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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

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

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

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

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

 
 

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

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

GROUPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Kreeft’s argument in standard form:

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

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

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

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

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

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

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

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

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

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

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

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

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

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

GROUPS

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

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

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

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

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

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleopas (Luke 24:18).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GROUPS

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

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

There are at least three UNCLEAR phrases in this statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 2: “Witnesses”

THE “WITNESSES” OBJECTIONS
In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) the first three objections that Peter Kreeft raises against the Hallucination Theory are all about “witnesses”:

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

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

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

Before we examine these three objections, I think it would be helpful to do something that Kreeft FAILED TO DO: get a clear idea of the meanings of the key terms “witnesses” and “eyewitnesses”.

Heinrich Buscher as a witness during the Nuremberg Trials.

 
WHAT IS A “WITNESS”?
Here is how my American Heritage College Dictionary (4th edition) defines “witness”:

witness…n.
1a. One who can give a firsthand account of something.
1b. One who furnishes evidence.
2. Something that serves as evidence; a sign.
3. Law a. One who is called on to testify before a court.
3b. One who is called on to attest to what takes place at a transaction.
3c. One who signs one’s name to a document to attest to its authenticity.
4. An attestation to a fact, statement, or event; testimony.
5a. One who publically affirms religious faith.
5b. Witness A member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The first couple of definitions appear to be relevant, so I will keep those in mind.
Kreeft is clearly talking about people, so definition 2 (about “Something”) does not apply here.
Kreeft is not talking about people who “testify before a court”.   However, people can “testify” in other less-formal circumstances too (e.g. to a police officer or detective who is investigating a crime, or to a group of people engaged in an inquiry that is not part of a legal or courtroom process.)  So, I will keep definition 3a for now, with the understanding that it could be stretched beyond a legal or courtroom setting.
The appearances of a risen Jesus are not “transactions”, so definition 3b does not apply here.
Kreeft is not talking about people signing any documents, so definition 3c does not apply here.
Although “attestation” is not a person, it is something that people do, and such attestation seems relevant to what Kreeft is talking about here, so I will keep definition 4 in play.
Although a Christian believer who publically affirmed the religious belief that “Jesus rose from the dead” would constitute a “witness” according to definition 5a, such a “witness” would provide no help to Kreeft’s case for the resurrection or against the Hallucination Theory UNLESS that person could also provide an account of having personally SEEN a risen Jesus.  So, simply affirming the religious belief that “Jesus rose from the dead” does not count as the sort of “witness” that Kreeft is talking about in these first three objections.  Definition 5a does not apply here.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a modern religious phenomenon, and so definition 5b has nothing to do with the “witnesses” that Kreeft is talking about, who are all people who (allegedly) lived in the first century C.E.  We can toss aside definition 5b.
Here are the remaining definitions of “witness” that might help us clarify what Kreeft means by the term “witnesses”:

1a. One who can give a firsthand account of something.
1b. One who furnishes evidence.
3a. One who is called on to testify before a court [or to a person or group who is investigating something].
4. An attestation to a fact, statement, or event; testimony.

There is an interesting and important difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  “One who can” give a firsthand account of X might, nevertheless, NOT give a firsthand account of X, just as “One who can” beat his elderly mother to death might NOT want to do so, and thus might well NOT beat his elderly mother to death.  The fact that person A can do X does not imply that person A has done X, nor does it imply that person A will do X.  Thus, someone who is a “witness” in accordance with definition 1a might not ever have given a firsthand account of the event in question.
Compare that definition with definition 1b.  One who “furnishes evidence” by giving an account of an event must necessarily give an account of the event.  So, if we are talking about someone “giving a firsthand account” of some event, then definition 1a includes people who CAN do this (including people who DO NOT actually do so), while definition 1b only includes people who ACTUALLY give a firsthand account of the event.  So, there is a BIG difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  Because Kreeft never bothers to clarify the meaning of the term “witnesses”, he FAILS to make it clear which of these two sorts of “witnesses” he is talking about.
Both definition 3a and definition 4 make reference to “testimony”.  Definition 3a speaks of someone being called on “to testify”, and definition 4 speaks of an “attestation”, and puts the word “testimony” forward as a synonym.  Also note that definition 3a has the same hypothetical character as definition 1a: someone “who is called on to testify” might, nevertheless, decide NOT to testify, or they could die or become mentally incapacitated before they get the chance to testify.  The fact that person A has been “called on to testify” on matter X does not imply that person A has in fact testified on matter X, nor does it imply that person A will testify on matter X.  Being “called on to testify” about some event does NOT mean that the person in question has or will ever testify about the event.
Compare that with definition 4 which talks about an “attestation to a fact, statement, or event”.  If there is “attestation” to an event, then someone necessarily has already testified about that event.  If there is “testimony” about an event, then someone necessarily has already testified about that event.
Thus, the contrast between definition 1a and definition 1b is similar to the contrast between definition 3a and definition 4.  In both cases, the difference is between potentially giving a “firsthand account” (or “testimony”) and actually giving a “firsthand account” (or “testimony”).
There is another interesting and important difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  While definition 1a talks about a kind of ACTIVITY (i.e. giving a firsthand account of something), definition 1b talks about a PURPOSE for that activity (i.e. furnishing evidence–by giving a firsthand account of something).  So, both definitions leave something outDefinition 1a leaves out a specification of the PURPOSE of giving a firsthand account of some event, and definition 1b leaves out a specification of the sort of ACTIVITY by which the purpose of furnishing evidence is accomplished.
One could give a firsthand account of an event for the PURPOSE of entertaining people.  People like to tell stories about events they have personally experienced.  When one tells such a story, one is giving a firsthand account of the event, but the PURPOSE of giving that account is NOT to furnish evidence to the audience who is listening to that account.  But entertaining people with a story about an event that one personally experienced does NOT make one into a “witness”.  To be a witness, one must have a particular PURPOSE for giving a firsthand account, namely: furnishing evidence.  I, therefore, recommend that these two elements be combined to provide a fuller definition of “witness”:

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

But we must still keep in mind the important distinction between someone POTENTIALLY doing this, and someone ACTUALLY doing this, so I will divide my proposed definition into two alternative definitions:

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

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

There is a third important distinction that is suggested by the definition 1a.  The phrase “a firsthand account” suggests that there could also be “a secondhand account” or a “thirdhand account” of an event.  In our legal system, there are significant constraints on “hearsay” testimony.  A person who is called on “to testify before a court” is usually a person who is believed to have been present during a relevant event and who observed or experienced that event.  Such a “witness” can furnish evidence by giving a “firsthand account” of that event.  But there are exceptions to this general rule, so in some instances, a “witness” can be called upon to provide “hearsay” testimony, an account of what someone else said about an event:

Hearsay evidence, in a legal forum, is testimony from a witness under oath who is reciting an out-of-court statement, content of which is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In most courts, hearsay evidence is inadmissible (the “hearsay evidence rule”) unless an exception to the hearsay rule applies.

For example, to prove that Tom was in town, a witness testifies, “Susan told me that Tom was in town.” Since the witness’s evidence relies on an out-of-court statement that Susan made, if Susan is unavailable for cross-examination, the answer is hearsay. A justification for the objection is that the person who made the statement is not in court and thus is insulated from cross-examination.  (from the article Hearsay in Wikipedia)

Although there may be some exceptions to the general rejection of hearsay evidence from a witness, hearsay evidence is a weak and substandard sort of evidence.  There can be a “witness” who furnishes evidence by giving a SECONDHAND account of something; however, such witnesses will not help Kreeft make his case for the resurrection of Jesus, because in order to show that a miracle has occurred, one needs to provide strong and solid evidence, and a witness who gives only a SECONDHAND or THIRDHAND account of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus will not be furnishing the strong and solid kind of evidence that is required to prove a miracle.  Although the term “witness” can in some cases be applied to a person who gives a SECONHAND account of an event, this use of the term “witness” does not apply to Kreeft’s attempt to prove the resurrection of Jesus.  Therefore, we can use definition 6a and definition 6b as potential interpretations of Kreeft’s use of the term “witness” even though those definitions exclude people who give only a SECONDHAND account of an event.
What about definition 3a and definition 4?  Both of those definitions focus on testimony.   Definition 3a talks about testifying “before a court”, but I pointed out that less formal and even non-legal situations can involve a “witness” who “testifies” about his or her experience of an event.  So, being a “witness” in a court trial is a paradigm case of a “witness” who “testifies” about an event, but these words are used beyond that particular sort of situation.  Definition 4 is very close to definition 3a, but definition 3a talks about “One” who is called to testify, whereas definition 4 talks about “testimony” which is basically the content or information provided by a “witness” who “testifies” either in a courtroom or in a more informal setting.  Because the term “witness” as used by Kreeft refers primarily to PEOPLE, definition 3a is better than definition 4 for interpreting what Kreeft means, and since definition 3a captures the idea of “testimony” in terms of the action “to testify”, it is reasonable to set definition 4 aside.
I think we may also set aside definition 3a, because the action “to testify” is already captured in my proposed definitions.  To “furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something” is “to testify”.  So, definition 3a is redundant in relation to definition 6a and definition 6b.  So, it seems to me that we have two clear and useful definitions of “witness” that are sufficient to help us clarify the key concept of “witness” in Kreeft’s first three objections:

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

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

 
WHAT IS AN “EYEWITNESS”?
According to my American Heritage Dictionary, an “eyewitness” is:

A person who has seen someone or something and can bear witness to the fact.

This seems a bit too narrow.  A blind person, for example, can be an “eyewitness”, even though a blind person cannot SEE someone or SEE something.  A blind person can HEAR someone or HEAR something, and can “bear witness to the fact” about what he or she heard.  Although seeing someone or something might provide more detailed information than hearing that someone or hearing that something, sometimes the words a person says or the sounds a person makes on a particular occasion are very important information for a criminal trial, and a blind person can have firsthand knowledge or information about such sounds.
The point here is that seeing someone or something is a kind of firsthand experience that provides a good amount of detailed information about that person or thing at the time when they were being seen.  But there are other senses besides vision that can provide firsthand experiences of people, things, and events.  So, I suggest revising this definition to make it a bit broader:

A person who has on a particular occasion seen, or had some firsthand sensory experience of, someone or something and can bear witness to what he or she experienced on that occasion.

Given that this is a clear and accurate definition of the term “eyewitness”,  the term “eyewitness” means basically the same as “witness” in the senses that I have defined above.   Remember, definition 6a and definition 6b both require that a “witness” give (or be able to give) a “firsthand account of something”, so in order to be a “witness” in the senses I have defined, one MUST be an “eyewitness”, one MUST be able to give a “firsthand account” of something.
 
CONCLUSION
As we examine Peter Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory, it will probably be useful to keep in mind the following two alternative definitions of the term “witness”:

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

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

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 1: Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection

MCDOWELL’S CASE AGAINST THE HALLUCINATION THEORY
I recently examined Josh McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF), and I showed that each one of the seven objections that McDowell raised against this skeptical theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.
The Hallucination Theory is the view that one or more of the disciples of Jesus had a hallucination (or dream or some sort of false or distorted experience) that seemed to be an experience of a physical living Jesus, an experience that took place sometime after Jesus had died on the cross.  This theory also asserts that this experience had by one or more disciples led to the mistaken but sincere conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead, and to the preaching of this belief by some of Jesus’ disciples in the first century, not long after Jesus was crucified.
In the most recent version of his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2017, co-authored with his son Sean; hereafter: EDV), McDowell appears to largely abandon his previous case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points us to Peter Kreeft’s case against this theory (see EDV pages 291-292).
However, Kreeft’s case in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (1994; hereafter: HCA) has thirteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, many of which seem very similar to McDowell’s seven objections in The Resurrection Factor.  Since the first publication of TRF was in 1981 and HCA was published in 1994, it seems likely that McDowell’s objections in TRF strongly influenced Kreeft’s objections in HCA.  McDowell also presented a similar list of six objections against the Hallucination Theory in an early version of EDV, which was published in 1979 (see EDV pages 247-255).  Since Kreeft appears to have borrowed heavily from McDowell on this subject, Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory is probably not much different than McDowell’s case against it.
 
KREEFT’S CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
The logic of Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus is given in Chapter 8 of HCA.

Dr. Peter Kreeft believes there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and the Hallucination Theory is one of those theories:



In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), 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:

The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data?

There are only five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon.

[…]

Thus either (1) the resurrection really happened, (2) the apostles were deceived by a hallucination, (3) the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally, (4) the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history, or (5) Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected.

[…]

If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1).

(HCA, p.182)

If Kreeft FAILS to disprove the Hallucination Theory, like McDowell FAILED to disprove it, then Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.
 
KREEFT’S CASE SMELLS LIKE FAILURE
Because Kreeft’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are very similar to the objections raised by McDowell, I strongly suspect that all thirteen of these objections will FAIL, just like all seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAILED.  But Kreeft’s objections are not identical to the seven objections raised by McDowell, and McDowell apparently believes that Kreeft has done a better job of making a case against the Hallucination Theory than he had previously done, so perhaps some of Kreeft’s objections are strong and solid, in spite of their being inspired by McDowell’s pathetic objections.
It is not merely the fact that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory seems to be based largely on McDowell’s FAILED case against that skeptical theory that leads me to believe Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL.  I suspect that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL, because Kreeft’s case against the Swoon Theory FAILED completely and because Kreeft’s case against the Conspiracy Theory FAILED completely.   Kreeft has already demonstrated that he has no intellectual ability to distinguish between a strong and solid objection to a theory and a weak and faulty objection and that he is capable of presenting collections of several objections all of which are weak or illogical or dubious.
Furthermore, a brief glance at Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory reveals that it suffers from the same basic problems as McDowell’s case. First, it is ridiculously short.  Kreeft presents his thirteen objections in less than two (full) pages of text (see HCA, p.186-188).  This results in two major intellectual problems:

(1) empirical claims about the nature of hallucinations are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate scientific evidence and scientific reasoning, and

(2) historical claims about Jesus and his disciples are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate historical evidence and historical reasoning

McDowell and Kreeft both generally make many factual claims and assumptions, and they almost never back them up with appropriate evidence and reasoning, even when those claims are crucial to their case.
 
FIVE SETS OF OBJECTIONS
Kreeft actually 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)

Having examined these fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, I am now convinced that they all FAIL to refute that skeptical theory, and that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.  For the remaining posts in this series I will work my way through the five groups of objections, and will argue that each of the fourteen objections FAILS.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 12: What is Potentiality?

WHERE WE ARE
In his book Philosophy of Religion  (hereafter: POR), Norman Geisler provides an argument in support of the second premise of his Thomist Cosmological Argument (see pages 194-197).  Here is my understanding of the argument that Geisler gives in support of that premise:

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

53a. There is some actuality outside of every composed thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

 51a. Every limited changing thing is composed of both an actuality (its existence) and a potentiality (its essence).

THEREFORE:

L1. There is some actuality outside of every limited changing thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

THEREFORE:

2b. The present existence of every limited, changing thing is caused by another thing.

Before we can evaluate this part of Geisler’s argument, we must first have a clear understanding of what these claims mean.
 
CLARIFICATIONS NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND GEISLER’S ARGUMENT FOR THE 2ND PREMISE
This part of the argument is clearly steeped in concepts from Thomistic metaphysics.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally mistaken or confused, then this part of the argument is likely to fail under close examination.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally correct and logical, then this part of the argument is likely to be successful.
In any case, this part of the argument is UNCLEAR apart from careful and clear definitions and explanations of some basic concepts of Thomistic metaphysics.  The main question at issue for now is this:
Q1. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts that he makes use of in this part of his argument?
Premise (52), for example, MAKES NO SENSE, at least as it stands, apart from an explanation of Thomist metaphysics.  So, our main question at issue can be focused further:
Q2. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts in premise (52), so that we can have a clear understanding of what this premise is asserting?
Premise (52) consists of two main concepts, and so Geisler needs to provide clear answers to at least two questions of clarification:
Q3. What is a “potentiality”?
Q4. What does “X actualized Y” mean?
Furthermore, it is NOT obvious that (52) is TRUE, so Geisler also needs to provide some justification for this claim:
Q5. Why is it not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself”?
 
WHAT IS A “POTENTIALITY”? (QUESTION 3)
Here is a passage where Geisler attempts to clarify the concept of a “potentiality” and attempts to answer Question 3:

Geisler states that a “potential” is “the mere capacity to have a certain kind of existence.”  That is a crappy definition. What the hell is “a certain kind of existence”?  How many kinds of existence are there?  Something either exists or it does not exist.  Do some things have SUPER existence? Do some things only have QUASI existence?  Do some things have MEGA-DOUBLE-SECRET existence? Talk about kinds of existence sounds like WOO-WOO pseudo-science bullshit.
However, Geisler does then go on to provide some specific examples, and that might help to clarify what the hell he means by the manifestly UNCLEAR phrase “a certain kind of existence”.   Geisler talks about “the potential for steel to be a skyscraper” and “the real potential” of an “empty bucket” to “be filled”.  So, steel has the potential to either be girders stacked into pile on the ground, or to be assembled together as the framework of a skyscraper.  A bucket has the potential to either be empty or to be filled with water.
We would NOT normally speak of these potential states as being “kinds of existence”, so the Thomistic terminology here is foreign to how we ordinarily talk about such things and states of things.  Steel has the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and buckets have the potential to contain water (and other liquids).  Air, at ordinary temperatures and pressures, does NOT have the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and (as Geisler points out) the flat surface of a desk top does NOT have the potential to contain water (or other liquids), at least not in any sizeable quantity (You could spray a mist of water onto the surface of a desk top, and the water would remain in place for an hour or more until it evaporated. But this would be a very inefficient way to transport water from one location to another!).

By some measures, what came to be known as a “skyscraper” first appeared in Chicago with the 1885 completion of the world’s first largely steel-frame structure, the Home Insurance Building. It was demolished in 1931.

But a particular steel girder either exists or it does not exist.  It’s “kind” of existence doesn’t change when it is moved from a pile of girders and assembled into the framework of a new building.  It existed in the pile, and it continues to exist in the framework of the new building; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence in this process.  The bucket exists when it is empty, and it continues to exist when it is filled with water; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence when filled with water.  So, when Geisler defines “A potential” in terms of the capacity “to have a certain kind of existence”, he is just muddying the water and failing miserably to clarify the meaning of this term.
It appears that there are not degrees of existence, and this casts doubt on the whole idea of “kinds of existence”.  However, the “potential” to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper does appear to be a matter of degree.  Air clearly does not have the “potential” to be used as the primary material for constructing the framework of a skyscraper, nor does liquid water have such a “potential”.  But if water is frozen into large columns and bars, it could be used to construct a temporary framework for a one-story building.
Ice would, however, melt in warm temperatures, so it would be a poor choice to use it in the structure of even a small building (except for igloos in areas that stay freezing cold year round).  Ice also is not as strong as wood 2x4s.  You can use wood to construct the framework of a two or three-story building, and it would be sturdy and stable, in both cold and warm weather.  But wood  2x4s are not as strong as steel girders, so wood 2x4s would not work for construction of the framework of a skyscraper.  We can see that there are different degrees of suitability of materials for construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

Air & Liquid Water:  useless for constructing a framework for any building.

Frozen Water:  can be used to construct a framework, but not strong enough to support multiple stories, and melts in warm weather (over 32°F).

Wood 2x4s: can be used to construct a framework that is strong enough to support a few stories, doesn’t melt in warm weather, burns up at high temperatures (over 570°F), but is not strong enough to support dozens of stories.

Steel Girders:  strong enough to be used to construct frameworks for buildings with dozens of stories, will not melt in warm weather (steel melts at 2,500°F), and does not burn up at temperatures where wood burns up (steel burns at 1,500°F in pure oxygen, and at 2,246°F in air).

The suitability of a material for use in constructing the framework of a building is a matter of degrees, because (a) there are different degrees of strength, and there are different degrees of susceptibility to melting, and  different degrees of susceptibility to burning.  Thus, there are different degrees of “potential” of different materials for use in construction of the framework of a building, and of a skyscraper.
The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose is typically a matter of degrees and typically is a matter of more than one criterion.  Some things or materials might be completely unsuitable, while some things/materials are somewhat suitable, and some things/materials are very suitable or ideal for the purpose at hand.  The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose depends on the properties or characteristics of that thing that are relevant to the particular purpose under consideration.
Steel girders have “great potential” for use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers because they are very strong (stronger than wood 2x4s), because they don’t melt in ordinary temperatures, and don’t burn, except at extremely high temperatures.  These various properties or characteristics of steel girders are what make steel girders very suitable for this particular purpose; they are what give steel girders this “great potential” related to the purpose of use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers.
Here is an summary (in more abstract terms) of how we understand the idea of the “potential” of a steel girder to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

The “potential” of thing T to perform function F depends on various properties of T that are relevant to how well it can perform function F

How do we determine whether thing T has the “potential” to perform function F well?

  • One obvious way of making this determination is to observe T performing function F, and evaluating how well it is performing that function.
  • Another way of making this determination is by making inductive inferences about T based on how well other things that are SIMILAR to T perform function F.   We might observe many wood 2x4s in the frameworks of many different buildings, and based on many such observations, we may reasonably infer that some particular 2×4 is well-suited for use in the construction of a framework for a two-story house or apartment building, and based on many such observations we may reasonably infer that some particular wood 2×4 is NOT suitable for use in the construction of the framework for a 40 story office building.
  • A third way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties, such as strength in the case of materials for use in constructing the framework of a building.  Strength tests could be made on a particular 2×4 to determine whether it was strong enough for the intended framework that is to be constructed.
  • A fourth way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties of things that are SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  Strength tests can impact the thing being tested (the test itself can break or weaken the thing), so we might run tests on things that are very SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  We might run tests on a random sample of 2x4s from a particular source of lumber, and if 100% of the samples pass the test, we might reasonably infer that other 2x4s from that source of lumber are also strong enough to pass the test, and thus suitable for use in construction of a framework for a specific building.

So, we can either (a) observe the particular thing performing the desired function, or (b) we can observe SIMILAR things performing the desired function, or (c) we can check or test the particular thing for the relevant properties that make it suitable for that function, or (d) we can check or test SIMILAR things for the relevant properties that would make them suitable for that function.  There may be other ways to determine the “potential” of a thing T to perform a function F well, but these are some of the important ways we have of making such determinations.
 
POTENTIAL VS. POSSIBLE VS. ACTUAL
There are three closely related concepts that I think we need to understand in order to have a clear understanding of what the term “potential” means in the context of Geisler’s Thomistic Cosmological Argument: potential, possible, and actual.  I think we need to understand how these concepts relate to each other.
In Aristotle’s theory of change, whenever any change occurs some potential has been actualized.  When a green banana turns into a yellow banana, we say that the green banana had the “potential” to become a yellow banana.  We KNOW that this particular green banana had this potential because we observed that it actually became a yellow banana.  In other words, when a property of a thing ACTUALLY changes, we infer that the thing had the POTENTIAL to have the new property.  The banana was ACTUALLY green, and had the POTENTIAL to become yellow, and then at some point it was ACTUALLY yellow, and no longer green.  The change in color of the banana was a POTENTIAL that became ACTUAL.
Because this banana is now ACTUALLY yellow, we know that is is POSSIBLE for this banana to be yellow, because what is ACTUAL is necessarily logically possible. But does having the POTENTIAL to be yellow the same thing as it being logically possible to be yellow?  I know that Ed Feser rejects equating these two concepts.  But I’m not sure whether Geisler distinguishes these two concepts.
One important difference, it seems to me, is that the POTENTIAL to be yellow ceases to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  But the logical possibility of being yellow does NOT cease to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  When the banana turns yellow, it no longer has the POTENTIAL to be yellow, and it is ACTUALLY yellow.  But we infer that it HAD the potential to be yellow previously, when it was still completely green.  In the case of logical possibility, when the banana turns yellow, it is still logically possible for that banana to be yellow, even while it is ACTUALLY yellow.  We infer not only that this was logically possible when the banana was completely green, but that it is still logically possible now that the banana is completely yellow.
Having the POTENTIAL to be yellow is a kind of physical possibility for the green banana.  We know from many experiences with green bananas that they often turn yellow over a period of days.  The chemical and biological nature of bananas makes it so that they tend to turn yellow as they age.  So, a banana turning from green to yellow is NOT merely a logical possibility, it is a tendency of (some varieties of) bananas to go from green to yellow over a matter of days after being picked.  This tendency is based on the chemical and biological nature or composition of bananas.   It is logically possible for a green lime to turn yellow a few days after being picked, but limes don’t tend to do this.  The mere logical possibility of some change in properties is NOT sufficient to bring about that change.  Limes don’t have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, but they do have the logical possibility of turning yellow days after being picked.  Bananas have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, because they have a nature or composition that gives them a tendency to do so.  This tendency to turn yellow in a matter of days is MORE THAN just a logical possibility for a banana, it is something more like a physical possibility for bananas to turn yellow.
Does an ACTUAL change in property logically imply that a thing had MORE THAN just a logical possibility of undergoing that change? Some changes are random and extremely rare.  According to quantum physics, it is possible for all of the air molecules in a room to quickly move to one small area in the corner of the room, causing any people or animals in the room to asphyxiate.  But this possibility is so extremely unlikely, so extraordinarily improbable, that we can safely assume this will never actually happen.  Since the laws of chemistry and physics are based upon such extreme improbabilities, it is logically possible for a law of chemistry or physics to be broken.  I take it that this means that an ACTUAL violation of a supposed law of physics is logically consistent with that law being a true law of physics.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
In the next post on this topic, I will try t clarify the meaning of Geisler’s term “X actualized Y” (Question 4), and look into why he thinks it is not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself” (Question 5).
P.S.  I hope that when I get around to examining Feser’s Thomist Cosmological Argument, that Feser will make more of an effort than Geisler to define and/or clarify the basic concepts in his argument.  The fact that Geisler makes so little effort to define or clarify his most basic terms leads me to suspect that he himself is UNCLEAR about the meaning of those basic terms, and that he literally does not know what he is talking about.

bookmark_borderBack to God and Leviticus

When Easter rolled around this year, I dove back into the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”  These are issues that I have enjoyed thinking about for the past four decades, and will continue to think and write about for the rest of my life.
 
DEFENDING THE HALLUCINATION THEORY
I wrote a series of posts defending the Hallucination Theory, specifically examining seven objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor.  I discovered that the main problem with McDowell’s discussion about this skeptical theory is that he DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE about (a) what the word “hallucination” means, (b) what psychologists have learned about hallucinations and dreams, and (c) how to present a clear and intelligent argument for an historical claim about Jesus.  So, McDowell had no chance of producing a solid and strong refutation of the Hallucination Theory.  
His more recent defense of the resurrection in a book co-authored with his son, Evidence for the Resurrection mostly re-hashes the same pathetic objections against the Hallucination Theory, and COMPLETELY FAILS to refute that skeptical theory just like he COMPLETELY FAILED to refute it in The Resurrection Factor.  I noticed that in the most recent version of Evidence that Demands a Verdict McDowell abandoned his pathetic case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points to Peter Kreeft’s pathetic attempt to refute it (although Kreeft’s attempt appears to lean heavily on McDowell’s case).
 
DEFENDING OTHER SKEPTICAL THEORIES ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
If you are interested in the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” you might want to also see my series of posts defending the Conspiracy Theory against objections raised by Peter Kreeft in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), and my series of posts defending the Apparent Death Theory (or “Swoon Theory”) against objections raised by Peter Kreeft.

Portion of the Temple Scroll, labeled 11Q19, one of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 
BACK TO GOD, LEVITICUS, AND THE PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
Having exposed McDowell’s sham of a case against the Hallucination Theory, I will now return to my previous topics:

  • Leviticus and Homosexuality

Part 12: More Bad Guidelines is where I left off on Leviticus.

  • Feser’s Perverted Faculty Argument

Part 1: The Core Argument is where I left off on the Perverted Faculty Argument.

  • The Thomist Cosmological Argument

I’m critiquing Norman Geisler’s pathetic attempt to present a Thomist cosmological argument, as a warmup exercise before I attempt to critique Feser’s better and clearer presentation of this argument for the existence of God.

 

bookmark_borderMy First Book

I’m planning to write my first book this year:
Thinking Critically about the Resurrection of Jesus
Actually, a good portion of the book has already been written, at least in terms of the key ideas and arguments.
The book will have two main purposes:

  1. Critical Analysis and Evaluation of Peter Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus.
  2. Teach and Promote the key concepts, principles, and skills of critical thinking.


The initial outline of the book follows the main premises of Kreeft’s argument:

  1. Introduction to Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.
  2. Introduction to Critical Thinking.
  3. Did Kreeft Refute the Swoon Theory?
  4. Did Kreeft Refute the Conspiracy Theory?
  5. Did Kreeft Refute the Hallucination Theory?
  6. Did Kreeft Refute the Myth Theory?
  7. Are There Only Four Skeptical Theories of the Resurrection of Jesus?
  8. Conclusion

Each chapter will focus on a few key concepts, principles, or skills of critical thinking, based on what is most relevant for the subject and thinking examined in that chapter.
Since Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus is very similar to Josh McDowell’s case,  I might also do some evaluation of McDowell’s case, especially where he has an argument or objection that is different from Kreeft’s on a particular subject (e.g. an objection to the Swoon Theory that Kreeft does not present).

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 7: The DOESN’T MATCH THE FACTS Objection (TRF7)

WHERE WE ARE
In the previous six posts of this series, I have shown that at least five out of seven (71%) of Josh McDowell’s objections in The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF) against the Hallucination Theory FAIL:
McDowell has at most provided only two solid objections against the Hallucination Theory, NOT seven.  However, in this current post I will show that Objection TRF7 (Doesn’t Match the Facts) also FAILS.  Thus, at least six out of his seven objections FAIL, at least 85% of his objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.
 
THE “DOESN’T MATCH THE FACTS” OBJECTION (TRF7)
In TRF McDowell states his seventh objection, Objection TRF7, in a single paragraph consisting of only two sentences:

A final principle is that hallucinations have no spectrum of reality–no objective reality whatsoever.  The hallucination theory in no way accounts for the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and especially the subsequent actions of the high priests.           (TRF, p.86)

First of all, the claim that hallucinations have “no objective reality” is NOT a general psychological principle.  This is NOT an empirical generalization that psychological experts have arrived at on the basis of observations or experiments.
Of course, McDowell NEVER offers ANY actual evidence for ANY of his alleged “psychological principles”, and he has NO CLUE what psychological experts actually know or believe about hallucinations.  But in lumping this idea (that hallucinations lack objective reality) in with his other alleged “psychological principles” he shows that he doesn’t understand what the hell he is talking about.
The idea that hallucinations are subjective and have “no objective reality” is a conceptual claim, not an empirical claim.  If one is a competent speaker of the English language, then one knows that hallucinations are purely subjective in nature; that is part of the MEANING of the word “hallucination”.  No psychological observations or experiments are required to know this.  But McDowell’s head is too far up a dark place for him to notice the difference between this conceptual claim and the dubious empirical generalizations that most of his other objections are based upon.
Given that McDowell presents this objections in only two sentences, it should come as no surprise that this objection is VERY UNCLEAR.  Given that McDowell subtitled the section where he presents Objection TRF7 as “Doesn’t Match the Facts” (TRF, p.86), he implies that the following four items are each “facts”:

1. the empty tomb

2. the broken seal

3. the guard units

4. the subsequent actions of the high priests

Strictly speaking, these are NOT FACTS.  These are phrases.  These are incomplete sentences.
To be CLEAR, McDowell needs to spell out what specific claims he has in mind here, and that requires spelling out several complete sentences representing the various claims that are summarized by these four phrases.  Because he presents this objection in only two sentences, McDowell FAILS to clearly state the key claims upon which Objection TRF7 is based.
Furthermore, McDowell makes NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to explain HOW or WHY these vaguely hinted at claims are relevant as evidence against the Hallucination Theory.  It is very tempting to conclude that Objection TRF7 FAILS right out of the starting gate because McDowell’s presentation of it is SO UNCLEAR.  However, McDowell discussed these four items earlier in TRF, so with a bit of thought and effort, one might be able to figure out the specific claims that McDowell has in mind here, and at least make educated guesses about HOW or WHY he thinks they constitute significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory.
 
THE PROBLEM OF CONFIRMATION BIAS
Objection TRF7 is at best a WEAK OBJECTION, because it is an example of CONFIRMATION BIAS.  McDowell has selected a few considerations that he believes support his cherished belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and/or that he believes cast doubt on the Hallucination Theory.
Two can play this game!  A skeptic can also come up with a list of considerations that seem to support the Hallucination Theory and/or that cast doubt on the Christian view that Jesus physically rose from the dead.  For example, the alleged doubt and disbelief of Jesus’ disciples about Jesus’ rising from the dead appears to provide a strong reason to doubt credibility of the Gospels, which in turn makes it UNREASONABLE to believe that a person rose physically from the dead on the basis of the Gospel accounts (see the section titled “IF PREMISE (3) IS TRUE, THEN WE SHOULD REJECT THE VIEW THAT JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD” in Part 5 of this series where I spell out this line of reasoning).
Furthermore, the Gospels of Mark and Matthew indicate that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples took place in Galilee a week or more after the crucifixion, while the Gospels of Luke and John indicate that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples took place in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after Jesus was crucified.  This is a fundamental disagreement between the Gospels that strongly undermines the credibility of the Gospels, and that is specifically related to the credibility of the Gospels on the key issue of the appearances of the risen Jesus.    McDowell doesn’t include THESE FACTS in his list.  Why not?  Because they run contrary to his desired conclusion!  His list is BIASED in favor of his desired conclusion.
Anyone can generate a list of considerations that support their own point of view about Jesus and the resurrection.  But such a list is NOT an objective or complete list of relevant considerations, and such a list is clearly BIASED in favor of the proponent’s beliefs.  To put forward such a BIASED list of considerations and argue that one’s opponent’s view is wrong because he or she is unable to account for those “facts” is UNREASONABLE; this is an unreasonable approach to a controversial question (i.e. “Did Jesus physically rise from the dead?”).  Objection TRF7 is based on a BIASED list of considerations, and so it is a WEAK OBJECTION at best.
 
ELIMINATION OF ITEM #4: THE SUBSEQUENT ACTIONS OF THE HIGH PRIESTS
First of all, McDowell has provided us with a “padded” list.  The fourth item in his list is REDUNDANT with another item in the list.
When McDowell previously discusses “the subsequent actions of the high priests” in TRF, he was discussing the actions of the high priests subsequent to the alleged events of the first Easter Sunday and to the preaching of the resurrection by Jesus’ disciples.  The reactions of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to the events of the first Easter Sunday and to the preaching of the resurrection by Jesus’ disciples is used by McDowell to argue for “the empty tomb”.
For example, according to McDowell the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem (allegedly) claimed that Jesus’ disciples stole his body from the tomb, and McDowell argues that this is evidence that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem believed that the tomb where Jesus had been buried on Friday evening was empty as of Sunday morning. From this he infers that it is certain or nearly certain that Jesus was in fact buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening and that his body was no longer in that tomb as of Sunday morning.
So, we may eliminate Item #4 in McDowell’s list, because its relevance is as evidence for Item #1: “the empty tomb”.  That leaves only three items in his list.
 
ELIMINATION OF ITEM #2 AND ITEM #3: THE GUARD AT THE TOMB
Here are the UNCLEAR phrases that McDowell uses to state the second and third items in his list:

  • the broken seal
  • the guard units

McDowell has previously quoted a story from the Gospel of Matthew about how Pilate orders a unit of soldiers to guard the tomb of Jesus in order to prevent anyone (especially followers of Jesus) from stealing Jesus’ body from the tomb (TRF, pages 54-60, and 64).  In that story, the guards place a seal on the tomb, which was, according to McDowell, a symbol representing the authority of the Roman Empire prohibiting anyone from opening or entering into the tomb, on pain of death by crucifixion.  The seal was allegedly broken when an earthquake took place on Sunday morning that moved the blocking stone from the entrance of Jesus’ tomb, thus allowing the risen Jesus to exit the tomb.
The problem here is simple and straightforward:  These are NOT FACTS!!  They are not even well-supported theories.  These are, rather, very dubious CLAIMS.  Consider this statement by a contemporary scholar about the guard at the tomb story:
If most NT scholars consider the guard at the tomb story in Matthew to be UNHISTORICAL, then Item #2 and Item #3 in McDowell’s list are NOT FACTS, but are very dubious CLAIMS.
Who is this scholar that I quote above?  Is this a liberal or skeptical scholar who rejects miracles and doubts the Christian belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead?  Nope.  This is a quote from a leading Christian apologist, an apologist who specializes in defending the traditional Christian belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead!  This is a quote from Dr. William Lane Craig (see “Questions on the Evidence for the Resurrection” on Craig’s apologetic website).  Given that Craig has a strong bias in favor of the traditional Christian belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead, we have good reason to accept his statement that most NT scholars view the guard at the tomb story as being UNHISTORICAL.
Craig, himself, does not think that the case for this story in Matthew being UNHISTORICAL is conclusive, but he does admit that the evidence casts significant doubt on the historicity of this story:
 
(from “The Guard at the Tomb” by Dr. William Craig)
So, we may eliminate Item #2 and Item #3 in McDowell’s list, because they are NOT FACTS but are DUBIOUS CLAIMS that are rejected or doubted by most NT scholars.  That leaves only ONE item in his list.
 
SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH ITEM#1: THE EMPTY TOMB
It turns out that McDowell does NOT have four considerations in Objection TRF7 that each provide significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory.  It turns out that he has at most just ONE consideration that might provide significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory, namely Item #1: “the empty tomb”.
Recall that this list of considerations is a BIASED list, and so even if “the empty tomb” consideration provides significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory, Objection TRF7 will still be a WEAK OBJECTION, because skeptics can also produced BIASED lists of considerations, some of which provide significant evidence against the Christian view that Jesus physically rose from the dead.
The Meaning of “The Empty Tomb”
The phrase “the empty tomb” requires CLARIFICATION, which McDowell does not bother to provide when he presents Objection TRF7.  However, his previous discussions in TRF related to “the empty tomb” provide information that can be used to infer what he means by this phrase.
McDowell basically tells a STORY about “the empty tomb”, a story that consists of DOZENS of historical claims concerning events that allegedly occurred beginning on Friday when Jesus was crucified, continuing through Sunday night following that Friday, and also (perhaps) including some events that took place weeks later (e.g. the preaching of the apostles about the resurrection of Jesus and the reactions of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to that preaching).  This story told by McDowell is based on his interpretations of various passages from the four Gospels and the book of Acts, plus some additional historical claims and assumptions made by McDowell.
The main problem of clarification is to determine WHICH of the DOZENS of historical claims and assumptions that McDowell makes concerning “the empty tomb” are considered by him to be essential, and which are details that are not essential.  Because McDowell FAILS to provide clarification about the meaning of the phrase “the empty tomb”, I will make an educated guess about which of his many historical claims and assumptions on this subject are essential, and thus constitute the MEANING of this phrase:

  • Joseph of Arimathea was given permission by Pilate to remove the body of Jesus from the cross on Friday afternoon.
  • Joseph of Arimathea removed the body of Jesus from the cross on Friday afternoon, shortly before sunset.
  • Some of the women who were followers of Jesus watched Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus to a nearby stone tomb, and watched Joseph prepare the body for burial, and they watched the body of Jesus being placed in the tomb, and then watched a large blocking stone be moved in place to shut the opening of the tomb, just before sunset on that Friday.
  • On Saturday, Pilate ordered a contingent of soldiers to guard the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed, in order to prevent someone from stealing Jesus’ body.
  • On Saturday, a contingent of soldiers assembled at the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed, in order to place a seal on the tomb and to guard the tomb, in order to prevent someone from stealing Jesus’ body.
  • Early on Sunday morning the blocking stone at the entrance of the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed was moved away from the opening of the tomb, breaking the seal placed on the tomb by the soldiers.
  • Early on Sunday morning, the soldiers who had been assigned to guard the tomb, stopped guarding the tomb, and they left the area where the tomb was located.
  • Early on Sunday morning, a group of women who were followers of Jesus, including some who had watched Jesus’ body being placed into the stone tomb on Friday evening, returned to the tomb.
  • When the group of women arrived at the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed on Friday, they found the large blocking stone moved away from the opening of the tomb, and they found the tomb to be “empty”, that is, they found that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb.
  • Some of the women who went to the tomb early on Sunday morning went back into Jerusalem and told some of Jesus’ male disciples what they had seen.
  • At least two of Jesus’ male disciples (i.e. Peter and John) went to the tomb that day and saw that the tomb was “empty”, that is, they found that Jesus’ body was no longer present in the tomb.

It is my educated guess that these are the bare-bones historical claims that Josh McDowell has in mind when he uses the phrase “the empty tomb”.  This is based on both my reading of McDowell’s “story” about “the empty tomb” as well as my own sense of what is most important and essential among the many historical claims and assumptions asserted by McDowell about “the empty tomb”.
“The Empty Tomb” is NOT a Fact
There are a couple of OBVIOUS reasons for rejecting McDowell’s claim that “the empty tomb” is a FACT.  First, I eliminated the Item #4 from McDowell’s list because it was part of the EVIDENCE that McDowell presented in support of “the empty tomb”.   The giving of EVIDENCE in support of “the empty tomb” indicates that “the empty tomb” is the CONCLUSION arrived at on the basis of various reasons and arguments, which implies that “the empty tomb” is NOT a FACT.
One might argue that “the empty tomb” story as presented by McDowell is TRUE or ACCURATE, but if this is a CONCLUSION based on evaluation and consideration of various reasons and arguments, then “the empty tomb” is more of an INFERENCE or THEORY than a FACT.  A FACT should not require evaluation and consideration of various reasons and arguments.   Rather, FACTS are, or should be, the starting points for use in arriving at CONCLUSIONS or for confirming THEORIES.
When we are talking about historical issues, the use of the word “fact” should be limited to two sorts of considerations: (1) raw historical data (e.g. “The Gospel of Mark states that Mary Magdalene and two other women went to the tomb of Jesus very early on Sunday morning.” This is something we can know by direct observation, by simply reading the Gospel of Mark.), and (2) historical claims that are about events that were (allegedly) directly observed (e.g. “On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene looked inside of Jesus’ tomb and she saw that Jesus’ body was not present in the tomb.”  We who live two thousand years after these events allegedly took place cannot know this to be true on the basis of direct observation, but this is a claim about what Mary Magdalene learned or believed on the basis of direct observation.)
Inferences and theories are fine, and some inferences and theories are TRUE and ACCURATE, and we can sometimes provide very strong and powerful reasons and arguments showing an inference or theory to be TRUE.  But what we know on the basis of direct observation, and what others learn or believe on the basis of direct observation deserve to be given special respect, and this sort of information should be distinguished from inferences and theories.  Direct observations are NOT infallible.  Observations can be mistaken, misleading, or misremembered, and people can LIE about their own alleged direct observations.  Nevertheless, direct observations deserve respect as our best and most sure guides to reality, as our most important way of testing and evaluating inferences and theories.
So, given that McDowell offers various reasons and arguments in support of “the empty tomb” story, and that those reasons and arguments themselves are based on various alleged historical facts, this clearly indicates that “the empty tomb” is NOT a FACT, but is an inference or theory.
Because “the empty tomb” appears to be a somewhat complex story or account that involves several different historical claims covering various events and details over a period of a few days (at least).   This is not an idea that can be easily proven, and this is not an idea that can be evaluated on the basis of our own direct observations.  We need to gather MANY FACTS, and consider various reasons and arguments based on those FACTS in order to evaluate the truth and accuracy of this complex story about events that took place over two thousand years ago.   Thus, it is at best very misleading to say that “the empty tomb” is a FACT.
Furthermore, there are a number of PROBLEMS and REASONABLE DOUBTS concerning the many historical claims listed above that constitute the idea of “the empty tomb”.  Some NT scholars doubt that Joseph of Arimathea was an actual historical person.  As we have already seen MOST NT scholars doubt the historicity of the guard at the tomb story in Matthew, and thus doubt the historical claims about there being soldiers who guarded the tomb of Jesus.  Some NT scholars doubt that Jesus was buried in a tomb.  Some NT scholars doubt the historicity of the stories about a group of women going to the tomb on Sunday morning and finding it to be empty.  There are a whole lot of reasons and arguments to consider, both for and against the various historical claims that constitute the complex idea of “the empty tomb”.
It is NAIVE to view the evaluation of the historicity and accuracy of this account that McDowell has constructed (based on his own understanding and interpretation of the Gospels) as being simple or straightforward.  This is a complex issue, and it is unlikely that a REASONABLE person will end up concluding that ALL of these various historical claims that McDowell views as essential to “the empty tomb” story are clearly true and that ALL of them are completely accurate.  With such a complex set of historical claims, many of which have been doubted or rejected by competent NT scholars, it is likely that some of the claims are FALSE or DUBIOUS, and thus it is a mistake to say that “the empty tomb” is a FACT.
“The Empty Tomb” is NOT Significant Evidence For the Resurrection Theory
Although the various historical claims that constitute “the empty tomb” story do FIT WITH the Christian belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead, these claims, even if completely true and accurate, do not provide strong evidence for this belief.
Other explanations can be given for “the empty tomb”.  The body of Jesus could have been stolen by Jesus’ disciples (i.e. the twelve), or by some subset of them (one of them, two of them, three of them, etc.), or it could have been stolen by Jewish leaders in Jerusalem (to prevent veneration of the dead body of Jesus) or by some subset of those Jewish leaders (one of them, two of them, etc.), or by anti-Roman Jewish rebels who respected Jesus or who wanted to use the cruel death of Jesus to promote violent rebellion against the Romans.
Jesus could have survived the crucifixion, revived in the tomb on Saturday, and frightened off the Roman guard by yelling from within the tomb, and the blocking stone at the entrance of the tomb could have been moved by Jesus, by an earthquake, by people who were burying a family member in a nearby tomb who heard Jesus yelling from inside his tomb.  According to “the empty tomb” story as outlined above, the women returned to the same tomb where they saw Jesus body placed on Friday evening.  But if we just tweak that one detail, and suppose the women returned to the wrong tomb, we can accept all the rest of “the empty tomb” story, but conclude that Jesus body remained in the tomb where it had been placed on Friday evening.
McDowell would argue that skeptical theories about the body of Jesus being stolen from the tomb or about the women returning to the wrong tomb are all highly improbable.  But I am familiar with the various objections that Christian apologists raise against such skeptical theories, and those objections are just as weak and defective as we have seen most of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory to be.  I won’t go into discussing all of those objections here, but I have carefully examined those objections and all of them FAIL to refute or to seriously damage the stolen-body theories.
One example of a FAILED objection against the view that Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb is the difficulty of the would-be thieves getting past the soldiers who were guarding Jesus’ tomb.  Although the presence of the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb is part of “the empty tomb” story, as McDowell tells it, this specific part of that story is very dubious, because most NT scholars doubt or reject the guard-at-the-tomb story in the Gospel of Matthew as being UNHISTORICAL.  So, if one maintains “empty tomb story” in general but drops one of the most dubious parts of that story as told by McDowell, and sets aside the guard-at-the-tomb claims, then one of the main objections to the stolen-body theories is no longer supported by “the empty tomb” story.  If McDowell insists that the guard-at-the-tomb claims are an essential part of “the empty tomb” story, then we can reject “the empty tomb” story because it contains dubious historical claims, but if we remove the guard-at-the-tomb claims from “the empty tomb” story, then one of the main objections to stolen-body theories goes away.
Furthermore, if we are allow SUPERNATURAL explanations for “the empty tomb” to be given serious consideration, then there are plenty of alternatives to the Christian SUPERNATURAL explanation:

  • Satan moved the body of Jesus to an unmarked grave hundreds of miles away (perhaps in order to deceive the apostles into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead).
  • Satan destroyed the body of Jesus, using fire to turn the corpse into ashes.
  • God moved the body of Jesus to an unmarked grave hundreds of miles away (perhaps to prevent his followers from venerating Jesus’ body).
  • Angels moved the body of Jesus to the top of the mountain where Moses had received the Ten Commandments, in order to provide a more proper burial for a man they believed to be a great prophet.
  • Angels destroyed the body of Jesus, in an effort to prevent Satan from physically raising Jesus from the dead to deceive his disciples into believing Jesus was the divine Son of God.
  • A wizard caused the body of Jesus to vanish into thin air, or caused the body of Jesus to magically instantaneously move to another tomb.
  • An invisible dragon lifted Jesus onto it’s back, and flew the body of Jesus to Australia, in hopes of absorbing some of Jesus’ magical powers during the long flight.

There is no end to possible SUPERNATURAL explanations for “the empty tomb”.  Once we allow SUPERNATURAL explanations for historical events, there are limitless possibilities to consider.
 
“The Empty Tomb” is NOT Significant Evidence Against the Hallucination Theory
A key question at issue is WHETHER and TO WHAT DEGREE the Hallucination Theory FITS WITH “the empty tomb” historical claims.
First, it should be obvious that there is NO CONTRADICTION between “the empty tomb” story and the Hallucination Theory.  Thus, even if “the empty tomb” story/claims are completely accurate and true, this would NOT disprove nor refute the Hallucination Theory.  The body of Jesus could have been buried in a stone tomb on Friday, and been absent from that tomb on Sunday morning, and this would in no way prevent or preclude some of Jesus’ followers from having hallucinations, including hallucinations of a risen Jesus.
Second, “the empty tomb” story, even if completely accurate and true, does NOT make the Hallucination Theory improbable.  Rather, “the empty tomb” story, if true, provides evidence that supports the Hallucination Theory. 
If Jesus’ followers became convinced that Jesus body was buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening, but was absent from that tomb on Sunday morning, this belief would incline them towards the idea that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.  So, if some of Jesus’ followers experienced hallucinations of Jesus being alive again, their belief in “the empty tomb” story would incline them to interpret those hallucination experiences as evidence that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.  Apart from belief in “the empty tomb” story, they might otherwise interpret hallucinations of a living Jesus as being merely “visions” of Jesus in heaven, or as being experiences of Jesus’ ghost or spirit, as opposed to being experiences of a Jesus who had physically risen from the dead in a body, the same body that had been hanging from the cross on Friday afternoon.
Furthermore, McDowell believes that an hallucination of circumstance C occurring is significantly much more likely when the hallucinator has previously had a wish or expectation that circumstance C occur. If this psychological principle is true, and  if Jesus’ disciples believed “the empty tomb” story, this belief would incline them towards wishing that Jesus had risen from the dead, or expecting to meet or see the risen Jesus.  Given this psychological principle that McDowell believes and advocates,  the truth and accuracy of “the empty tomb” claims would make it more likely that some of his disciples would experience hallucinations of a risen Jesus.
So, if we accept the “psychological principle” that McDowell advocates about how hallucinations are usually produced by wishes or expectations, then we should also view the truth of “the empty tomb” claims as providing evidence that supports the Hallucination Theory, evidence that makes it more likely that some of Jesus’ followers experienced hallucinations of a risen Jesus, when there was no actual risen Jesus to see or hear.
The Resurrection Does NOT Explain the Empty Tomb
I think the main idea behind Objection TRF7 (“Doesn’t Match the Facts”) is the belief that the physical resurrection of Jesus explains some “facts” that the Hallucination Theory does not explain, and thus in order to explain those “facts” skeptics must add additional assumptions beyond just the claims made by the Hallucination Theory, and that Christians who believe and defend the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead do not have to add additional assumptions to that view in order to explain those “facts”.  In the case of “the empty tomb”, the idea is thus that belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus explains “the empty tomb”, but the Hallucination Theory does NOT explain “the empty tomb”, so skeptics are forced to accept additional assumptions (e.g. to add assumptions about how the body of Jesus was stolen from the tomb by some person or group) in order to explain “the empty tomb”.
While it is true that the Hallucination Theory does not by itself explain “the empty tomb” claims, it is ALSO the case that the belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead does not by itself explain “the empty tomb” claims.
For example, Jesus coming back to life inside the tomb does NOT explain how the large blocking stone was moved from the entrance of the tomb, so that Jesus could exit the tomb and leave it “empty”.  If one adds the assumption that Jesus was omnipotent and could move the stone with just a thought, then one could explain that the risen Jesus used his omnipotence to make the large stone move away from the entrance of the tomb.  But this is an added assumption to the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and this assumption is an extraordinary and highly controversial one.
Alternatively, one could add the assumption that Jesus had a new body that had the supernatural ability to pass through solid objects, and then explain that Jesus was able to leave the tomb by simply passing through the stone with his new supernatural body.  But this adds an additional assumption beyond the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and this assumption is an extraordinary and highly controversial one.
Another explanation that could be made is that two angels descended from heaven and caused and earthquake in order to move the stone away from the entrance to the tomb, thus allowing the risen Jesus to simply walk out of the tomb.  But this requires additional assumptions beyond the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and these additional assumptions are extraordinary and highly controversial ones.
In short, the view that Jesus rose physically from the dead does NOT by itself explain “the empty tomb” claims, and so it is unclear why we should accept the claim that the view that Jesus rose physically from the dead “Matches the Facts” related to “the empty tomb” but the Hallucination Theory does not.  BOTH theories require additional assumptions in order to explain “the empty tomb”.   Furthermore, it looks like the additional assumptions used by Christians to explain “the empty tomb” are extraordinary and highly controversial, but the additional assumptions used by skeptics who defend the Hallucination Theory are not extraordinary and are only somewhat controversial.
 
CONCLUSION
We can eliminate Item #4 from McDowell’s list of “FACTS” with which the Hallucination Theory allegedly does not “MATCH”, because that item is redundant with Item #1 (the empty tomb).  We can also eliminate Item #2 ( the broken seal) and Item #3 (the guard units), because these items are clearly NOT FACTS.  That leaves us with only ONE item: Item #1: “the empty tomb” story, which is a complex set of several historical claims.
I argued that “the empty tomb” story is NOT a FACT, that it does NOT provide strong evidence for Christian view that Jesus rose physically from the dead, and that the “empty tomb story” not only FAILS to refute or disprove the Hallucination Theory, but that it FAILS to make the Hallucination Theory improbable, and in fact provides additional support for the Hallucination Theory. Also, the Christian theory that Jesus physically rose from the dead does NOT by itself explain “the empty tomb”, but like the Hallucination Theory, requires some additional assumptions, which in the case of the Christian theory are both extraordinary and highly controversial assumptions.
Finally, even if “the empty tomb” story did provide significant evidence AGAINST the Hallucination Theory, Objection TRF7 would still FAIL to be a strong and solid objection, because of the problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS.  Skeptics can play the same game as McDowell and come up with a list of considerations that cast doubt on the Christian view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and at least some of those considerations will provide significant evidence AGAINST the Christian belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead.
I conclude that Objection TRF7 FAILS, and thus that at least six out of seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL, and thus at least 85% of his objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.

At best, only ONE of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory is a good and solid objection (TRF2: Very Personal).  I will take a closer look at Objection TRF2 in the next part of this series of posts.