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

WHERE WE ARE

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

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

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

Here are those key points:

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

THE SECOND DILEMMA SUPPORTING PREMISE (1A)

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUNNING INTO A DEAD-END

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KEY PASSAGES FROM THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE WE ARE

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

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

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

THE TRILEMMA VS THE QUINTLEMMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Jesus claim to be God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Jesus claim to be God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(HCA, p.161)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(HCA, p.161)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIXING THE MESS MADE BY KREEFT AND TACELLI

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

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

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

The MYTH VIEW is true IF AND ONLY IF:

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

AND

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL EVALUATION OF THE FIRST DILEMMA

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

Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 2: The Five Alternatives

In Part 1 of this series, I showed that the main argument for the divinity of Jesus given by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics goes like this:

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

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

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In this post, we will analyze and clarify the first premise of this argument.

PREMISE (1A): THE FIVE ALTERNATIVES

The first premise of Kreeft’s argument for the divinity of Jesus asserts that there are only five logical possibilities:

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

The five alternative views are as follows:

  • Jesus was God.
  • Jesus was a liar.
  • Jesus was a lunatic.
  • Jesus was a guru.
  • Jesus was a myth.

None of these claims is clear as it stands. Each claim needs to be clarified and made more specific.

JESUS WAS GOD

In Part 1, I have already clarified the meaning of the claim “Jesus is God”, and the claim that “Jesus was God” implies that “Jesus is God” because one cannot be God for a day, like being King for a day, or president for a day. Being God, for example, implies being eternal, and one cannot be eternal for just one day or one week.

Furthermore, God’s omnipotence and omniscience are supposed to be eternal attributes, attributes that God has always had in the past, and that God will always have in the future. If some being were omnipotent for just one day or just one week, that being would NOT be God, and that being would NOT even be God for one day. So, if it is the case that “Jesus was God” in the past, then it must also be the case the “Jesus is God” today. Furthermore, the reverse is true as well. If Jesus is God today, then it must also have been the case that “Jesus was God” two thousand years ago, and two million years ago. Thus, “Jesus was God” means the same thing as “Jesus is God”.

JESUS WAS A LIAR

What does the claim “Jesus was a liar” mean? Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of the term “liar”. One important and obvious point to note is that telling one lie does NOT make a person a “liar”. In fact, most people tell lies frequently (most young children and teenagers tell lies, and most young adults/college students tell lies, and most adults in general tell lies), but it is unclear that we should conclude that most people are liars. The point of the use of the word “liar” is to categorize a small subset of people as being particularly dishonest. We tolerate a fair amount of lying as just par for the course. For this reason, the Merriam-Webster definition of “liar” is clearly wrong:

a person who tells lies

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liar

On this definition, everyone, or almost everyone, would be a “liar”. More is required than telling an occasional lie to make a person a “liar”. But how often does one have to lie in order to be properly categorized as being a “liar”? That is NOT at all clear.

Furthermore, it would seem that telling small white lies on a regular basis might not be enough to make one a “liar”. It might require telling some big or serious lies on a regular basis to make one a “liar”. But how many big or serious lies does one have to tell in order to be a “liar”? That is also NOT clear. So, the term “liar” does NOT mean “a person who tells lies”; something more than that is required, but it is UNCLEAR what exactly is required to make a person a “liar”.

Therefore, the term “liar” is a problematically VAGUE and UNCLEAR term, apart from a careful analysis and a clear definition of this term. But Kreeft and Tacelli provide no such analysis or definition of the word “liar”. Apart from a clear definition of the word “liar” it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make a rational evaluation of whether Jesus (or anyone else) was, in fact, a “liar”.

JESUS WAS A LUNATIC

What does the claim “Jesus was a lunatic” mean? Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of the term “lunatic”. He does, however, sometimes use the word “insane” in place of the word “lunatic”, so presumably, he views these words as synonyms (see Kreeft’s use of “insane” and “insanity” when introducing this part of the argument on pages 155 and 156 of HCA).

The dictionary definition of “lunatic” indicates an AMBIGUITY in this term:

People who are NOT insane sometimes believe things that are WILDLY FOOLISH for them to believe. For example, I think that it is WILDLY FOOLISH for Kreeft to believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead, but I do NOT think that Kreeft is insane. So, the word “lunatic” has a stronger and weaker sense. In the stronger sense of the word, to say that “Jesus was a lunatic” means that “Jesus was insane”. In the weaker sense, it means that “Jesus held some wildly foolish beliefs”. Because Kreeft uses the word “insane” as a synonym for the word “lunatic”, it seems likely that he intended the stronger sense of the word “lunatic”:

affected with a severely disordered state of mind: INSANE

However, the term “insanity” is no longer an accepted medical diagnosis:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insanity

So, there is no generally accepted medical definition of the term “insane”. Thus, the meaning of this word is problematic and UNCLEAR.

JESUS WAS A GURU

What does the claim “Jesus was a guru” mean? Kreeft provides no definition of the term “guru”. However, he does describe the view that “Jesus was a guru”, and his description could be used to clarify the meaning of the term “guru” in this context.

When Kreeft initially introduces the idea of Jesus being a “guru”, he focuses on Jesus’s alleged claim to be God:

Perhaps even though the Gospels tell the truth that Jesus claimed divinity, and even though he could not be a liar or a lunatic, and therefore the claim is true, yet he didn’t mean it to be understood literally, but rather in a mystical way. According to this theory, we should interpret his claim to divinity…in an Eastern, Hindu or Buddhist, sense. Yes, Jesus was God, and knew it, and claimed it–but we are all God. We unenlightened nonmystics just don’t realize it. Jesus was an enlightened mystic, a guru, who realized his own inner divinity.

(HCA, p.165)

I take it that being a “guru” in this context is about Jesus claiming to be God, and Jesus intending this claim to be understood in a NONLITERAL way, such that his view was that every human being is God, just as much as Jesus is God. What this view asserts, then, is that Jesus was NOT claiming to be the creator of the universe, and Jesus was NOT claiming to be omnipotent and omniscient. Jesus was NOT claiming to possess the divine attributes that constitute the western/Christian concept of “God”. In claiming to be “God”, Jesus was merely indicating that he believed that he was “one with God” in the very same way that all human beings are “one with God”.

JESUS WAS A MYTH

What does the claim “Jesus was a myth” mean? Kreeft provides no definition of the term “myth”. However, Kreeft does clarify the view that he has in mind corresponding to the claim that “Jesus was a myth”. Like the view that “Jesus was a guru”, the view that “Jesus was a myth” is, in this context, focused on the idea of Jesus claiming to be God:

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

(HCA, p.161)

The view that “Jesus was a myth” is NOT the view that there was no actual historical Jesus. Rather, this view assumes that there was in fact a historical Jesus, but that the historical Jesus NEVER claimed to be God. In other words, the Gospels, and other New Testament writings, assert that Jesus claimed to be God, and that Jesus believed himself to be God, but all such claims are FALSE and UNHISTORICAL. The idea that Jesus claimed to be God is FICTIONAL: it is a myth that Jesus claimed to be God, and it is a myth that Jesus believed himself to be God.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 1: The Basic Argument

Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus in Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press, 1994, hereafter: HCA). Because their case for the existence of God (in Chapter 3 of HCA) and their case for the resurrection of Jesus (in Chapter 8 of HCA) both FAIL miserably, it is reasonable to anticipate that their case for Jesus’s divinity will also FAIL.

Furthermore, in the process of evaluating one of their objections to the Myth Theory, I examined their “scriptural data” supporting the divinity of Jesus (in Chapter 7 of HCA) and found serious problems with the conclusions they derived from that data: Defending the Myth Theory – INDEX (see Parts 4 through 7). So, I already have good reason to believe that a key part of their case for Jesus’s divinity FAILS.

Kreeft provides a very brief summary of this case early in Chapter 7:

Jesus claimed to be God, and Jesus is believable, therefore Jesus is God.

(HCA, p.156)

From this summary argument, we see that the conclusion of the main argument in Chapter 7 is this:

Jesus is God.

We also see that a key premise of the argument is this:

Jesus claimed to be God.

A couple of pages later, Kreeft goes on to spell out a more complex version of this argument:

1. Jesus was either Lord, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

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

3. Therefore “Jesus is Lord”…

(HCA, p.158).

Based on Kreeft’s initial summary argument, we know that the conclusion he is trying to establish is NOT the vague claim that “Jesus is Lord” but the strong and clear claim that Jesus is God.

So, in order for Kreeft’s argument to work to establish his intended conclusion, the wording of the conclusion of the more complex argument must be revised, and that means the wording of the first premise must also be revised so that it supports the revised conclusion:

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

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

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

I take it that this is the main argument in Chapter 7, and that if this argument is a bad argument, then Kreeft and Tacelli will have FAILED to establish the divinity of Jesus.

Notice that the logic of this argument is very similar to the logic of the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli for the resurrection of Jesus in Chapter 8. They attempted to prove that the apostles were telling the truth about the resurrection of Jesus by eliminating the alternative possibilities that the apostles were liars (the Conspiracy Theory), or that the apostles were lunatics (the Hallucination Theory), or that their story about Jesus rising from the dead was not intended to be taken literally (the Myth Theory), or that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross, so his being alive after the crucifixion was not a miracle (the Swoon Theory).

Before attempting any further clarification or evaluation of the premises of Kreeft’s argument in Chapter 7, we should clarify the conclusion a bit more:

3A. Jesus is God.

What does it mean to say that “X is God”? Primarily, this means that “X has the divine attributes”, the attributes that make God who God is. Kreeft and Tacelli spell out some key divine attributes in Chapter 4 of HCA:

…God is spiritual… God is not a material being.

(HCA, p.92)

God Is Eternal

(HCA, p.93)

God is the creator and sustainer of all things.

(HCA, p.95)

God Is Omniscient and Omnipotent

(HCA, p.96)

God Is Good…God cannot be evil in any way…

(HCA, p.96)

Thus, the claim that

3A. Jesus is God.

has a number of implications, such as the following:

  • Jesus is spiritual. Jesus is not a material being.
  • Jesus is eternal.
  • Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all things.
  • Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing).
  • Jesus is omnipotent (all-powerful).
  • Jesus is good. Jesus cannot be evil in any way.

If we find out that Jesus has all of these divine attributes, then that would show that Jesus is God. Similarly, if we find out that Jesus lacks some of these divine attributes, that would show that Jesus is NOT God.

bookmark_borderDefending the Myth Theory: COMPLETED

After my series of posts on the Hallucination Theory, where I showed that every one of Peter Kreeft’s objections against that theory FAILS, I started another series where I examined each of Kreeft’s objections against the Myth Theory. I also showed that every one of Kreeft’s objections against the Myth Theory FAILS:

Because The Secular Outpost had shut down, I published that entire series of fifteen posts on my own blog:

Thinking Critically about: God, Jesus, and the Bible

I have also published an article that has links to all of the posts where I defended the Myth Theory:

Defending the Myth Theory – INDEX

bookmark_borderThe Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

In Chapter 8 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (1994, InterVarsity Press, hereafter: HCA), philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli attempt to prove that Jesus really physically rose from the dead.

The idea of trying to prove the resurrection of Jesus in just twenty-two pages (without a single footnote or endnote) is ridiculous, but most Christian apologists believe they can prove just about any extraordinary claim in just a few paragraphs or in a few pages, so the pathetic attempt by Kreeft and Tacelli to prove the resurrection of Jesus in one short chapter is actually above average in terms of intellectual effort typically made by Christian apologists.

Kreeft and Tacelli identify FIVE Theories concerned about “what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday…” :

1. Christianity: “the resurrection really happened”

2. Hallucination: “the apostles were deceived by a hallucination”

3. Myth: “the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally”

4. Conspiracy: “the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history”

5. Swoon:  “Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected”

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, they can PROVE that Jesus rose from the dead by refuting the four skeptical theories above:

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

(HCA, p.182)

Kreeft and Tacelli claim to do just that in their one brief chapter on the resurrection:

Swoon, conspiracy, hallucination, and myth have been shown to be the only alternatives to a real resurrection, and each has been refuted.

(HCA, p.195)

These key claims form the overall argument of Chapter 8:

1. IF Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory, THEN Kreeft and Tacelli have proven that Jesus really rose from the dead.

2. Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory.

THEREFORE:

3. Kreeft and Tacelli have proven that Jesus really rose from the dead.

The logic of this argument is fine. However, there are two serious problems with this argument. First, premise (1) is FALSE. Second, premise (2) is FALSE. So, the overall argument of Chapter 8 is an UNSOUND argument. Or, as we in the philosophy and critical thinking business like to say, this argument is a piece of CRAP.

PREMISE (2) OF THE OVERALL ARGUMENT IN CHAPTER 8 IS FALSE

Here, again, is premise (2) of the overall argument in Chapter 8:

2. Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory.

Kreeft and Tacelli raise fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Hallucination Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Hallucination Theory – Index

Kreeft and Tacelli raise six objections against the Myth Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Myth Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Myth Theory – INDEX

Kreeft and Tacelli raise seven objections against the Conspiracy Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Conspiracy Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Conspiracy Theory – INDEX

Kreeft and Tacelli raise nine objections against the Swoon Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Swoon Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Swoon Theory – INDEX

Since every single objection raised by Kreeft and Tacelli against every one of the four skeptical theories FAILS, it is clearly and obviously the case that they have FAILED to refute ANY of the four skeptical theories. Thus, premise (2) of the overall argument in Chapter 8 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics is FALSE. Therefore, the overall argument in Chapter 8 is UNSOUND and should be rejected.

PREMISE (1) OF THE OVERALL ARGUMENT IN CHAPTER 8 IS FALSE

Here, again, is premise (1) of the overall argument in Chapter 8:

1. IF Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory, THEN Kreeft and Tacelli have proven that Jesus really rose from the dead.

I have argued that there are MANY MORE skeptical theories in addition to the four theories that Kreeft and Tacelli attempt (but completely FAIL) to refute. Because there are MANY MORE skeptical theories in addition to the four that Kreeft and Tacelli discuss, it is clear that premise (1) is FALSE.

In the following two posts, I show that there are MANY MORE skeptical theories in addition to the four discussed by Kreeft and Tacelli:

The Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection – Part 1: Three Serious Problems

The Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection – Part 2: MANY Skeptical Theories

Because Premise (1) of the overall argument in Chapter 8 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics is clearly FALSE, the overall argument in Chapter 8 is UNSOUND and should be rejected. And because it is also clearly the case that premise (2) of that argument is FALSE, there can be no doubt that the overall argument in Chapter 8 is UNSOUND, and should be rejected.

The case for the resurrection of Jesus by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Chapter 8 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics is a COMPLETE FAILURE.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory: COMPLETED

At the end of November 2021, I published Part 17 in a series of posts defending the Hallucination Theory of the alleged resurrection of Jesus. At that point, The Secular Outpost shut down.

However, I continued to write and publish further posts in that series over at my own blog:

THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT: GOD, JESUS, AND THE BIBLE

I published Part 18 of this series on December 9, 2021, and then continued to publish posts in this series until I completed refuting every objection raised against the Hallucination Theory by Peter Kreeft. In Part 45, which was published on February 10th 2022, I finished refuting Kreeft’s final objection.

I also published an INDEX article that has links to the first 17 posts published at The Secular Outpost, and also links to the rest of the posts (Part 18 to Part 45) that I published on my own blog:

Defending the Hallucination Theory – INDEX

bookmark_borderBack in Business!

The Secular Outpost shut down (publication of new posts ceased) in December of 2021. The Internet Infidels have started a new skeptical blog called The Secular Frontier. Posts previously published at The Secular Outpost will still be available here at The Secular Frontier.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 17: Follow Up Investigation

WHERE WE ARE
In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics Peter Kreeft raises 14 objections against the Hallucination Theory in an attempt to DISPROVE or REFUTE that skeptical theory.  Kreeft thinks he can prove the resurrection of Jesus by disproving a few skeptical theories about the resurrection of Jesus, such as the Hallucination Theory.
Kreeft’s first three objections focus on the idea of the credibility of eyewitness testimony in support of the resurrection of Jesus.  These objections evoke the centuries-old idea of a court trial providing evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead.
In recent posts, I have provided powerful evidence in support of two important factual claims:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.
  • In Part 13 of this series, I provided evidence showing that human memory is UNRELIABLE.
  • In Part 14 of this series, I provided evidence that very young children (ages 2 to 3 years old), and young children (ages 4 to 10 years old) are DISHONEST and that teenagers are also DISHONEST.
  • In Part 15 of this series, I provided evidence that college students are DISHONEST.,
  • In Part 16 of this series, I provided evidence that adults in general are DISHONEST.

Taken together, Parts 14, 15, and 16 provide solid evidence showing that humans are in general DISHONEST.
These empirical FACTS about human memory and human behavior provide good reasons for skepticism and doubt about eyewitness testimony.  So, these FACTS undermine the first three objections by Kreeft against the Hallucination Theory.
I also began to challenge the idea that a court trial could provide powerful evidence that proves the resurrection of Jesus.  This challenge is in relation to the alleged 500 witnesses who supposedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus.  This claim about the 500 witnesses constitutes Kreeft’s third objection against the Hallucination Theory.
I have challenged this objection by carefully considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper modern criminal investigation, such as might now be conducted in the case of a serious crime, like murder, rape, kidnapping, or armed robbery.  In Part 12 of this series, I considered the basic tasks and procedures for conducting a “Preliminary Investigation” of a crime scene and of witnesses present at the crime scene.  The conclusion I reached was this:

First of all, it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people.

Second, if there was a preliminary investigator and a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, it is very unlikely that this preliminary investigation satisfied the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation into an event.

Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful and proper preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, in accordance with the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation.

Such a proper “Preliminary Investigation” is crucial for the prosecution to build a strong case that could potentially prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular person committed the murder (or other serious crime) in question.
In this current post, I will continue this line of thought by considering the tasks and procedures for conducting a proper “Follow-up Investigation” into a murder (or other serious crime).
 
A. PREPARATIONS FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to prepare to interview witnesses to a crime (from p.21 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
FI-A1. Did a follow-up investigator review available information about the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of witnesses BEFORE interviewing those witnesses?
First of all, it is very unlikely that there was any preliminary investigation into this event, and it is extremely unlikely that there was a preliminary investigation that was done carefully and properly in accordance with modern procedures and standards.  Furthermore, most people in first century Palestine and the surrounding areas were illiterate, and could not read or write.  So, even if there was a generally proper initial investigation of this event, this probably would NOT have produced a full and accurate written record of the information gathered in that preliminary investigation.  So, the best that a follow-up investigator could do (assuming that the follow-up investigator was not the same person as the preliminary investigator) would be to discuss the event with the preliminary investigator to find out verbally what the preliminary investigator had discovered.  Such a verbal transmission of information would provide an INCOMPLETE and BIASED and INACCURATE collection of information relative to what was actually discovered by the preliminary investigator.
Second, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event (even if we count an investigation that happens weeks or months after the event as being a “follow-up investigation” without there having been any “preliminary investigation” within hours or days of the event).  Even if there had been a follow-up investigation, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so an investigator probably would not have bothered to carefully “review available information” about the alleged appearance of Jesus prior to interviewing alleged witnesses of this event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses carefully reviewed the available information about this event prior to interviewing the alleged witnesses.
FI-A2. Did a follow-up investigator conduct interviews with these hundreds of witnesses as soon as these witnesses were physically and emotionally capable?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to hundreds of people.  Second, there is no immediately obvious motivation for an investigation to occur immediately after the alleged event (i.e. within hours or a few days), so even if there was an investigation of this event, it probably would have taken place weeks or months or years after the event allegedly took place.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses of this alleged appearance of Jesus as soon as the witnesses were physically and emotionally capable of being interviewed (i.e. an hour or a day after the event).  This means that IF any such interviews took place weeks or months or years after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between witnesses and with people who were not present during the event, as well as simply by the passage of time and the natural fading of memories.
FI-A3. Did a follow-up investigator select an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those witnesses? 
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so even if there had been a follow-up investigation of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is unlikely that an investigator would have put any thought or effort into finding an environment that would minimize distractions while maintaining the comfort level of the alleged witnesses.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator selected an environment for interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that minimized distractions while maintaining the comfort level of those alleged witnesses.
FI-A4. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses and for accurately recording or documenting the interviews of the hundreds of witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus (e.g. notepad, tape recorder, cam corder, interview room)?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, there were no professional detectives in the first century, so nobody had an idea of what is required for a proper interview of a witness.  Third, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is unlikely that the investigator could read and write, because most people in first-century Palestine and surrounding areas were illiterate, and even if the investigator could read and write, there would be little motivation to carefully produce a full written record of the interviews of hundreds of alleged witnesses, because most people would be unable to read those documents.  Also, there was no such thing as a tape recorder or video camera in the first century, so such standard ways of accurately preserving the contents of an interview were unavailable in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator of the alleged appearance of Jesus to hundreds of witnesses ensured that resources were available for a proper interview of the hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and for accurately recording or documenting those interviews.
FI-A5. Did a follow-up investigator ensure that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stay separated from each other prior to being interviewed (so that they would not discuss this event with each other)?
First, it is very unlikely that there was any follow-up investigation of this event.  Second, because there were no professional detectives in the first century and because psychologists have only very recently discovered how easily memories of eyewitnesses can become corrupted or how easily completely false memories can be implanted in the mind of a witness, even if there was a follow-up investigation of this event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have been concerned about keeping the witnesses separated from each other.
Furthermore, even if by some miracle there was an investigator of this event, and the investigator requested and advised all of the hundreds of alleged witnesses to NOT discuss the event with each other, it is highly unlikely that the witnesses would have complied with this request.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator ensured that all of the hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus stayed separated from each other (so that they did not discuss the alleged appearance of Jesus with each other) prior to being interviewed.  This means that IF any follow-up interviews of the witnesses took place some days, weeks or months after the event, the memories of the witnesses would likely have been corrupted by discussions about the event between the various witnesses.
FI-A6. Did a follow-up investigator determine the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted the preliminary investigation (into this alleged event where hundreds of people experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus)?
It is not clear to me what the purpose or motivation is for this task.  Perhaps this is just one way to establish rapport with the witness.  Perhaps the motivation is to find out if the previous interaction between the preliminary investigator and this witness was congenial and whether the witness was cooperative and forthcoming with the previous “preliminary” investigator.
However, recordings or complete notes from the preliminary interview of that witness should contain information about whether the witness was congenial, cooperative, and forthcoming during the preliminary interview, so this step seems redundant and superfluous.
In any case, it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, it is unlikely that the follow-up investigator would ask questions about how the previous preliminary interview went.  For one thing, it is very unlikely that there would have been any preliminary investigation to look back upon.  For another, concerns about the congeniality and cooperation of a witness in a previous interview would probably be of little interest to a first-century person who has never seen or thought about a professional detective or professional investigation into a crime or important event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator determined the nature of each witness’s prior contact with the person or group who conducted a preliminary investigation of this alleged event.
CONCLUSION ABOUT PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATIONS BY A FOLLOW-UP INVESTIGATOR
In the case of EACH ONE of the six key tasks concerning preperations by a follow-up investagator for follow-up interviews of the hundreds of witness who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, it is extremely unlikely that these key preparation tasks were performed, because it is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation into this alleged event, and because even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of the event, it is very unlikely that the investigator would have attempted to do these key tasks.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of human memory in the first century, and there was no such thing as tape recorders or video cameras in the first century, and because very few people were able to read and write in the first century.
 
B. CONTACT WITH WITNESSES FOR FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for contact between a follow-up investigator and a witness just prior to conducting a follow-up interview of that witness (from p.22 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
FI-B1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus develop rapport with each of the hundreds of witnesses prior to interviewing each witness?
FI-B2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event inquire of each witness about the witness’s prior contact with any initial investigator(s) of this event before interviewing each witness?
FI-B3. Did a follow-up investigator refrain from volunteering any specific information about this alleged event or about the identity or activity of the person who allegedly made an appearance before the crowd of witnesses to each of the hundreds of witnesses before interviewing each witness?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation or conducted interviews with hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Even if there was someone who conducted an investigation of this alleged event, it is very unlikely that this investigator followed the guidance indicated in item B1, or in item B2, or item B3.  This is because there were no professional detectives in the first century, there was no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that there was a follow-up investigator who interviewed hundreds of witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus and who followed these three guidelines just prior to interviewing each of the witnesses to that alleged event.
 
C. CONDUCTING FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF WITNESSES
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a follow-up investigator to conduct follow-up interviews of witnesses to a crime (from p.22-23 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):
 
FI-C1. Did a follow-up investigator of the alleged event where hundreds of witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus encourage each of the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person would have encouraged the witnesses to volunteer information without prompting because there were no professional detectives in the first century, and there was no scientific study of psychology or human memory in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to volunteer information about the event without prompting.
FI-C2. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation it is unlikely that the investigator would have encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.  This is unlikely because there were no professional detectives in the first century, no scientific study of human psychology or human memory in the first century, and because recording or documenting all of these details reported by hundreds of witnesses would have been extremely difficult in the first century.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator into this alleged event encouraged each of the hundreds of witnesses to report all details of the event, even if the details seem trivial.
FI-C3. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event ask open-ended questions and augment those with close-ended specific questions about the event when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
FI-C4. Did a follow-up investigator of this alleged event avoid asking the witnesses leading questions when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed hundreds of witnesses in accordance with these two guidelines. (See my comments in Part 12 of this series on the same questions concerning a preliminary investigation).
FI-C5. Did a follow-up investigator caution each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event?
It is very unlikely that anyone conducted a follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  Even if someone did conduct a follow-up investigation of this alleged event, it is unlikely that this person cautioned the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd).  So, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator cautioned each of the witnesses not to guess (esp. about the identity of the person who made an appearance to the crowd) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event.
FI-C6. Did a follow-up investigator ask each of the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event to mentally re-create the circumstances of the event when the follow-up investigator interviewed these witnesses?
FI-C7. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses to use non-verbal communication to describe the event (e.g. drawings, gestures, objects) when interviewing the hundreds of witnesses to this alleged event?
FI-C8. Did a follow-up investigator avoid interrupting each of the hundreds of witnesses to the alleged event when the investigator was interviewing these witnesses?
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed each of the hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event and followed the guidelines stated in items C6, C7, and C8 (for the same reasons I have given in relation to the previous five guidelines).
FI-C9. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to contact follow-up investigators when additional information about this alleged event is recalled?
FI-C10. Did a follow-up investigator instruct each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid discussing details of the alleged event with other potential witnesses?
FI-C11. Did a follow-up investigator encourage each of the hundreds of witnesses during interviews of these witnesses to avoid contact with the media or exposure to media accounts concerning the alleged event [or:] to avoid telling the story about the event to others who were not present during the event, and to avoid listening to others who were not present talk about the event?
Concerning guidelines C9, C10 and C11, it is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator conducted interviews of the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in accordance with these guidelines (see my comments in Part 12 of this series about similar guidelines concerning preliminary interviews of the witnesses).
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS OF THE HUNDREDS OF WITNESSES
It is extremely unlikely that a follow-up investigator interviewed the hundreds of witnesses who experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in the first century and did so in accordance with the 11 guidelines for follow-up interviews that I have discussed above.
 
OVERALL CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE IDEA OF PROVING THE RESURRECTION IN A COURT TRIAL
What we DON’T KNOW about the hundreds of witnesses who allegedly experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus could fill VOLUMES.  We don’t know how many people were actually present during this event (500 is a very round number and was very likely a rough guess of the size of the crowd that was made weeks or months after the event by some unknown person).
We also don’t know how many people in the crowd actually experienced seeing a person that they took to be Jesus.  Paul asserts that “more than 500” witnesses saw the risen Jesus at the same time and same place, but it is very likely that he is just passing along a story that he was told about this event and it is quite possible that either he or the story teller had mistakenly inferred that ALL of the people in the crowd (perhaps a crowd of 300 or 400 people) saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, when in fact only SOME of the people in that crowd saw what they took to be the risen Jesus, perhaps only a handful of people in that crowd.
We don’t know where this event took place.  We don’t know what year this took place.  We don’t know if it took place during the winter, spring, summer, or fall.  We don’t know how Paul learned about this alleged event.  We don’t know the names of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know the race or ethnicity of ANY of the alleged witnesses of this event.  We don’t know about the intelligence or level of education of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know whether this event took place indoors or outdoors, in the early morning, in the middle of the day, or late at night.  We don’t know if the light was good or if it was dark.  We don’t know if the wind was howling or there was no wind.  We don’t know if it was raining or the sky was clear.  We don’t know if the people in the crowd had been drinking or not.  We don’t know about the quality of eyesight or hearing of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We have no information about the honesty or dishonest of ANY of the alleged witnesses.  We don’t know how old ANY of the alleged witnesses were at the time of the alleged event.
Most importantly, we DON’T KNOW whether ANY of these witnesses had ever seen the historical flesh-and-blood Jesus prior to his death.  So, for all we know, EVERY one of these witnesses was INCAPABLE of identifying anyone as being Jesus of Nazareth, because none of them had previously met Jesus of Nazareth.  The testimony of these hundreds of witnesses might well be just as WORTHLESS as Paul’s testimony about his own experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
We also don’t know whether these witnesses would describe their experience as being an ORDINARY VISUAL experience, or if they would describe their experience as a DREAM or a VISION.  We don’t know if  all of the witnesses had precisely the same experience of the person who they identified as being the risen Jesus.  Would each of them describe a person of the same height?  same hair style?  same type of facial hair?  same color and style of clothing?  We don’t know.  We don’t know how long this event lasted.  Was Jesus “seen” for just a couple of seconds? or a couple of minutes? or a couple of hours? Did the experience last the same amount of time for every witness? or did it last for a few seconds for some, a few minutes for others, and an hour or two for others?
We don’t know if there was a careful and objective preliminary investigation into this alleged event.  We don’t know if there was a careful and objective follow-up investigation of this alleged event.  However, we have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful preliminary investigation of this alleged event that was conducted in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.  We also have good reason to believe that it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful follow-up investigation of this alleged event in which hundreds of witnesses of this alleged event were interviewed in accordance with modern procedures and guidelines that are used in criminal investigations of serious crimes, like murder.
But such careful and proper preliminary investigations and follow-up investigations are crucial to any reasonable effort by a prosecuting attorney to correctly identify the person who commited the murder (or other serious crime), to provide sufficient evidence to charge that person with murder, and to prove in a court trial that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.   A prosecutor cannot simply pull a witness off the street and put them in a witness stand and hope that the witness has some credibility and some relevant knowledge about the murder or the murderer.  The use of witnesses in a modern court trial requires that there be a foundation of solid investigation and documented evidence from the crime scene, and documented properly conducted interviews of relevant witnesses.  Apart from a proper preliminary investigation and a proper follow-up investigation,  it would be practically impossible for a prosecuting attorney to put together a solid case for the guilt of any murder suspect.
Furthermore, I have argued extensively that eyewitness testimony is UNRELIABLE because:

  1. HUMAN MEMORY IS UNRELIABLE.
  2. HUMANS ARE DISHONEST.

Therefore, the whole idea of there being a court trial in which witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus would provide testimony that would PROVE beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead is a RIDICULOUS FANTASY that one can only believe by completely ignoring the reality of how modern criminal investigations and the scientific study of human psychology and human memory provide the foundations for successful prosecutions of serious crimes in actual modern court trials.
In view of these various considerations, I conclude that Kreeft’s Objection #3, concerning the claim that “over five hundred” witnesses experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time and at the same place, FAILS.  This third objection does NOT provide a solid or strong reason to reject the Hallucination Theory.  This is a very weak objection that is grounded primarily in WISHFUL THINKING and FANTASY.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 16: Adults are Liars and Cheaters

ADULTS ARE DISHONEST
In general, studies of lying behavior indicate that college students lie more frequently on average, than the general adult population.  However, based on recent studies with larger sample sizes, the difference in average number of lies per day is fairly small between college students and the general adult population:

College students and adults
A common source of fascination is in the similarities and differences between college student samples and representative adult samples. As mentioned in the introduction, the general trend is that lying increases with age through childhood, peaks during the teen years, and then declines gradually with age. Despite maturation, the positive skew is maintained (Debey et al., 2015; Serota et al., 2010). Understanding the size and nature of these trends, however, requires considerable nuance. The difference was the largest in the original DePaulo et al. (1996) study where adults lied once per day and stu- dents twice per day. Depending on how one frames the results, this is a small difference of one lie per day or a difference of 100% with students lying twice as often as adults. If we rely on the much larger samples in the current study compared to Serota et al. (2010), the mean difference is more modest; 2.03 for students compared to 1.65 for adults.

Kim B. Serota, Timothy R. Levine & Tony Docan-Morgan (2021): “Unpacking variation in lie prevalence: Prolific liars, bad lie days, or both?“, Communication Monographs, DOI: 10.1080/03637751.2021.1985153
Thus, since I have already shown that college students are LIARS, it follows that adults, in general, are LIARS.  There is only a modest difference between how often college students lie and how often adults in general lie.
======================
Here is a nice summary statement about an important psychological study on this topic [emphasis added]:

For example, during a bogus experiment on ESP (a mind-reading task), people are presented with an opportunity to cheat in order to win a $50 prize.  When people are placed in such a situation, almost everyone cheats (90%) and then when confronted about their behavior, few tell the truth; only 9 to 20% of the individuals in these studies confess when questioned (see, Miller and Stiff, DeTurck and Miller).

What is really interesting about these findings is that the same results are obtained by different researchers working in different parts of the country.

[…]

Overall, the experimental evidence shows that when placed in the right (or wrong) situation, people are prone to lying, a behavior that starts at an early age, and people are very good at it.

Experiments Show How Readily Adults and Children Will Lie When Given the Chance To Do So
Miller, G. R., & Stiff, J. B. (1992). Applied issues in studying deceptive communication. In R. S. Feldman (Ed.), Applications of nonverbal behavioral theories and research (pp. 217-237). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Miller, G. R., & Stiff, J. B. (1993). Deceptive Communication. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
deTurck, M. A., & Miller, G. R. (1985). Deception and arousal: Isolating the behavioral correlates of deception. Human Communication Research, 12, 181-201.
deTurck, M. A., & Miller, G. R. (1990). Training observers to detect deception: Effects of self-monitoring and rehearsal. Human Communication Research, 16, 603-620.
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A large study of lying in the U.K. produced some useful information about the dishonesty of adults:

I will focus on the telling of “Big Lies” and ignore the telling of “White Lies”. [ NOTE: there was a good degree of agreement between the various people who participated in this survey as to what sorts of lies would count as “Big Lies” and what sorts of lies would count as “White Lies”, so this was NOT a purely subjective distinction.]
The study is based on a survey of people in the U.K. ages 18 and older: “After eliminating responses from 16- and 17-years-olds, the reanalysis” (in the article containing the above chart) “included 2,980 subjects.”
On the positive side 80.3 % of the people in this study indicated that on average they tell ZERO “Big Lies” per day.
However, on the negative side, that means that about 20% of the people in this study indicated that on average they tell 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or more “Big Lies” per day.  In my view, someone who tells a Big Lie on average once per day is clearly a DISHONEST person.  So, this study indicates that AT LEAST 20% of adults are DISHONEST.
However, the question that was asked of the subjects introduces a bias.  If the question had been “How many times do you tell a Big Lie on average over the course of one week?”  then a person could have answered “1 per week” which would be equivalent to telling a Big Lie at a rate of about 1/7 per day or .14 Big Lies per day, or a person could have answered “2 per week” which would be equivalent to telling a Big Lie on average at a rate of about 2/7 per day or .29 Big Lies per day.  But there was no option to indicate that one told Big Lies on average about once or twice every week.
The relevant options confronting a person who tells a Big Lie once or twice per week are either “0” Big Lies on average per day or “1” Big Lie on average per day.  Someone who only tells a Big Lie once or twice per week, will probably thus answer that, on average, they tell 0 Big Lies per day, because saying that they tell 1 Big Lie on average per day would significantly exaggerate how frequently they tell Big Lies.
That means that it is very likely that MANY of the people who claimed to tell a Big Lie on average 0 times per day believe that they tell one or two Big Lies on average each week.  The focus of the survey on Big Lies per day thus hides the fact that MANY of the 80% of subjects in this study who claimed to tell 0 Big Lies on average per day, believe that they in fact tell one or two or three Big Lies each week.  It seems to me that someone who tells a Big Lie on average each week is NOT a very honest person.  That means telling over 50 Big Lies in one year.  I would consider such a person to be DISHONEST.
Furthermore, people tend to LIE about how much and how often they do things that are considered to be wrong or bad.  People tend to UNDERESTIMATE and UNDERREPORT how much and how often they do things like telling Big Lies.   So, MANY people who report that they tell a Big Lie on average 0 times per day, might well IN FACT tell a Big Lie on average 1 time per day.  If just half of the 80% of subjects who reported telling 0 Big Lies on average per day actually tell 1 Big Lie on average per day, then that means that 40% of the people in this study should, in reality, be categorized as being just as DISHONEST as the 20% of people who admitted they tell at least 1 Big Lie on average per day. In that case, 60% of the subjects in this study would be clearly DISHONEST people.
If we simply assume that ALL of the subjects in this study answered the question honestly and accurately, then the conclusion would be that about 20% of adults tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average per day, and it seems to me that means that one in five adults is clearly a DISHONEST person.  But presumably a large portion of the 80% of people who claimed to tell 0 Big Lies on average per day believe that they tell one (or two or three) Big Lies each week, making them DISHONEST too.
However, it would be NAIVE to simply accept that ALL of the subjects in this study answered the question honestly and accurately.  People tend to have a bias against remembering their bad behavior, and people tend to have a bias against honestly reporting how often they engage in behavior that is viewed as bad behavior.  So, we have good reason to believe that a significant portion of the people who were subjects in this study UNDERREPORTED the actual frequency of their telling Big Lies, and that a significant portion of the 80% of people who estimated that they tell 0 Big Lies on average per day, actually tell 1 or 2 Big Lies on average per day.
This study tells us what people REPORT about the frequency of their own lying, especially how frequently they tell “Big Lies”.  But since, at least in my view, telling 1 Big Lie on average per week is sufficient to consider a person to be DISHONEST, we really want to know what portion of adults tell at least 1 Big Lie on average per week.  The data in the graph from this study indicate that MORE THAN 20% of adults tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average each week.  But the ACTUAL portion of adults who tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average per week might well be much larger.
For example, if half of the 80% of subjects who claimed to tell an average of 0 Big Lies per day actually tell an average of 1 or more Big Lies per day, then we could add another 40% of the people in this study to the 20% who admit they tell AT LEAST 1 Big Lie on average per day (and thus are clearly DISHONEST), so that the conclusion would be that 60% of the people in this study are in fact, clearly DISHONEST people.  And if just half of the remaining 40% of people who claimed to tell an average of 0 Big Lies per day are people who actually tell an average of one or more Big Lies per week, then we could add another 20% of the subjects to the category of being DISHONEST people.  In this scenario, 80% of the people in this study would be reasonably considered to be DISHONEST people.
Granted that people who tell one or two Big Lies on average per week are LESS DISHONEST than people who tell one or two Big Lies on average per day, this is only a matter of degree, and telling about 50 Big Lies in one year is sufficient reason for considering a person to be DISHONEST.  In my view it is unreasonable to call a person “honest” when he or she tells one or two Big Lies per week on average.
The truth of the matter is very likely to be somewhere in between those two estimates.  It is very likely that SIGNIFICANTLY MORE THAN 20% of the people in that study are DISHONEST (i.e. tell a Big Lie on average at least once per week), and it is also likely that less than 80% of the people in that study are DISHONEST (i.e. tell a Big Lie on average at least once per week).  In any case, a large portion of adults (25-45%), and quite possibly the majority of adults (60-70%) are DISHONEST, based on this large study of people in the U.K.
Serota, Kim & Levine, Timothy. (2014). A Few Prolific Liars. Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 34. 10.1177/0261927X14528804.
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ADULTS ARE CHEATERS
Although adults in the USA appear to be fairly honest about paying their taxes, and not cheating on taxes (compared with adults in other countries), adults in America often cheat on their spouses and lovers.

The most consistent data on infidelity come from the General Social Survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and based at the University of Chicago, which has used a national representative sample to track the opinions and social behaviors of Americans since 1972. The survey data show that in any given year, about 10 percent of married people — 12 percent of men and 7 percent of women — say they have had sex outside their marriage.

Love, sex and the changing landscape of infidelityNY Times, Oct. 28, 2008
There are two important qualifications to note about these statistics. First,  infidelity or “cheating” is considered bad behavior, and so people are biased against honestly reporting that they have engaged in such behavior, and against honestly reporting how often they have engaged in such behavior.  This is especially true when questions are asked of people in an interview, which is how the General Social Survey has been conducted:

Surveys conducted in person are likely to underestimate the real rate of adultery, because people are reluctant to admit such behavior not just to their spouses but to anyone.

In a study published last summer in The Journal of Family Psychology, for example, researchers from the University of Colorado and Texas A&M surveyed 4,884 married women, using face-to-face interviews and anonymous computer questionnaires. In the interviews, only 1 percent of women said they had been unfaithful to their husbands in the past year; on the computer questionnaire, more than 6 percent did.

Love, sex and the changing landscape of infidelityNY Times, Oct. 28, 2008
So, AT LEAST 5% of women who were interviewed in the above study LIED and claimed they had NOT been unfaithful in the past year, when in fact they had been unfaithful in the past year.  Women were more honest on anonymous computer questionnaires, but who is to say that they were fully and completely honest on those computer questionnaires?  The fact that MORE women were honest on computer questionnaires does not mean that ALL women were honest on the computer questionnaires.
The second qualification to keep in mind is that these statistics are about how many people were unfaithful or “cheated” in the previous year.  Each year about 10% of married people CHEAT on their spouse.  But most people are married for many years.  With each passing year one has more opportunities to CHEAT.  So, a spouse who is faithful for the first two years of marriage might well CHEAT during the third year of marriage.  So, the 10% figure is only a bottom-level baseline.  Since most marriages last for many years, the percent of spouses who CHEAT over the course of a marriage that lasts ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years is bound to be GREATER THAN just 10%!

…University of Washington researchers have found that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased to 28 percent in 2006, up from 20 percent in 1991. For women over 60, the increase is more striking: to 15 percent, up from 5 percent in 1991.

The researchers also see big changes in relatively new marriages. About 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women under 35 say they have ever been unfaithful, up from about 15 and 12 percent respectively.

Love, sex and the changing landscape of infidelityNY Times, Oct. 28, 2008
In recent studies 20% (or 1 in 5) married men under 35 REPORT that they have been unfaithful at some point in their marriage, and 28% of men over 60 REPORT having been unfaithful to a spouse at some point in their lives.  So, over the course of a lifetime, we can expect about 25 to 30% of men to be unfaithful to at least one spouse.
It appears that young women are now REPORTING being unfaithful almost as much as young men (15% vs. 20%).
So, in the future, we can expect 25% to 30% of women over 60 to REPORT having been unfaithful to a spouse at some point in their lives, like men over 60 now REPORT.
So, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 adults will CHEAT on a spouse at some time in their lives, if they get married and live to be 60 years old.  That is a significant portion of married people who will REPORT CHEATING in their marriages.  It is reasonable to believe that the ACTUAL portion of married people who CHEAT is larger than what people REPORT, so the reality is probably more like between 1 in 3 and 1 in 2 adults will CHEAT on a spouse at some time in their lives, if they get married and live to be at least 60 years old.
 
CONCLUSION
It is NOT just college students who are LIARS and CHEATERS.  Adults, in general, are LIARS and CHEATERS.  Virtually ALL adults tell lies from time to time, and somewhere between 25% and 75% of adults are DISHONEST because they tell Big Lies on a regular basis (one or more times per week).
When put in a situation where it is tempting to lie and cheat (for personal gain) with little chance of being detected ALMOST EVERYONE will lie and cheat, and then when questioned about this ALMOST EVERYONE will LIE and hide the fact that they lied and cheated.  This is virtually the SAME way that four and five-year-old children behave in similar experiments.
Also, a large portion of married people CHEAT on their spouses over the course of a lifetime, somewhere between 25% and 50% for those who marry and live to be at least 60 years old.
Adults in general are LIARS and CHEATERS, just like college students, just like high school students, just like children.