, claiming to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

In Part 6 of this series and in Part 7 of this series, I carefully examined each of the above six verses from the Gospel of John. I showed that NONE of the six verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli (at the beginning of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics) as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God actually show that Jesus made such a claim. Therefore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the Gospel of John provides historically accurate information about the words and teachings of Jesus (it clearly does NOT do so), the evidence from the Gospel of John FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

DOES THE GURU VIEW FOLLOW FROM A “NO” ANSWER TO THE SECOND DILEMMA?

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, a “NO” answer to the SECOND DILEMMA logically implies that the GURU VIEW is true:

Is this inference logically VALID? Based on my interpretations of the six passages from the Gospel of John, the GURU VIEW does initially appear to be true. Jesus calls God his “father”, but then he also tells his followers that God is THEIR “father” as well. Jesus claims to be “one with God”, but then he also says things that imply that his followers will also become “one with God”. So, it appears that Jesus claimed to have a very similar relationship with God as what he claimed his followers had or would soon have.

However, in the Gospel of John Jesus also claims to be the promised Messiah of the Jews, and there is no indication that he believed that his followers were also Messiahs. So, in claiming to be the “Messiah”, Jesus was claiming to have a unique and important role in God’s plan for humanity. But then Gurus and Buddhas in Eastern religions also claim to have important roles in bringing enlightenment to others. So, the GURU VIEW seems initially to be a good fit with what Jesus claimed about himself.

There is an important difference between Jesus’ claims about his and his followers’ relationship with God, and the views of gurus in Eastern religions. Although Jesus was inclined to tell his followers that God is THEIR “father”, he was also inclined, according to the Gospel of John, to tell his opponents that God is NOT THEIR “father”:

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God, and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.
44 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
47 Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”

(John 8:42-47, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Jesus is arguing with some of his opponents here, not talking to his followers. Jesus clearly does not believe that his opponents are “from God”, nor does Jesus believe that God is their “father” in the way that God is his “father” and that God is the “father” of his followers. In short, Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospel of John, does NOT believe that God is the “father” of all humans, nor that all humans are children of God. Some humans are “from God”, but others are NOT “from God”, but are from “the devil”. This view is clearly contrary to the philosophy of gurus in Eastern religious traditions.

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the mystical view of gurus in Eastern religious traditions is that “we are all God” (HCA, p.165) and that “we and everything else are all, ultimately, God.” (HCA, p.166). That is NOT the claim that each of us is LITERALLY the eternal creator of the universe, nor that each of us is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good ruler of the universe. Rather, this is a weaker claim that we are all “divine” in some vague metaphysical sense that we are all “part of God”, and that all humans are on a path or journey to enlightenment where we will eventually fully realize our oneness with God.

Jesus believed, according to the Gospel of John, that he had a close and loving relationship with God, and that his followers also had a close and loving relationship with God. But Jesus did NOT believe that every human had such a close and loving relationship with God. Some people, especially people who hated and opposed Jesus, were NOT “from God” but were evil and from “the devil”. Therefore, although Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospel of John, was similar to a mystical guru, in that he did NOT claim to be divine in a unique or supreme way, and only claimed to be divine in the way that his followers were also divine, his views were radically different from those of a mystical guru, because Jesus believed some people were “divine” or “from God” while other people are NOT “divine” and NOT “from God” but are from “the devil”.

In conclusion, because Jesus’ views on this matter, as characterized in the Gospel of John, radically depart from the view of mystical gurus from Eastern religious traditions, if we assume (for the sake of argument) that the words attributed to Jesus by the Gospel of John actually came from the historical Jesus, then the GURU VIEW is FALSE.

But this same assumption about the words attributed to Jesus by the Gospel of John also shows that Jesus did NOT mean “his claim to be God” LITERALLY. Those words show that Jesus did NOT LITERALLY claim to be the eternal creator of the universe and the all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Therefore, the inference from a “NO” answer to the question posed in the SECOND DILEMMA to the conclusion that the GURU VIEW is true, is a logically INVALID inference. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of John show that the answer to the question “Did Jesus mean his claim to be God literally?” is: NO, but the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John also show that the GURU VIEW is FALSE.

Kreeft and Tacelli are thus wrong on BOTH of their basic points concerning the SECOND DILEMMA. First, the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John do NOT show that Jesus meant his claim to be God literally. Second, a “NO” answer to the question posed in the SECOND DILEMMA does NOT logically imply that the GURU VIEW is true. Thus, the inference they make in the SECOND DILEMMA is INVALID.

Both the FIRST DILEMMA and the SECOND DILEMMA are logically INVALID, and therefore, there are at least two major problems with the argument that Kreeft and Tacelli have given in support of premise (1A). They have clearly FAILED to provide a good reason to believe premise (1A) of their argument for the divinity of Jesus.

NOTE:

Because the Gospel of John is the least historically reliable Gospel of the four canonical Gospels, especially when it comes to the words and teachings of Jesus, it is unlikely that the six alleged quotations of Jesus pointed to by Kreeft and Tacelli are accurate representations of the words and teachings of the historical Jesus. So, if those quotations had indicated that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, they would still not provide a good reason to believe that the historical Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

Even if we assume (for the sake of argument) that the alleged words of Jesus from the Gospel of John were accurate representations of the words of the historical Jesus, they still FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and they also FAIL to show that the GURU VIEW is TRUE.

Furthermore, since the Gospel of John is an unreliable source of the words and teachings of Jesus, those words also FAIL to show that the GURU VIEW is FALSE. What the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John do show, however, is that we can imagine a Jesus who both did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God and yet who did NOT hold the mystical guru view that all human beings are divine.

This is the view of Jesus presented in the Gospel of John. Whether or not the Gospel of John presents an accurate view of the historical Jesus, it presents a logically possible version of Jesus in which the inference that Kreeft and Tacelli make in the SECOND DILEMMA would be mistaken, and thus the logic of that dilemma is INVALID. In short, the Jesus presented in the Gospel of John provides a CLEAR COUNTEREXAMPLE to the inference made in the SECOND DILEMMA presented by Kreeft and Tacelli.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 7: More Quotes from the Gospel of John

WHERE WE ARE

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 quotations from the Gospel of John presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of the view that Jesus claimed to be God.

The question at issue concerning our evaluation of the second DILEMMA is thus 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.

Here are the six verses from the Gospel of John that Kreeft and Tacelli quote in the opening pages of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):

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

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the statements Jesus makes in these passages imply that Jesus is claiming to LITERALLY be God, that is, claiming to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

In Part 6 of this series, I argued that John 8:12, John 8:46, and John 8:58 FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God. In this current post, I will argue that the remaining three verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli also FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 10:30

Kreeft and Tacelli point out that Jesus called God his father:

Jesus called God his Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30)…

(HCA, p.150)

Clearly, calling God one’s “father” is NOT a LITERAL statement. God does not have male sexual organs, because God, according to Christian theology, does not have a body. So, God cannot engage in sexual intercourse and God cannot ejaculate sperm in order to cause the fertilization of a human egg in a human female. Therefore, God CANNOT be a LITERAL father to anyone. (There are things that God CANNOT DO because God lacks a body. For example, God cannot eat a cheeseburger or cut his finger.) Calling God one’s “father” is necessarily a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement that requires interpretation.

Kreeft and Tacelli seem to think that Jesus calling God his “father” means that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God. This inference is clearly INVALID and ILLOGICAL because Jesus also said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father! Jesus did NOT believe that each one of his followers and disciples was LITERALLY God. So, calling God his “father” was NOT a claim to LITERALLY be God.

Kreeft and Tacelli, for some reason, FAIL to mention that Jesus frequently said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father. So, either Kreeft and Tacelli have never bothered to actually READ the Gospels, or they are IDIOTS. It is simply not possible for a person of normal intelligence to READ the Gospels and yet FAIL to notice that Jesus frequently says to his followers and disciples that God is THEIR father. Only an IDIOT would miss this constant refrain in the words of Jesus found in the Gospels:

25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

(Mark 11:25, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

(Luke 6:36, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

2 So he said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, may your name be revered as holy.
May your kingdom come.

(Luke 11:2, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

29 And do not keep seeking what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.
30 For it is the nations of the world that seek all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

(Luke 12:29-31, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 5:16, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

44 But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Matthew 5:44-48, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

If Kreeft or Tacelli had actually READ Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, they would have to be MORONS to fail to notice that Jesus repeatedly said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father:

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them, for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your alms may be done in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be revered as holy.
10 May your kingdom come.
May your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 “And whenever you fast, do not look somber, like the hypocrites, for they mark their faces to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

(Matthew 6:1-18, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Here is another passage from verses near the end of Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life?
28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
32 For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

(Matthew 6:25-33, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Even in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his followers that God is THEIR father:

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

(John 20:17, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Once again, Kreeft and Tacelli have revealed their incredible ignorance about the contents of the Gospels. They have almost no ability to intelligently read and interpret the Gospels.

There is a second important point about John 10:30, which is that Jesus claimed to be “one” with God (“the Father”). Does this statement amount to a claim by Jesus to LITERALLY be God? It is fairly obvious that this is NOT a claim by Jesus to LITERALLY be God.

The idea of being “one” with God is VAGUE and UNCLEAR. It might mean that Jesus is the same person as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. But according to standard Christian theology, God is THREE PERSONS, not one person. Jesus is, supposedly, one person in the Trinity, and “the Father” is another person in the Trinity, so Christians reject the interpretation of this verse as Jesus claiming to be the SAME PERSON as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, because there are three different persons that constitute God (the Trinity). Most Christians reject the interpretation of John 10:30 as Jesus claiming to be the SAME PERSON as “the Father”, but they do so because this contradicts traditional Christian dogma.

Being “one” with God might also mean that Jesus was “one team” with God, meaning that they both worked together for the same purpose, according to the same plan. This interpretation fits well with the other things Jesus says in the same passage:

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me,
26 but you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep.
27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, in regard to what he has given me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 The Father and I are one.”

(John 10:24-30, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)

First, notice that Jesus asserts that “My Father…is greater than all…”. In this context, Jesus means that “God is more powerful than anyone else.” But this implies that “God is more powerful than I am.” If God is more powerful than Jesus, then that means that Jesus is NOT OMNIPOTENT, and if Jesus is NOT OMNIPOTENT, then Jesus CANNOT be God because omnipotence is one of the basic divine attributes. Only a person who is OMNIPOTENT can be God. Thus, in the verse immediately before John 10:30, Jesus makes a claim that clearly implies that he (Jesus) is NOT God. Somehow Kreeft and Tacelli failed to notice verse 29. Once again they reveal their inability to intelligently read and interpret the Gospels.

Second, Jesus clearly believes that he and God are both dedicated to working together to give eternal life to the followers of Jesus. They share that same goal and are both working to make sure that goal is achieved. Jesus is confident that he will be successful because he believes that God is on his side and that it is God’s goal, as well as Jesus’s goal, to give eternal life to the followers of Jesus: they are one team working for the same goal.

This interpretation of this passage from Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John is a PLAUSIBLE and REASONABLE interpretation, even if it is not the only plausible interpretation of this passage. But on this REASONABLE interpretation, John 10:30 does NOT amount to Jesus claiming to LITERALLY be God, to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe, and the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good ruler of the universe.

A third problem with the interpretation of Jesus’s claim to be “one” with God as meaning that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God, is that Jesus also implied that his disciples would be “one” with him. So, if Jesus was in fact God, and his disciples were “one” with Jesus, then that implies that his disciples were ALSO “one with God”.

But according to the interpretation of Kreeft and Tacelli, being “one” with God MEANS LITERALLY being God. Thus, based on their reasoning, they would logically have to conclude that each of Jesus’s disciples was LITERALLY God. But Kreeft and Tacelli obviously REJECT the idea that each of Jesus’s disciples was LITERALLY God. To avoid this conclusion, one must either (a) reject the view that being “one with God” means being LITERALLY God, (b) reject the view that Jesus was LITERALLY God, or (c) reject the view that the disciples were (or would be) “one” with Jesus.

Being “one with the Father” or “one with God” is a VAGUE notion. What does Jesus mean by this? When Jesus asserts “The Father and I are one”, his Jewish audience becomes angry. Jesus then provides a big clue as to what he means by being “one with God”. He defends his claim by pointing to his (alleged) wonderful miracles (“good works”):

30 The Father and I are one.”
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”
[…]
37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.
38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

(John 10:30-32 & 37-38, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)

Notice that the reason Jesus points to his miracles is to persuade his audience that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (see verse 38). Jesus clearly believes that showing that God is in Jesus and that Jesus is in God amounts to showing that he (Jesus) is “one with God”.

Although Jesus does not directly and explicitly state that his disciples are “one with God”, he does imply this to be the case, or that it will be the case, by saying that his disciples will be in God and Jesus and that God and Jesus will be in them:

11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
[…]
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word,

21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

(John 17:11 & 20-23, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Jesus asks God to make sure that his disciples and followers will be “in us”, that is to say in God and Jesus. And Jesus also asks God to make sure that Jesus is “in them” and “you in me”, that is to say, God is in Jesus and Jesus is in his followers.

If God is in Jesus, and Jesus is in his followers, then that implies that God is in the followers of Jesus. Therefore, this alleged prayer of Jesus shows that Jesus believed that at some point in time Jesus and God would be “in his followers” and his followers would also be “in Jesus and God”. But that means that Jesus believed that at some point in time the followers of Jesus would be “one with Jesus”. Therefore, as explained above, based on the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, they must logically conclude that each of the followers of Jesus is (or will become) LITERALLY God.

So, they either have to REJECT Jesus’ belief that his disciples would become “one” with Jesus, or they have to REJECT the view that Jesus is LITERALLY God, or they have to reject their own interpretation of what it means for a person to be “one with God”. There is clearly an ERROR or FALSE ASSUMPTION in their reasoning.

The most REASONABLE interpretation of Jesus’ belief that his disciples would be “one” with him, is that he meant they could be “one team” with him, that his disciples could work together with him to achieve a shared goal in accordance with a shared plan. That is the most REASONABLE interpretation of what Jesus was saying. So, given that it is very likely that Jesus spoke of his disciples being “one” with him, and meant this as being “one team” with him, it seems likely that when Jesus spoke of being “one” with God in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, that he also meant being “one team” with God, and did NOT mean a claim to LITERALLY be God.

Because there is a PLAUSIBLE and REASONABLE interpretation of John 10:30 in which Jesus does NOT claim to LITERALLY be God, John 10:30 FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Because the reasoning that Kreeft and Tacelli use to conclude that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God in John 10:30 implies that Jesus also claimed that his followers would each LITERALLY become God, it is clear that there is an ERROR in their reasoning about this verse, so John 10:30 does NOT show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 11:25

Kreeft and Tacelli provide another quote from the Gospel of John as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:

Jesus claimed to save us from sin and death. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die.”

(HCA, p.150)

The (alleged) words of Jesus here come from John 11:25. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Jesus really did say these words.

The statement “I am the resurrection and the life” is clearly NOT a LITERAL statement. It is a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement. “The resurrection” is a dramatic worldwide event that many Jews in Jesus’ time believed would occur in the future. Most Christians have believed that “the resurrection” is a dramatic worldwide event that will occur in the future. But Jesus lived 2,000 years ago, and Jesus was NOT a dramatic worldwide event. So, this statement is clearly NOT a LITERAL statement.

However, the statement that “He who believes in me will never die” is a LITERAL statement that can be understood in a straightforward manner. This statement tells us that Jesus believed that one day there will be a resurrection of the dead and that when God raises people from the dead, some people will be granted eternal life because they believed in Jesus and were followers of Jesus. In other words, Jesus believed that God sent Jesus to provide a way for human beings to obtain eternal life. OK. But this has NOTHING to do with whether Jesus is the eternal creator of the universe. And this has NOTHING to do with whether Jesus is the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Clearly, if God sent a particular person to provide a way for human beings to obtain eternal life, then that person whom God sent is a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings. So, if Jesus actually believed that God sent him to provide human beings with a way to obtain eternal life, then Jesus believed himself to be a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings. But there is an OBVIOUS difference between being a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, on the one hand, and LITERALLY being God.

Clearly, one could be a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, and yet NOT be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. For example, Moses was a great prophet according to both Jews and Christians, so Moses was a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, according to both Jews and Christians. But NOBODY believes that Moses was LITERALLY God. NOBODY believes that Moses was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Therefore, John 11:25 CLEARLY FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 14:9

Kreeft and Tacelli provide one more quote from the Gospel of John as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:

Jesus called God his Father: …”Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

(HCA, p.150)

As I pointed out in my examination of John 10:30, claiming that God is one’s “father” is NECESSARILY a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement, not a LITERAL statement. So, this statement requires interpretation.

More importantly, Jesus repeatedly said to his disciples and followers that God was THEIR “father”. So, based on the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, each of the disciples and followers of Jesus must LITERALLY be God! But, of course, Kreeft and Tacelli don’t believe that.

Furthermore, according to the Gospel of John, some Jews in the first century other than Jesus also spoke of God as being their “father”:

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did,
40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
41 You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God himself.
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God, and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.

(John 8:39-42, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Since Jesus believed that God was the “father” of his disciples and followers, and since Jews in the first century other than Jesus sometimes referred to God as being their “father”, the fact that Jesus “called God his Father” FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

A second aspect of this verse is that Jesus says that seeing him amounts to seeing “the Father”, so Jesus asserted that seeing Jesus amounts to seeing God. This statement is also NOT a LITERAL statement. God has no body, and God is invisible and intangible according to Christian theology. Therefore, God CANNOT LITERALLY be “seen”. Invisible beings cannot be detected with physical eyes that rely upon light reflecting off of physical surfaces. So, this statement is also METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC and thus it requires interpretation.

If you read John 14:9 in context, Jesus gives us a big clue as to what he means by this:

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if you do not, then believe because of the works themselves.

(John 14:8-11, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

As when we looked at Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, Jesus links his performance of miracles “because of the works themselves” with his being “in the Father” (i.e. “in God”) and with “the Father” being in him. So, what Jesus MEANS by saying that seeing him amounts to seeing “the Father” (i.e. “seeing God”) is that Jesus is “in God” and God is “in Jesus”. But, as we saw in our examination of John 10:30, Jesus also believed that his disciples and followers would be “in God” and that God would be “in them”. But Jesus did NOT believe that his disciples and followers were each LITERALLY God, so God being in a person, and that person being in God does NOT mean that the person in question is LITERALLY the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Therefore, when Jesus said “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” he was speaking METAPHORICALLY or SYMBOLICALLY not LITERALLY, and what he meant was that God was “in Jesus” and that Jesus was “in God” and this, as we have previously seen, does NOT MEAN that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God.

CONCLUSION ABOUT KREEFT AND TACELLI QUOTES FROM JOHN

NONE of the six verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli (at the beginning of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics) as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God actually show that Jesus made such a claim. Therefore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the Gospel of John provides historically accurate information about the words and teachings of Jesus (it clearly does NOT do so), the evidence from the Gospel of John FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY 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 6: Quotes from the Gospel of John

WHERE WE ARE

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 quotations from the Gospel of John presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of the view that Jesus claimed to be God.

The question at issue concerning our evaluation of the second DILEMMA is thus 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.

Here are the six verses from the Gospel of John that Kreeft and Tacelli quote in the opening pages of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):

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

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the statements Jesus makes in these passages imply that Jesus is claiming to LITERALLY be God, that is, claiming to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 8:12

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

(John 8:12, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)

First of all, this is clearly NOT a statement that Jesus meant LITERALLY. Jesus did NOT claim to LITERALLY be light, nor to LITERALLY be the SUN, the star that provides light to the planet Earth. Jesus was NOT claiming to be visible electromagnetic radiation, nor was he claiming to be a massive ball of plasma that is located at the center of our solar system about 93 million miles from the Earth. It would be IDIOTIC to take this quotation LITERALLY. Obviously, Jesus is speaking metaphorically here, as Jesus frequently does in the Gospel of John.

The next question is whether this metaphorical statement was intended to mean that Jesus was LITERALLY God, that Jesus is the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. There is no hint here that Jesus is claiming any of this about himself. He is NOT claiming to be the creator of the universe here. He is NOT claiming to be the omnipotent ruler of the universe. He is NOT claiming to be perfectly good or omniscient. Therefore, Jesus is NOT claiming to LITERALLY be God in this quote.

Light is obviously a metaphor representing truth or knowledge or wisdom. In this statement, Jesus is claiming to be a source of important truths or knowledge or wisdom. Since Jesus was a devout Jew who had followers who were devout Jews, and since Jesus often taught about God and about being morally good, fair, and kind to others, he was probably claiming to be a source of theological and ethical truths or knowledge or wisdom.

Jesus believed that he was a prophet of the God of Israel, and that God communicated important theological and ethical truths to him, as he indicates in the same Chapter of the Gospel of John that the quotation above comes from:

…but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. …

(John 8:40, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)

In claiming to be “The light of the world”, Jesus was probably claiming to be a source of important theological and ethical truth, truth that he believed came from God. But being a prophet is just being a messenger for God, bringing messages from God to other people. Being a messenger for God does NOT imply that a prophet IS God. Therefore, in claiming to be a source of theological and ethical truth, and in claiming to be a prophet of God, Jesus was NOT claiming to BE God.

This quote was obviously not meant LITERALLY by Jesus. This first piece of evidence clearly and obviously FAILS to show that Jesus said something that IF TAKEN LITERALLY would mean that he was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Furthermore, the meaning of this statement is basically that Jesus claimed to be a prophet of God, which in no way implies that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 8:46

Here is how Kreeft and Tacelli present the next quotation of Jesus:

He also claimed to be sinless: “Which of you can convict me of sin?”

(HCA, p.150)

This quote from the Gospel of John (Chapter 8, verse 46) clearly FAILS to show that Jesus LITERALLY claimed to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

First, in this quote Jesus does NOT claim to be “sinless”. Jesus doesn’t make ANY EXPLICIT CLAIM at all in this quote. He asks a QUESTION. However, the question does seem to be a rhetorical one, so we can reasonably infer the following implication from this question:

You people cannot convict me of sin.

Jesus is implying that the people who he was speaking to on that occasion were not able to PROVE that Jesus had committed a specific sin.

But that is completely compatible with it being the case that Jesus had in fact sinned. For example, Jesus believed that a man who looks at a woman with lust in his heart commits a sin whether or not the man acts on that sexual desire (Matthew 5:28). Thus, if Jesus was aware that he had looked at a woman with lust in his heart, he would view that as being a sin, even if he never acted on that sexual desire. But if a man does not act on such a desire, then only that man (and God, if God exists) would KNOW that the man had sinned in that way. Therefore, Jesus was fully aware that some sins are hidden from the view of other people, and thus Jesus was aware that the fact that no one could PROVE that he had committed a specific sin does NOT mean that Jesus had never sinned.

It should also be noted that this conversation took place in public in Jerusalem (John 8:20). But much of Jesus’ life and ministry took place in Galilee, several days’ journey north of Jerusalem. Thus, the people to whom Jesus was speaking were likely residents of Jerusalem who would only have first-hand knowledge of what Jesus had said and done in public in Jerusalem, and would be unlikely to have first-hand knowledge of what Jesus had said and done in public in Galilee, and very unlikely to have first-hand knowledge of what Jesus had said and done in private situations in Galilee. In other words, Jesus knew (or believed) that the people to whom he was speaking on this occasion were people who had first-hand knowledge of only his public words and actions in Jerusalem.

Thus, any sins that Jesus was aware of having committed either in public or in private in Galilee (or in private in Jerusalem) would likely be outside of the first-hand knowledge of the people to whom he was speaking on this particular occasion. So, Jesus would be aware that the INABILITY of those particular people to PROVE that Jesus had committed a specific sin would NOT mean that Jesus had never sinned.

So, not only did Jesus NOT EXPLICITLY CLAIM to be “sinless”, but his rhetorical question does NOT imply that he was “sinless”, nor that he believed himself to be “sinless”.

Second, being “sinless” does NOT imply that one is the creator of the universe, nor does it imply that one is the ruler of the universe. It does NOT imply that Jesus was omnipotent, nor does it imply that Jesus was omniscient.

Furthermore, being “sinless” does NOT imply that Jesus possessed the divine attribute of being perfectly good. Being “sinless” means that one has not yet committed a “sin” or done something that is morally wrong. But that is only one part of being perfectly good. A person who is paralyzed from head to toe might never commit a sin, but might also never do anything particularly good or loving or heroic or beneficial for someone else. Being perfectly good requires one to be perfectly loving and perfectly kind and perfectly generous to others. That requires positive actions that benefit other people and animals. Therefore, a person who is “sinless” might well NOT be a perfectly good person. So, even if Jesus DID claim to be “sinless” that would still NOT imply that Jesus possessed ANY of the basic divine attributes.

This second quote from the Gospel of John clearly FAILS to show that Jesus made a statement 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. Furthermore, this quote clearly FAILS to show that Jesus LITERALLY claimed to be God, that Jesus LITERALLY claimed to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

EXAMINATION OF JOHN 8:58

Here is the next quote of Jesus from the Gospel of John:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” 

(John 8:58, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)

Kreeft and Tacelli write an entire paragraph about this verse:

Most clearly and shockingly of all, he invited crucifixion (or stoning) by saying, “Very truly, I tell you (i.e. I am not exaggerating or speaking symbolically here; take this in all its force) before Abraham was, I am.” (Jn 8:58). He spoke and claimed the sacred name that God revealed to Moses, the name God used to name himself (Ex 3:14). If he was not God, no one in history ever said anything more blasphemous than this; by Jewish law, no one ever deserved to be crucified more than Jesus.

(HCA, p.151)

First of all, Kreeft and Tacelli assert an interpretation of the phrase “Very truly, I tell you…”, and that interpretation is clearly FALSE. They imply that this phrase means “I am not exaggerating or speaking symbolically here…”. However, there are at least seven other passages in the Gospel of John where Jesus prefaces a statement with the same phrase “Very truly, I tell you…” but where it is CLEAR that the statement that follows this phrase is NOT meant LITERALLY, but is meant SYMBOLICALLY or METAPHORICALLY:

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

(John 3:3-6, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.

(John 6:32, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

(John 6:53, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.

(John 10:1, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edtion)

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

(John 10:7, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.

(John 12:24, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

(John 21:18, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edtion)

The second “birth” that Jesus mentions in Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John is NOT a LITERAL birth. Jesus is speaking SYMBOLICALLY or METAPHORICALLY there. The “true bread from heaven” that Jesus mentions in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is NOT LITERAL bread. Jesus is speaking SYMBOLICALLY or METAPHORICALLY there. The eating of the “flesh” and drinking the “blood” of the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus) mentioned by Jesus in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is NOT talking about LITERALLY eating his flesh or LITERALLY drinking his blood. Jesus is speaking SYMBOLICALLY or METAPHORICALLY there. A “thief” climbing into the “sheepfold” mentioned by Jesus in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John is NOT about a LITERAL sheepfold or a LITERAL thief. When in the same chapter Jesus calls himself a “gate for the sheep” he does NOT mean that he is LITERALLY a gate. When in Chapter 12 of the Gospel of John Jesus talks about a “grain of wheat” falling into the earth and dying, and then bearing fruit, he is NOT making a point about LITERAL grains of wheat. When Jesus tells Peter in Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John that one day someone “will fasten a belt around you” Jesus is NOT talking about a LITERAL belt being placed on Peter (this is understood to be a prophecy by Jesus about Peter dying a martyr’s death).

The phrase “Very truly, I tell you” when used by Jesus in the Gospel of John, does NOT mean “I am not speaking symbolically here”. In making this OBVIOUSLY FALSE claim about this phrase, Kreeft and Tacelli demonstrate that they have no clue how to intelligently interpret the Gospel of John, or else that they have never bothered to actually READ the Gospel of John.

If nothing else, anyone who has actually read the Gospel of John should notice these two things: (1) Jesus very frequently speaks SYBOLICALLY or METAPHORICALLY in the Gospel of John, and (2) Jesus very often prefaces his statements with the phrase “Very truly, I tell you…” in the Gospel of John (twenty-five times, to be exact). So, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude (or at least suspect) that sometimes in the Gospel of John Jesus prefaces a SYMBOLIC or METAPHORICAL statement with the phrase “Very truly, I tell you…”. It only took me a couple of minutes to verify this was in fact the case. So, this FALSE claim made by Kreeft and Tacelli shows that they have no clue how to intelligently interpret passages from the Gospel of John.

Second of all, Kreeft and Tacelli FAIL to mention that the English translation of this verse is subject to serious doubt. Specifically, the phrase “I am” might well be an incorrect translation. In the GREEK text of the Gospel of John, the words translated as “I am” are “ego eimi”:

The exact same Greek phrase occurs in other passages of the Gospel of John, as well as in some other gospels, but it is NOT translated as “I am” in those other passages. It is usually translated as “I am he”:

Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

(John 4:26, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edtion)

I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.”

(John 8:24, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edtion)

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.

(John 8:28, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am he.”

(John 9:9, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur you may believe that I am he.

(John 13:19, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.

(John 18:5, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.

(John 18:6, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)


Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these people go.”

(John 18:8, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Because the GREEK phrase ego eimini is usually translated as “I am he”, in the Gospel of John, the decision to translate this phrase as “I am” in John 8:58 is questionable. The translation of this phrase in John 8:58 might well be an incorrect translation.

This is another reason to doubt the ability of Kreeft and Tacelli to intelligently interpret passages from the Gospel of John. Do they not know that the Gospel of John was originally written in GREEK? Do they not know that one should examine the GREEK text of a passage from John in order to make sure that a specific translation and interpretation of that passage is correct? Do they not know that the GREEK phrase ego eimini occurs in other passages of the Gospel of John and that it is NOT translated as “I am” in those other passages? It seems clear that Kreeft and Tacelli are either ignorant about the interpretation of the Gospel of John or they are being dishonest in hiding the fact that there is good reason to doubt the correctness of this translation of this verse.

Third of all, the phrase “I am he” is strongly associated with the claim that a specific person is the “Messiah”, the great King or leader of Israel that the Jews believed God would send them so that they would be able to live in a righteous and just kingdom where they would rule themselves and other nations, instead of being governed and oppressed by pagan nations.

For example, in the 4th Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman, and at the end of the conversation this is what they say:

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

(John 4:25-26, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

In the GREEK text Jesus tells her ego eimini which is translated (as it usually is) as “I am he”, and what this means in this context is clearly “I am the Messiah”. It does NOT mean “I am God”, and Jesus is NOT claiming “the sacred name of God” here.

In Chapter 14 of the Gospel of Mark, at the trial of Jesus before the Jewish leaders, the high priest directly asks if Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus responds “I am” (GREEK: ego eimini):

61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am, and

‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power’
and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’ ”

(Mark 14:61-62, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Jesus here uses this phrase to claim to be the “Messiah”. Jesus is NOT claiming to be God in this passage. Jesus is NOT claiming “the sacred name of God” here.

In both Mark and Luke, Jesus speaks of the end of the world and how as the end approaches many people will say “I am he”:

Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

(Mark 13:6, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray, for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

(Luke 21:8, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

What is it that these people are claiming? The author of the Gospel of Matthew provides the answer to this question by re-wording the phrase “I am he”:

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray.

(Matthew 24:3-5, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

The author of the Gospel of Matthew used the Gospel of Mark as his source for this passage, but clarifies the meaning of the phrase “I am he” (GREEK: ego eimini) by substituting the phrase “I am the Messiah!”. So, the author of the Gospel of Matthew understood the phrase “I am he” in Mark to be a way to claim to be the Messiah. This interpretation of the phrase “I am he” by the author of the Gospel of Matthew is confirmed by Jesus’ concluding remarks about the end times in the Gospel of Mark:

21 And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’—do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 

(Mark 13:21-22, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

So, in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, when Jesus uses the phrase “I am he” (GREEK: ego eimini), he is talking about a claim to be the Messiah, and he is NOT talking about a claim to be God. And as we saw above, in the first passage where Jesus uses the phrase “I am he” (GREEK: ego eimini) in the Gospel of John (John 4:25-26), he clearly uses this phrase to make the claim that he is the Messiah, and does NOT use this phrase to claim to be God.

Furthermore, there is a passage in Acts where John the Baptist denies that he is the Messiah by asserting “I am not he”, the opposite of the phrase “I am he”:

21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22 When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ 23 Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; 24 before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the strap of the sandals on his feet.’

(Act 13:25, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

It is clear that John the Baptist was NOT denying that he was God. Nobody thought John the Baptist was God, so there was no need for him to deny that. The reference to Jesus as the “promised” savior of Israel, and as “posterity” of King David clearly indicates that the phrase “I am not he” is used by John the Baptist to deny that he (John the Baptist) was the promised Messiah. This is so clear that several translations of this passage have John the Baptist assert “I am not the Messiah” or “I am not the Christ” or have him deny being “the Promised One”:

AMPLIFIED BIBLE
And as John was finishing his course [of ministry], he kept saying, ‘What or who do you think that I am? I am not He [the Christ]; but be aware, One is coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie [even as His slave]!’
NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
As John was finishing his ministry he asked, ‘Do you think I am the Messiah? No, I am not! But he is coming soon—and I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the sandals on his feet.’
WEYMOUTH NEW TESTAMENT
But John, towards the end of his career, repeatedly asked the people, “‘What do you suppose me to be? I am not the Christ. But there is One coming after me whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten.’
INTERNATIONAL STANDARD VERSION
When John was finishing his work, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I’m not the Messiah. No, but he is coming after me, and I’m not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet.’
CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH VERSION
Then, when John’s work was almost done, he said, “Who do you people think I am? Do you think I am the Promised One? He will come later, and I am not good enough to untie his sandals.”
HAWEIS NEW TESTAMENT
But as John was finishing his course, he said, Whom do ye suppose me to be? I am not the Messiah. But, behold! he is coming after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.

https://biblehub.com/parallel/acts/13-25.htm

In the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke, Jesus uses the phrase “I am he” to mean “I am the Messiah”. In the first passage of the Gospel of John where Jesus uses the phrase “I am he” it is clear that what he means is “I am the Messiah”. In Acts, when the story is told about John the Baptist denying that he was the Messiah, John the Baptist is said to have asserted “I am not he”. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to interpret the same phrase (GREEK: ego eimini) in John 8:58 to be a claim by Jesus to be the Messiah, and NOT as a claim by Jesus to be God.

Fourth of all, Jesus appears to be claiming to have existed prior to Abraham, who lived thousands of years before Jesus was born. This is taken by some Christians to mean that Jesus was claiming to be God. But this inference is wrong for a couple of reasons. First of all, Jesus existing before Abraham clearly does NOT imply that Jesus is God.

Noah existed before Abraham, but Noah is NOT God. Noah is NOT the eternal creator of the universe. Noah is NOT the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Adam existed before Abraham. But Adam is NOT God. Adam is NOT the eternal creator of the universe. Adam is NOT the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Michael the Archangel existed before Abraham. But Michael is NOT God. Michael is NOT the eternal creator of the universe. Michael is NOT the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Satan existed before Abraham. But Satan is NOT God. Satan is NOT the eternal creator of the universe. Satan is NOT the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

So, even if Jesus claimed to have existed before Abraham, that would NOT imply that Jesus was God, nor that he believed himself to be God. That would NOT be a claim by Jesus to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Another problem here is that it is NOT clear that Jesus was in fact claiming to have existed before the time of Abraham. Here is something else that Jesus says in Chapter 8 of the Gospel of John about his relationship to Abraham:

Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

(John 8:56, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition)

Abraham lived and died thousands of years before Jesus was born. So how could it be the case that Abraham “saw it”, that is, saw “my day”, that is, saw the day Jesus would walk the earth?

There are two main interpretations of the phrase “he saw it” given by bible commentators. First, there is the view that Abraham foresaw the coming of Jesus the Messiah through prophecy or divine revelation. Alternatively, some commentators think that Jesus is talking about Abraham experiencing or learning about Jesus’ life and ministry in the afterlife, thousands of years after Abraham had died. Jesus believed that people can be conscious and aware of earthly events even after they die.

Here are some examples of these two common interpretations of John 8:56:

ABRAHAM FORESAW JESUS’ DAY

Benson Commentary
And he saw it, and was glad — His faith was equivalent to seeing. By the favour of a particular revelation, Abraham had a distinct foresight of these things, and was exceedingly transported with the prospect.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
He saw it – See Hebrews 11:13; “These all died in faith, not having received (obtained the fulfillment of) the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them,” etc. Though Abraham was not permitted to live to see the times of the Messiah, yet he was permitted to have a prophetic view of him…
Matthew Poole’s Commentary
This father of yours foresaw my coming into the world, and my dying upon the cross. He saw it by the eye of faith, in the promise which was made to him, That in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He saw it in the type of Isaac’s being offered, then receiving him in a figure, Hebrews 11:19. He saw it in the light of Divine revelation.
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
and he saw it and was glad; he saw it with an eye of faith, he saw it in the promise, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed; …he saw also Christ and his day, his sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead, in a figure; in the binding of Isaac, in the sacrifice of the ram, and in the receiving of Isaac, as from the dead;

https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-56.htm

ABRAHAM SAW JESUS’ DAY FROM HEAVEN (IN THE AFTERLIFE)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
And he saw it, and was glad.—This is the historic fulfilment of the joy which looked forward to the day of Christ. Our Lord reveals here a truth of the unseen world that is beyond human knowledge or explanation. From that world Abraham was cognisant of the fact of the Incarnation, and saw in it the accomplishment of the promise…The truth comes as a ray of light across the abyss which separates the saints in heaven from saints on earth. As in the parable, where Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom, the rich man is represented as knowing and caring for his brethren on earth, so here the great Patriarch is spoken of as knowing and rejoicing in the fact of the Incarnation.
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
and he saw it, and was glad] A very important passage with regard to the intermediate state, shewing that the soul does not, as some maintain, remain unconscious between death and the Day of Judgment. The Old Testament saints in Paradise were allowed to know that the Messiah had come. How this was revealed to them we are not told; but here is a plain statement of the fact. The word for ‘was glad’ expresses a calmer, less emotional joy than the word for ‘rejoiced,’ and therefore both are appropriate: ‘exulted’ while still on earth; ‘was glad’ in Hades.
Pulpit Commentary
The proper sense was, doubtless, that, since the Lord became incarnate, Abraham’s exulting hope has been realized; that which he desired and rejoiced in anticipation to see has now dawned upon him. This becomes an emphatic revelation by our Lord in one palmary case, and therefore presumably in other instances as well, of the relation and communion between the glorified life of the saints, and the events and progress of the kingdom of God upon earth. A great consensus of commentators confirms this in terpretation – Origen, Lampe, Lucke, De Wette, Godet, Meyer, Stier, Alford, Lange, Watkins, Thoma. …Abraham rejoiced at the advent of Christ. He has seen it, and been gladdened.

https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/8-56.htm

On either of these two common interpretations of John 8:56, there is no implication that Jesus actually existed before Abraham existed. Abraham could have foreseen the day that Jesus would walk the earth through divine revelation (Jesus believed in prophecy and divine revelation), or Abraham could be aware of Jesus walking the earth at the time that Jesus walked the earth even though Abraham had died thousands of years before this occurred (Jesus believed that people can experience or be aware of events on earth in the afterlife).

In keeping with these two common interpretations of John 8:56, we could reasonably interpret John 8:58 as follows:

Before Abraham existed, God had a plan for me (Jesus) to come into existence (thousands of years after Abraham) and be the Messiah of the Jews and the savior of humankind.

On this interpretation, Jesus would NOT be claiming to have actually existed before Abraham existed.

Let me summarize the key points that I have made about John 8:58:

  1. Kreeft and Tacelli claim that the phrase “Very truly, I say to you…” in the Gospel of John means that the statement following that phrase is not meant SYMBOLICALLY, but this claim is clearly and obviously FALSE.
  2. Kreeft and Tacelli FAIL to mention that the GREEK phrase ego eimini is usually translated as “I am he”, elsewhere in the Gospel of John, so the translation of this phrase as “I am” in John 8:58 is questionable and might well be incorrect.
  3. In the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke, the phrase “I am he” (ego eimini) is clearly used to mean “I am the Messiah”, and the author of the Gospel of Matthew understands the phrase “I am he” in the Gospel of Mark to mean “I am the Messiah”, and in Acts, John the Baptist says “I am not he” in order to deny being the Messiah, and finally in the first instance where Jesus says “I am he” in the Gospel of John, he clearly means “I am the Messiah”.
  4. The idea that Jesus is claiming to be God by claiming to have existed before Abraham existed is mistaken because: (a) existing before Abraham does NOT imply that one is the eternal creator of the universe or the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe, and (b) it is UNCLEAR that Jesus was in fact claiming to have existed before Abraham existed.

For these reasons, the words attributed to Jesus in John 8:58 do NOT show that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God. This passage does NOT show that Jesus implied that he was LITERALLY 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 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…