“Standing up for righteousness”

A press release from the presumptiously-named Christian Voice calls for all Christians to boycott the Co-op bank for its ethical stance against homophobia.

Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, said today: “The decision from the Co-operative Bank fits a pattern where politically-correct bully-boys try to attack Christian organisations, Christian symbols, the Bible, and in the case of Jerry Springer the Opera and BBC2, even the person of our Saviour.”

It quotes from the Co-op letter which gave CV the bad news, and includes Green’s retort:

Standing up for righteousness is what we do. In fact you could say there are dozens of such pronouncements in my own book “The Sexual Dead-End”, which was published in 1992.

Green is clearly still quite proud of this book, which includes the allegation that 20% of gay men regularly have sex with live gerbils.

Explaining the reasons for CV choosing the Co-op bank in the first place, the press release goes on,

At the time, there was no mention by them that people who believe that homosexual acts are sinful would not be welcome. We feel let down, frankly, and the whole business has left a sour taste in the mouth.

Snigger.

We are now calling upon Christians who bank with and shop at the Co-op to withdraw their business until such time as this bank’s unethical and discriminatory attitude changes. Clearly, and on their own admission, the Co-op is not the bank for those who honour the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There you go.


86 Responses to ““Standing up for righteousness””

  1. Steven Carr says:

    Transformed the Mediterranean world within a generation?

    Hardly.

    And Paul does not know these disciples as leaders, with the exception of 3, and one of the people he names , James, had not been a disciple.

    It remains the case that Christians altered the text to suit their own private agenda.

    Almost everywhere. For example, the early manuscripts have 20 different sayings about divorce, making it impossible to reconstruct what was original.

  2. Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Steven-
    There are 6 mistakes here:

    (1) You say’: ‘The *early* manuscripts have 20 different sayings about divorce’-
    No: the early MSS have no more, and no fewer, sayings about divorce than any other MSS.

    (2) You say: ‘The early manuscripts have *20* different sayings about divorce’:
    The divorce passages in the NT total six, not 20. The six are as follows:
    Mark 10.1-12, Matt. 5.31-2, Matt. 19.12, Luke 16.18, 1 Corinthians 7.10-16,27, Romans 7.2-3.

    (3) Paul knows about the twelve apostles. He refers to ‘the Twelve’ in 1 Corinthians 15. He meets with them all in Acts 15.

    (4) You are saying that anyone Paul does not name explicitly in one of his surviving letters he does not know about. Conclusion: he did not know about any of the Roman emperors, or about Alexander the Great.

    (5) Take all the ancient writings in existence. For which of them are we least able to obtain the original texts? Answer: those for which we have the least manuscripts.
    For which of them can we best obtain the original text? Answer: For those which have the most surviving manuscripts.
    There are 30 times as many MSS of the New Testament as of any other ancient book. That means that our chances of obtaining the original text of the NT is (by that criterion) 30 times better than it is for any other ancient book.
    Another criterion is how close to the date of composition the earliest MSS are. NT MSS begin from less than 100 years after composition – ie a better figure than we have for 90+% of ancient writings – only things like inscriptions really compare favourably with this figure.
    Of course, you are right that some scribes made alterations. But they didnt just alter the NT: they altered every book. The NT is no different from any other book in this respect.
    Or, rather, it is different in one way: that because we have so many MSS we are better able in the case of the NT to form a family tree that shows us which bits are additions and which bits are not. This is more difficult for all the other ancient writings, for which we have fewer MSS.
    It’s this ‘family tree’ point which Im not sure you’ve fully grasped.

    (6) The growth of Christianity was pretty spectacular. Acts 17.6 mentions that Christianity’s enemies describe the Christians as having ‘turned the world upside down’ / ’caused trouble all over the world’. These first-century testimonies are the best we have available to us.

  3. Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Monitor-
    Answers awaited:
    (1) Do you think there was any such place as Dalmanutha? Mark 8.10 refers to it – but no-one knows where it is. Which scenario do you think is more likely? – (a) he made the name ‘Dalmanutha’ up, even though his other place-names are of known places, cos he liked the sound of it. It sounded poetic, even though it didnt exist, and even though he could easily have put a known place-name in its place. (b) His knowledge of Palestine was, naturally, better than that of first-century non-Palestinians (let alone yours or mine) – therefore he knew Palestinian places that others didnt know. I find (b) likelier. If you find (a) likelier, then go ahead and give your reasons. But if (b) is indeed likelier for Dalmanutha, it’s also likelier for Arimathea.

    (2) Im not sure about where you got the idea that I thought the Twelve wrote the gospels. I heard this idea in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (which probably says it all). I dont think any of the four gospels were written by any of the Twelve. My opinions are fairly typical among NT students:
    (a) Mark was quite likely (and our sources are early here) written by John Mark the companion of Peter and Paul, cousin of Barnabas, who will have been a young boy in Jerusalem at the time of thc crucifixion. The early church stayed in his house (Acts 12), and he will have known the Twelve, Mary etc.. Date: early 70s.
    (b) John was written by an eyewitness disciple (John 1, 21, 1 John 1) called ‘the Elder John’, who was not the same as the more famous son of Zebedee. Date: about 75.
    (c) Matthew was written by a Jewish Christian scribe. It is well possible (judging by our earliest source, Papias, who was an adult around the year 100 AD) that Matthew the tax-collector, one of the Twelve, made an original collection of Jesus’s words and deeds in Aramaic. But that was not the guy who wrote the gospel of Matthew, which is heavily dependent on Mark. Date: around 80 AD.
    (d) Luke must probably have been written by Luke the companion of Paul – by a process of elimination, only two other possible candidates present themselves (as I remember): Titus and Tychicus. We can see which journeys he accompanied Paul on by reading Acts. Date: around 85 AD (any later and he would have been unfeasibly old).
    Luke was a co-traveller of Paul. Paul was almost exactly the same age of Jesus. Luke used all three other gospels, so is the final gospel. Consequently all the gospels were written in the lifetimes of near-contemporaries of Jesus. But none of them were written by any of the twelve apostles. Jottings of the apostle Matthew may have been a source of Mark’s gospel, but that is better attested to have been instead a reflection of the preachings of Peter.

    (3) Which context in Paul’s letters ought he to have referred to Joseph of Arimathea? I cant find any context where J of A would have been relevant.

    (4) It’s impossible that Paul could have distinguished between resurrection and empty tomb: they imply one another. What sort of ‘resurrection’ (in the mind of a first-century Jew) would leave the tomb full?

    (5) Cognitive dissonance is a goodie, but I do feel that sociologists use it as a bit of a panacea. It’s a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose philosophy. The reason one can never prove cognitive dissonance is that it is unfalsifiable. Sometimes in life (let’s say, 30% of the time, on average) things do turn out as we hope. For the cognitive-dissonance advocate, this can’t happen, since every time hopes or predictions seem to be (or are claimed to be) fulfilled it’s nothing but an instance of cognitive dissonance. But in real life, they quite often are fulfilled.

    I agree with you about the burden of proof. I regard the resurrection as an especially interesting case because despite intense speculation over 2000 years, a convincing alternative scenario hasnt yet emerged.

  4. Andrew Nixon says:

    no convincing alternative scenario has emerged? The scenario that we have now is just so convincing isn’t it? Men coming back from the dead, it happens all the time!

    Where’s your rationallity now Christopher?

  5. Christopher Shell says:

    As you know, I didnt say that was fully convincing. I have at least twice mentioned that ‘it is the sort of thing that just doesnt happen’ is the strongest (in fact, almost the only) argument against it.
    What I did say was that no convincing alternative has emerged.
    When people reconstruct historical events, it is generally possible to come up with a reconstruction that makes sense of the data. That is not so in this case, which is one of the things that makes this case so interesting.

  6. Andrew Nixon says:

    The simple fact of the matter is that the resurection, by which I mean a human being being dead, then being alive a few days later is impossible. It can not have possibly happened like that. If we take the highly questionable stance that the Gospels describe a real event, then you have to look at the cases of “zombies” that occur in parts of the developing world, especially in Haiti where Voodoo is prevalent. The accepted scientific explanation for these, where an indivdual is reported dead then turns up alive, is that the locals didn’t have enough knowledge to distinguish between death and very faint life signs.

    The resurrection can be explained in this way, but the events just after the ressurection, detailed in Matthew can not be explained like that.

    Matthew 27:52: The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
    Matthew 27:53: After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

    Here Matthew is saying that more than one person was raised from the dead. We can assume that these people were defintely dead, and probably for some time. This bit is clearly fantasy, and thus can we really take the rest of the gospel seriously on the whole resurection issue?

  7. Monitor says:

    Whatever you think of cognitive dissonance, it remains an observable fact that when devoted believers are confronted with strong evidence which contradicts their beliefs, they try to rationalise their way out of the problem so that they can continue believing. We see this time and time again.

    Your interesting but largely irrelevant reply to my alternative scenario is a case in point. What is so implausible about the disciples rationalising the sudden and ignominious death of their messiah by telling themselves that his spirit lived on and that he would return triumphant in the near future. This was news they would have been keen to spread. And, hard as it may be for you to believe, stories have a habit of “developing” in the retelling over the years.

    It seems quite reasonable to me to assume that, just like the rest of those crucified by the Romans, Jesus rotted on the cross.

  8. Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Andrew-
    Matthew 27.52-3 I have commented on, on a previous post. Matthew is trying to be comprehensive and therefore includes folk legends: the coin in the fish’s mouth, Peter walking on water, Pilate’s wife’s dream, and these (as you put it) ‘zombies’. He is writing 50 years after the events and therefore cannot check them out – he gives them the benefit of the doubt. You are right to doubt the historicity of this particular story.
    It’s not accurate to say that this is how ‘the gospels’ tell the story. One of the four tells it this way, and Matthew is only the third to be written anyway.

    Hi Monitor-
    I too have observed cognitive dissonance at work: e.g. the JWs grew after 1975. I have also observed it failing to operate where a sociologist would expect it to operate: e.g. discredited evangelists tend to lose support, not gain it. Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose theories are bound to be of limited value. I believe strongly in cognitive dissonance. I also believe equally strongly that it is a theory which can sometimes be bandied about to explain various phenomenta which it does not in fact fit.

    The disciples didn’t just tell themselves his spirit lived on. From the very first, the central message included resurrection, i.e. a dead body returning to life. This is the case, for example, with the message which Paul heard from the apostles (presumably Peter and James) in or around 37 AD (7 years after the crucifixion) – see start of 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus died, ‘was buried’ (with all the implications of that: our earliest evidence is that his body was buried, and by a named and identified individual).
    Paul also speaks in the same context of an appearance of Jesus to 500 people at one time. They all hallucinated the same thing at the same time? Someone dressed up as Jesus and played a trick? He says that most of these people are still alive at the time of writing (54-5 AD) – and they can therefore be consulted on the matter.
    But the same applies to all the rest of the story as well. At the time of writing there were hundreds of eyewitnesses alive who could confirm or deny anything.

  9. Andrew Nixon says:

    500 people saw Jesus at the same time. Were they all hallucinating? Maybe not. Were they mistaken? Yes. The guy was dead. He could not possibly have been alive, unless the scenario I poroposed is the case.

    But if Jesus was 100% dead, he was dead, and could not possibly have come back to life. To say that the resurection story is fact is the height of irrationality.

    You are also ignoring the perfectly logical position that people just made the story up. Paul speaks of an appearnce to 500 people. Who’s to say Paul hasn’t made that up for dramatic effect? Much of the Bible is clearly fiction after all.

  10. Christopher Shell says:

    (a) Paul is simply reproducing a list of appearances which was handed down to him; (b) he knows the individuals in question well enough to know that a few of them have now died, but more are now living than are dead; (c0 if the 500 were all simultaneously mistaken, what is a believable alternative scenario?

    ‘Much of the Bible is clearly fiction’: It is only fundamentalists that lump all the Bible together in one dollop as though every part of it were the same. This is not a book – it is a library, written over a period of 1000 years or more.

  11. Andrew Nixon says:

    (c0 if the 500 were all simultaneously mistaken, what is a believable alternative scenario?

    It didn’t happen. Perfectly believable, much more so than believing that a dead man can appear to 500 people.

  12. Andrew Nixon says:

    What’s the problem with saying much of the Bible is clearly fiction?

    Parts of the Gospels are clearly fiction:

    Virgin Birth: Fiction
    Miracles without explanation: Fiction
    Bloke dieing and coming back to life: Fiction

  13. Christopher Shell says:

    ‘It didnt happen’ is not an alternative scenario – the question is what *did* happen.

    There is no problem at all with saying much of the Bible is anything, so long as we’re not saying ‘the whole Bible is’ any one genre.
    ‘Fiction’ is not a category in use in the first-century, to my knowledge. Fiction also overlaps with various different genres, so we need to be more specific:
    (a) *Legends* (ie orally transmitted accounts of significant happenings, family histories etc);
    (b) *Novels/novellas* – fictional accounts in a real-life setting;
    (c) *Myths* – supernatural characters and supernatural deeds;
    (d) *Fables* – animal and plant characters, a moral at the end.
    Why do I, and most others, class the gospels as closest to history/biography?
    Because the ancient books they most resemble (Plutarch’s ‘Lives’, biographies by Lucian, various ‘Lives’ of Alexander the Great, Xenophon’s Memorabilia & Cyropaedia, various Jewish writings) are history and biography. See Richard Burridge, ‘What are the Gospels?’ (Cambridge, 2nd edition 2004).
    The above-named books and also classic ancient histories (e.g. Herodotus) are not necessarily averse to including tales of very remarkable happenings. Things that we would call supernatural.
    So the fact that a narrative includes ‘supernatural’ accounts does not make it untypical of ancient historical or biographical writings.

  14. Andrew Nixon says:

    At no point have I said the entire Bible is fiction.

    But much of it is, which is why I don’t take it seriously.

    What is your scenario for the resurection Christopher? Did Jesus die and then come back to life? If yes, how is this possible?

  15. Christopher Shell says:

    That’s the thing – much of history (maybe the majority) is made up of one-offs.
    One thing is for sure – we can’t answer the ‘how’ question. We can say that the balance of our evidence points that way. As you might say: ‘all history is for it, and all reason is against it.’. But, of course, history and reason overlap. It is only by empirically observing what sort of things happen in history that we know what to classify as ‘reasonable’ in the first place.

    The raw data of history/observation is therefore the primary raw material, and ‘reason’ and ‘science’ are just a distillation of our historical/observational findings.

    If reason were primary, we could say categorically: ABC can happen, XYZ cannot. But we can’t. We can’t always impose our own patterns on the raw data of the universe: they are often too complex and surprising for that. The raw data always has to take precedence over imposed ‘natural laws’.

    This is partly what I mean when I say that dogma is the enemy of scholarship. Scholarship, or proper science, seeks to observe exactly what happens, without any preconceived ideas. Whereas dogma imposes set patterns, even where these patterns do not actually exist. If we follow dogma, science/study never advances. If we follow strict observation, then it can advance.

    100 years ago it was a philosophical dogma (and to all intents and purposes, a scientific dogma) that ‘All swans are white’. We know better now.

    If resurrections happen, they are not only awfully rare, but also hard for us to explain. But if there are instances where the historical data points to a resurrection, historical / observational data by its very nature has a claim to precedence over dogmatic claims that ‘such things cannot happen’. We do not always know what can and cannot happen – we only know what generally does happen. Which is not much help in the present instance, since the disciples ‘knew’ just as well as we do, from their own experience, that people, once dead, stay dead.

  16. Andrew Nixon says:

    How is it possible for an individual to die and come back to life? No case in particular, just generally.

    Of course it is not possible, so all logic says that the resurection story is just that; a story.

  17. Monitor says:

    There you go again with your circular reasoning. We are questioning the truth of the resurrection stories, and you are assuming the truth of the resurrection stories in order to argue for them. This seems to be a bit of a mental block for you.

    “Paul says he was buried”, “Paul says he appeared to 500″. So what? Did he name the 500? How do you expect this to be disproved? Chap comes along and says “Hey, I was one of the 500 – and I didn’t see anything”. Then he can’t have been one of the 500.

    No plausible alternative to the physical resurrection? OK – Jesus didn’t rot on the cross. Even though that is what usually happened to the crucified. The disciples didn’t try to rationalise the sudden death of their messiah. Even though that is what usually happens in such cases. The story they propagated wasn’t embellished as the years went on.

    Even though that is what usually happens.

    Much more plausible that a dead man came back to life and floated up to heaven. Hmm – you wouldn’t be letting what you want to believe to get in the way of deciding what most likely happened, are you? Naa.. surely not.

  18. Marc says:

    Mr Shell, you dismiss me to go and read your stories – which I won’t. I have neither the time nor the inclination re-read a book I spent a year boring myself whitless with over 25 years ago. Therefore when I allude to reading something it’s because I’m writing in a weblog and don’t think it absolutely necessary to cross-reference the orginal text.

    Then you largely ignore my most persausive points; even when others pick up on them.

    I don’t think anyone else has mentioned (so far) that the four gospels recorded in your bible are the ones selected from many now presumed lost or destroyed. Numbers in the tens have been mentioned, but I guess we’ll never know. The Catholics are very fond of burying anything that doesn’t agree with them – even now; so it’s reasonable to assume that anything they didn’t agree with in the gospels didn’t make it to the final cut. Like I said, history is written by the winners and you guys have historically murdered yourselves into some very persuasive positions.

    Moreover, in the time of the supposed Jesus, there was no idea (or law come to that) of copyright. It’s most likely, and scholars far smarter than I am have pointed out, that the gospels were simply copied and embelished. If I could be arsed with your sanctimonious self-importance, I would go and dig up the list of errors where they don’t agree, but I’m sure others will delight in doing that.

    The gospels that you have were written some years after the dude got nailed to a big bit of wood and probably tossed out with the garbage. The Roman’s didn’t have tombs, those crucified would be left out for the animals to pick at. This (widely accepted) disparity alone reinforces the assertion that the gospels had never actually met the man and were record second-hand accounts. Second-hand information can’t be trusted.

    I’ll ask you once again: this Bible you hold so dear and everyone else here sees as so much fiction. Explain how or why:

    * Adam and Noah (as two examples) lived for hundreds of years – Adam 930, Noah 950;
    * If your god later installed a limit of 120 years – why people have outlived that figure;
    * Noah got all the animals of the world on the Ark *and* fed them *and* stopped the predators killing the smaller creators *and* cleaned up after them all, and so on;
    * The water in the Ark flood got to within feet of the highest mountain when there simply isn’t enough water on the whole planet;
    * That the bible mentions in several places that the Earth is flat when we know it isn’t;
    * That Jesus was born of a virgin when we have no way to verify it (any more than it would be be entirely practical then). Yes, virgins can get pregnant – but not without an addition of sperm at the right moment.

    You Christians have murdered and threatened your way across Europe and the wider world in much the same way as Islamic extremists are trying the same with their own warped ideas. You scare the crap out of little children with your stories of hell-fire and then offer the carrot of (totally improvable) everlasting life for the small price of following you. That’s mental torture in my book and it’s why I have no truck with your bullshit – how dare you preach peace to anyone when your brothers have the blood of millions on their hands.

    I rather doubt your saviour would condone that sort of behaviour – and yet, I can live a moral life!

    In short, I wonder why any of us are wasting our virtual breath with
    you since whatever you don’t have an answer for you simply ignore.

  19. Christopher Shell says:

    Im taking a break from my Attila-the-Hun-esque rampaging across Europe and the wider world in order to address Marc’s points:
    Now, you will notice that I have confined almost all my comments to the New Testament. All that you say about the Old Testament may well be true, but it has no relevance to what we are saying about the New.

    A few points:
    (1) ‘The Romans didnt have tombs’ – but Jesus was not crucified in Rome, but in a country where they did use rock-hewn tombs.
    (2) On any estimation, all four gospels were written within the lifetimes of those who had been alive at the time of the crucifixion. The earliest, Mark, is not considered by any scholar to have been written more than 45 years after the crucifixion.
    (3) Any book that bores you witless you are unlikely to have read properly. You will have been too bored to read it properly.
    (4) This thing about the gospels lost and destroyed makes me think you have been reading ‘The Da Vinci Code’, or perhaps ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’. Am I right? The idea puzzles me, since I have never been able to find any mention of more than 15 other gospels (plus 3 or 4 fragments, and a few ‘infancy narratives’), none of which was written anywhere near the lifetime of Jesus.
    It is a finding of no relevance that there are other gospels. You or I could write a ‘gospel’ today, and then there would be one more gospel. The only relevant thing would be if there were other early gospels.
    This is an interesting topic – and I will give you the complete list of ‘other gospels’ if you like.
    How do we know when to date the different gospels? In about 5 different ways:
    (a) When do other writings say they were written?
    (b) When were their authors alive? – if known.
    (c) What is the latest historical event they refer to?
    (d) What are their textual interrelationsips with other writings? Who is using whom?
    (e) What thought world do they reflect? For example, anything with ‘Gnostic’ ideas in (as most of the ‘other gospels’ have) must be second century or later.

    (5) On copyright: yes! You are quite right that the gospels used one another. Mark was used by Matthew and Luke; Matthew and John were used by Luke. This means they are not fully independent of one another. Whereas the first gospel written (Mark, or whatever) must be more or less independent of any other writing.

    I think the most interesting thing in your post is the issue of ‘canon’ – which writings were included in the NT, and when. The list of books we find in around 200 AD (in what we call ‘the Muratorian Canon’) was more or less the same as our current list of 27 writings. The prophetic movement called Montanism (around 170 AD) was one of the factors that forced the church to be strict about what did and what did not count as scripture.
    As I say, this is a fascinating topic, and if you wish to discuss the history of the wholc ‘canonising’ process, let’s do so.

  20. Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Monitor-

    Didnt fully understand your last posts:
    ‘Paul says he was buried’ – that much is an undeniable fact. It neither assumes nor ‘dis’assumes the resurrection.
    ‘Paul says he appeared to 500 ppl’ – that much is also an undeniable fact.

    There’s unfortunately no alternative to making the best use we can of the best evidence that remains to us. And 1 Corinthians 15 is the best and earliest evidence. If any historian was trying to untangle a knotty problem, looking for all the clues he could, and ignored the best and earliest evidence available, what could one say about his methodology?

  21. Andrew Nixon says:

    Christopher, you still have not given a rational explanation for how it is possible to die and come back to life. Until you can, the resurection story must be assumed to be a myth.

  22. Steven Carr says:

    It appears Christopher’s arguments are as knowledgable as his absurd claims that the early scribes did not alter the sayings on divorce.

    The early manuscripts have some twenty different sayings about divorce.

    I list just a few of them.

    All of them are different versions of the same passage :- Matthew 19:9 They give different teachings about whether a man can remarry or whether a man can marry a divorced woman.

    Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Ephraemi, Codex Regius Whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another commits adultery.

    Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus Whoever divorces his wife , except for fornication, makes her an adulteress and the person marrying a divorced woman commits adultery

    Here there is no prohibition on a man remarrying, but there is a new prohibition about marrying a divorced woman.

    Freer Gospels, Koridethi Codex Whoever divorces his wife , except for fornication, and marries another commits adultery and the person marrying a divorced woman commits adultery

    Both prohibitions have been combined

    Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (Original Version) Whoever divorces his wife , except for fornication, and marries another makes her an adulteress and the person marrying a divorced woman commits adultery

    The prohibitions on a divorced man remarrying has been removed , but the part saying ‘makes her an adulteress’ has been added.

    And Mr. Shell thinks the Gospels are evidence?

  23. Steven Carr says:

    It really is amazing how much lying mendacious propaganda Mr. Shell has swallowed and regurgitated.

    I have no respect for liars. None whatsoever.

    That is all Christianity is based on (as indeed is Mormonism)

    Acts 15 does not say Paul met 12 apostles, for starters. It just says ‘the apostles’ and gives no details, because there were none to be given.

    He has no evidence at all for his big lie that Matthew was written by a Jewish scribe.

    See http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/gosp1.htm for a demolition job on this claim that the Gospels were eyewitness stuff.

    He is LYING anout the Muratorian canon. It is not evidence for what he is saying.

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/muratorian.html

    There is no way this can be definitively dated.

    ‘ Luke described briefly “for” most excellent Theophilus particular [things], which happened in his presence, as he also evidently relates the death of Peter (?) and also Paul’s departure from the city as he was proceeding to Spain.’

    Shell is quoting the Muratorian Canon as evidence, when it claims Luke relates the death of Peter?

    he Epistle of Jude indeed and the two with the superscription “Of John,” are accepted in the General [Church] — so also the Wisdom of Solomon written by friends in his honor. We accept only the Apocalypses of John and of Peter, although some of us do not want it to be read in the Church.

    Two letters of John, not 3.

    Apocalypse of Peter, Wisdom of Solomon? Why is Shell claiming the Muratorian Canon is evidence of the truth of what he says?

    Did he think that nobody would check out what he was saying?

    Doesn’t he know that sceptics read what he says and investigate whether he is telling the truth or not?

  24. Steven Carr says:

    Shell writes ‘… not considered to have been written more than 45 years after the crucifixion.’

    Gosh! That is convincing. Not more than 45 years after.

    And the Koran was written by a genuine eyewitness – Muhammad.

    After all , he was there, so what should historians like Mr. Shell make of the eyewitness claims to have seen the Angel Gabriel.

    Quite simple. If a claim is made by an eyewitness and written down during the lifetime of the eyewitness, then Mr. Shell will reject if (because that is an Islamic claim)

    However a claim that the Angel Gabriel visited Mary in about 4 BC, not written down until after 62 AD, and by somebody who could not possibly have been there.

    Well, Mr. Shell finds that totally convincing.

    Because it is in the Bible, and Mr. Shell believes anything written in the Bible, even when it comes from the pens of people who (like the author of 2 Peter) believe in talking donkeys.

  25. Steven Carr says:

    Shell writes ‘The story they propagated wasn’t embellished as the years went on.’

    Even he says that Matthew used Mark, and Matthew adds guards at the tomb, a resurrection of the saints, adds more people at the tomb, adds bribes in secret conversations that nobody could have witnessed etc etc.

    Hoe many embellishments would you like?

    The first reference (Paul’s) doesn’t even mention any details. He says Jesus became a life-giving spirit and gives no details about tombs or visitors on the third day.

    And Shell can write bare-faced lies like ‘The story was not embellished as the years went on….’

    [NOTE FROM MONITOR: It was actually me who made the "story was not embellished" statement, not Shell.]

  26. Steven Carr says:

    Shell writes ‘Matthew and John were used by Luke.’

    Huh? Where does Luke use John?

    Luke probably used Josephus.

    See http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/lukeandjosephus.html

    The evidence is incredibly convincing.

    Shell’s criterial of thought worlds and using of details etc puts Luke after Josephus’ Antiquities , ie after 95 AD.

  27. Marc says:

    You follow the Bible Shell: you can’t just cherry pick from it. It’s either a historical record or it isn’t; it’s a pack of lies, misinformation and a worthless pile of shit or it isn’t.

    We can’t rely on anything in the old testament – and since the NT is built on that foundation, we can’t take anything there for granted – no matter how scholarly we are.

    The bible’s editors chose to include all the crap about Adam and Eve, Noah and co (OT); all of it. They equally included the Virgin birth and physical resurrection which a lot of high-ranking clerics accept are likely fable! Remember, these people *believe* in the great sky fairy; they’re not skeptics like me.

    And what’s all this crap that you people keep spouting about the “good news”. Good news? It’s nearly 2000 year old news – hardly “new”, now is it?

    So how factual is it? We don’t really know. It’s full of so-called miracles attributed to Jesus; but we don’t really know for sure that Jesus actually did anything that miraculous. In fact miracles (like all good magic) only remain a mystery until someone explains them.

    The virgin birth is a great example. Even assuming that someone verified that Mary *was* a virgin it’s entirely possible that during some innocent fooling some of those dastardly spermatozoa got loose and did the nasty deed.

    It’s written that Jesus raised several people from the dead, including the stinking corpse of Lazarus. (He would have been a bit pongy in that heat after three days, but that detail is not mentioned.) Peter and Paul are said to have raised people too. Also, when Jesus did his levitation act, supposedly dead people emerged from their tombs. Can we take ANY of this at face value?

    Remarkably perhaps, this hasn’t happened since. (Unless you count the routine revival of heart patients.) It’s interesting to note also, that minutes after the heart stops brain death begins to occur. The act of re-starting the heart using CPR or those marvellous shock machines is actually quite difficult. Moreover, patients revived in this way are rare and those who are almost always suffer extensive, irrecoverablr brain damage.

    Dead people stay dead, but 2000 years ago death could not be easily defined; any more than someone could really be said to be dying so absolutely. Even now people get so ill, even (medical) doctors are convinced they will not survive – yet sometimes they do. These events are not miracles, they just prove that even MDs don’t know everything.

    Mental illness, so widely accepted these days could be interpreted in a number of ways – all of which are of entirely earthly origin.

    People who see things now are having hallucinations – knowlegable people accept this (and good medication makes the visions go away). Even religious visions can be attributed to brain malfunction (from a bang on the head to using psychotropic drugs – even lack of sleep!). Non-Christians, for instance, don’t see images of the Virgin Mary; they see whatever is in their psyche. Of course, if a handy Christian happens across them their vision *must* be Christian.

    If I believed everything I read in books, I’d think ghosts and the tooth fairy were real. I find the Bible an anachronism.

    Where is Jesus now? He’s dead. He’s been dead for nearly two millenia and he ain’t coming back. We’re in deep shit and we’re been in pretty deep shit for an awful long time. We’re buggering with nature and exploting the planet (for non-religious reasons) and letting millions suffer humiliation, hunger, pestilance and death for the sake of *Christian* dogma.

    So where’s your precious saviour now? According to your take, about two millenia ago, your god was so bloody worried he sacrificed his own begotten son for our sins.

    You Christians have plundered 75% of it and it’s no damn better.

    Where is this creator god when the whole world is falling apart. The Romans had nothing on us. We’re killing the planet, not pissing off a few dudes in funny cloaks by feeding their mates to the lions (a loose analogy). On a strictly global scale, I’d think that your god would be a might bit worried and want to intervene. According to your book, he’s done it loads of times in the past; every time we really stepped out of line in fact. Yet for two millenia nothing; not a jot.

    You use birth control, (nothing happens); take the lord’s name in vain (nada); sexually abuse a few dozen kids (still nothing); commit genocide on a massive scale (again, nothing).

    Hell’s bells – what does it take to get this guy’s attention? Not only is there no evidence for an, all-powerful omnipotent god, there’s absolutely masses of evidence against one.

    Morals good: blind faith, dangerous delusion; and self-delusion at that.

  28. Steven Carr says:

    Shell writes ‘ecause the ancient books they most resemble (Plutarch’s ‘Lives’, biographies by Lucian, various ‘Lives’ of Alexander the Great, Xenophon’s Memorabilia & Cyropaedia, various Jewish writings) are history and biography. See Richard Burridge, ‘What are the Gospels?’ (Cambridge, 2nd edition 2004).
    The above-named books and also classic ancient histories (e.g. Herodotus) are not necessarily averse to including tales of very remarkable happenings. Things that we would call supernatural.
    So the fact that a narrative includes ’supernatural’ accounts does not make it untypical of ancient historical or biographical writings.’

    Does Shell believe these books when they have supernatural elements about , say, Alexander the Great?

    Of course he doesn’t.

    Can he name one miracle in pagan literature that he accepted happened?

  29. tom p says:

    I’ve come up with a way that jesus could have raised the dead. If he was actually the emperor from star wars, then he’d've been able to do that shooting electricity from his fingers thing. As long as it was within a few minutes of death, then they’d be largely fine.

  30. Christopher Shell says:

    Hey Steven

    I liked your website, particularly the emphasis on the OT background for the gospels. That is my line of study, and I share the same emphasis.

    John is used by Luke mainly in the passion narrative (wherein Luke is often as close to John as he is to Mark), and also for the fishcatch and sundry other details. See the writings of Barbara Shellard and Mark Matson.
    Shellard agrees with you on Luke and Josephus. I have not studied the links enough to judge. The fact that both link Judas the Galilean (or the sons of Judas) with Theudas was unconvincing to me. They are the sort of pairing one would naturally speak of in the same breath. What you say about the links being ‘incredibly convincing’ certainly overstates the case. It’s a subject I would like to look into in more detail.

    On the Muratorian Canon, you are reproducing what I have already said: it corresponds to our NT except in a handful of cases. Details like two rather than three letters of John are not of enormous significance. There is a good chance that 2-3 John were written at the same time and to the same church. These letters are only a few lines long anyway.

    On miracle: Im not sure there is any such concept in the ancient world. Even the Bible speaks of ‘signs’, ‘wonders’, ‘mighty works’, but not of miracles. The word ‘miracle’ can only be used by ppl who think that there are laws of nature preventing certain things from happening (ie post-Enlightenment ppl).
    Of course, it’s a difficult subject since all sorts of strange things do happen.
    Examples: A crustacean which was an ornament on someone’s mantlepiece started moving around after a decade. There are testimonies of ‘dead’ people coming back to life – sometimes in good health – after a few days. I agree with you that defining ‘life’ and ‘death’ is hard, but obviously there are still some things that puzzle the scientists. There are bound to be.
    There were all sorts of travelling healers in the world of Jesus, and even Josephus agrees that Jesus was one of them. They were perceived to heal. Jesus was perceived to heal every individual in long lines. What actually happens is beyond our knowledge.

    ‘It’s either a historical record or it isnt’ – this is generalisation of the year. The Bible is a library full of many diverse books. It can’t all be lumped into one. Just think of all the different genres – poetry, song, proverb, folk-legend, aetiology, history, epistle, biography, apocalypse, prophecy….

    What you say about the Bible’s editors is incorrect. The editors of the OT were a different bunch from the editors of the NT. One lot were Pharisees (in the final instance – there were earlier editors too: priests etc.) and the other lot were Christians.

    What you say about Lazarus is incorrect. The detail about him being ‘a bit pongy’ is explicitly mentioned in John 11.39.

    Monitor is right about my not saying the stories were unembellished. Matthew is a classic example of embellishment of Mark. The mass-resurrection I have already dealt with twice. But of what relevance is that, when one can simply go back to Mark, with his links with Peter (see fragments of Papias). There is some possibility that Mark dates to within 10 years of the crucifixion – this is the view of, for example, the humanist writers Maurice Casey and James Crossley. It is not my view, though I cant disprove it.

    The infancy narratives are a very interesting one. Luke twice writes: ‘But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.’. One of Luke’s closest contemporaries and coworkers was Mark, in whose house/community Mary was staying at the time of her death.

    Acts 15: you are correct. What makes you think that Paul met only a few of the Twelve? ‘The Apostles’ most naturally refers to all of them as a body, or more or less all of them. We dont know – that is just the most natural meaning. See too 1 Corinthians 9, which shows he is familiar with their modus vivendi.

    Death of Peter and Paul’s departure for Spain – tantalising. Unlikely to be accurate (unfortunately). Not relevant to teh list of books, which is a separate question.

    The variants on Matthew cannot comprise ’20 different sayings’. Everyone would agree that it is the same one saying (or viewpoint) of Jesus that is in question. It is, rather, 20 different scribal variants. One can easily pass this over and just go back to Mark (and Paul).
    Why did the scribes make the variants? To suit their own views (or get out of a tight personal corner). Does this affect our knowledge of what the original reading was? No – not usually. Because of the family tree principle. It’s this family tree principle which I would like to discuss with you – or indeed anything else that takes your fancy.

    All the best

  31. Steven Carr says:

    Hi Mr Shell,
    If you can work out what Jesus’ original saying on divorce was, that would be a major breakthrough in Biblical studies…..

    How can you go back to Mark, when nobody can say what is original? Where are the copies of Mark from the second century AD?

    Luke uses John for the fish catch? But Luke puts that scene in Jerusalem, and John has it in Galilee.

    What is all this about Mary staying in Mark’s house at the time of her death? This is fantasy.

    The Muratorian shows that the canon was not fixed for a long time.

    Really there is nothing there.

    You look for evidence and you find none.

    Even when I pay Christians to come up with evidence, they produce none.

  32. Steven Carr says:

    Again there is just no historical confirmation in Paul or Acts 15 that the 12 disciples who witnessed thre resurrection (paul says 12, although there were only 11) were still present at that time.

    They disappear from the pages of Acts with remarkable speed – a very embarassed silence on the part of the author.

    Matthew 28:17 says they doubted.

    This is clearly designed to get around the fact that it was known they packed it in. Backed up with Paul mentioning only 3, and the silence of Acts about these ‘heroes’, and there is only one conclusion.

  33. Christopher Shell says:

    You pay Christians to come up with evidence? This I must investigate.

    (1) So far as I know, the second century is when we get our earliest copies of Mark and/or portions of Mark.

    (2) I think you’ll find that Mark’s version of the divorce saying is superior to the others in the following ways:
    (a) It is unembellished by comparison with them (just like his ‘Take it: this is my body’ is unembellished);
    (b) It is focussed and coherent;
    (c) It is associated with Jesus’s teaching in a particular (remembered?) location.

    (3) Luke deliberately pulls out all the stops to have the disciples remain in Jerusalem after the resurrection, and gets rid of all references to Galilee appearances of Jesus. (All scholars agree on that point.) This allows him to make his first volume neatly centripetal, and his second neatly centrifugal, ‘to the ends of the earth’. Very naughty of him from an historical perspective.
    He read the fishcatch story in John and was therefore unable to include it in Galilean post-resurrection context. He finds the closest context in Mark (Peter, James and John just finished fishing for the night, in Mark 1) and adds the fishcatch story there.

    (4) When did I say that Mary definitely stayed at Mark’s house at the time of her death? She may well have done, but we dont know. She was with the Christian community in Jerusalem in or around 30 AD, and presumably thereafter till she died. The [central] Christian community was at first small enough to meet in one house, and (certainly around 42 AD; maybe also earlier, maybe not) that house was Mark’s house (Acts 12).

    (5) Your para #82 is mostly an argument from silence – not enough caution for my liking.
    When we dont know we must say we dont know.
    Revelation 21, written at the earliest in the 60s, still speaks of the twelve apostles as a single body.
    Re Acts, all we know is that ‘the apostles’ (already introdued in Acts, up till chapter six) as ‘the Twelve’, were present.
    Not even Peter and John are named in Acts after chapter 12, but they were still doing all sorts of things, which Luke never gets round to telling us. Because Luke is more interested in his friend Paul.
    If Galatians calls Peter, James and John ‘pillar’ apostles (even in the late 40s AD) that must likely be to distinguish them from ‘non-pillar’ apostles.

  34. Christopher Shell says:

    Correction: Peter is also – as we saw earlier – mentioned in Acts 15. This means that the whole of the last 15 years of his life is omitted.

  35. Steven Carr says:

    Revelation 12 does not identify the 12 apostles with *anybody* in the NT. It just says their names were written down.

    Are you saying the name of Judas is writtn on the foundations of the Heavenly City?

    Clearly you think Luke has been making up stories of the resurrection , or ‘redacting’ them, if you wish.

  36. Christopher Shell says:

    Luke – of course. What he inherits he shapes to his own requirements.

    Judas – no. Matthias ‘was added to the eleven apostles’ – Acts 1.26.

    Whom else could the 12 apostles be identified with?