First, you make the same mistake as science philosopher Dr. Cavin: Historians DO NOT use Baye’s Theorem. There is a reason why: it does not work on history. As I presented in my probabilities link, applying the theorem to America’s Revolutionary War would demonstrate certain failure of the revolutionaries. Again, that is what makes extraordinary historical events extraordinary—the high improbability of their occurring.You are right to reject a naive application of probability, of the kind that would consider any poker hand to be a miracle. Mine is not that kind of analysis. My only mention of prior probability was to say that body theft by disciples -- the crux of the issue here -- had perhaps a 0.001 prior probability, and I did not try to multiply that probability against other prior probabilities in the chain of (even uncontroversial) gospel events.
Instead, my analysis is of posterior possibilities: analyzing the logically possible explanations of the existing evidence, and partitioning the 100% probability of that evidence's existence among the explanations that might account for that existence.
In fact, a case can be made that by applying probabilities, Christianity could not exist (http://www.tektonics.org/nowayjose.html).Turkel's analysis indeed appeals to the kind of naive poker-hand thinking you criticize. (My detailed rebuttal of his essay is at here.) In fact, in my forthcoming response in that debate, I considered analogizing his argument not to the American Revolution but to America's miraculous WWII victory at Midway. But I don't think I'll pursue it, because as you say, poker-hand thinking is already so obviously fallacious.
I reject Brian’s probabilities because historians reject their application.I doubt you could name a single professional historian who 1) denies that the logically possible explanations for a historical fact (e.g. the existence of the gospels) must sum to 100% probability, or 2) claims that no judgments can be made about the relative probabilities of those possible explanations. So: what is your next excuse for not quantifying your claim that a human explanation is improbable? :-)
To accept that some disciples were duped, we have to accept:Arguments that there was only one possible kind of resurrection concept among potential members of the early Jesus movement are easily countered by
a) They accepted a resurrection format outside of their biblical resurrection perception.
b) They either pretended or deluded themselves into believing they saw what the deceiver disciples convinced them they should be seeing.It's quite common for religious fervor to induce certain degrees of delusion and fanatacism, which can sometimes actually be strengthened by persecution and the prospect of martyrdom. It's an obvious strawman to say I call such believers "mentally unhealthy". This is the usual apologetic fallacy of the excluded middle, in which everyone is either mentally ill or thoroughly and rationally skeptical.
c) The fruits of this new life in the ancient “Hallu-Deck” proved rewarding enough to live out the fantasy through persecution and some even to martyrdom.
f) All of them were initially mentally unhealthy enough to undergo such fanaticism, for a mentally healthy person would not likely adopt any of the above.
g) Their metal illnesses conveniently came together to accommodate the deceptive hearts of the other disciples.
d) The thought never occurred to any of them that perhaps the body had been stolen.I need not claim that, and on the contrary, you even quoted me telling you that "the possibility of removal [Jn 20:2,14,15] was not unimaginable to" Mary Magdelene. (It's fascinating that you are here unable to correctly construe my position.) After turning away from their families, vocations, and possessions to follow Jesus, the disciples can easily be forgiven for choosing to believe in Jesus' triumph instead of in the obvious alternative of his humiliating failure.
e) Not even one eventually came to his senses.I obviously need not subscribe to this strawman. It's hard to imagine that not a single former follower of Jesus was among "the Jews" who Mt 28:15 says believe "to this day" that the body was indeed stolen. Jesus complains [Mt 11:20-23, Lk 10:13, Jn 10:32, 12:37, 15:24] in the gospels that even witnesses of his miracles could deny him, so why would all such denials (e.g. Jn 6:66) cease after the post-Easter appearances (to only "witnesses whom God had already chosen" [Acts 10:41])?
h) The duped disciples’ illness and the deceitful disciples’ deceit conveniently came together to accommodate Paul’s distant psychosis.Paul's vision was years after any body theft, and through his persecution of Christians he likely had all the information he could need to have the appropriate vision.
To accept that other disciples stole the body, we have to accept:As I said before, and as you ignored: knowing just the evidence up to Good Friday, I would have guessed only a 1 in 1000 chance of any disciple stealing the body. (Probably even a little higher, since it's not unprecedented for religious zealots to intentionally deceive their co-religionists for the greater good of continued faith in a righteous cause.) But given the evidence about what happened after Good Friday, and given the alternative possibilities (which you still decline to even discuss), the odds of a stolen body rise IMO to almost 1 in 2.
a) Items g and h
b) They had a motive.
c) The fruits of this new life of con artist(s) proved rewarding enough to live out the scam through persecution and possible martyrdom.The deceptive disciples would nevertheless remain believers in the cause of Jesus as the "Son of God" and sacrificial redeemer. One suspect that I named (and whom you ignored -- Joseph of Arimathea) was in very little danger of persecution, since he was only "secretly" a disciple of Jesus [Jn 19:38] (and thus adept at deception for the sake of a justifying end). The New Testament is utterly (and suspicously) silent about the subsequent history and fate of the other suspect I named, Mary Magdelene. The NT says almost nothing of the specific risks and fates experienced by the core apostolic group (other than Peter and James). At any rate, my hypothetical deceivers would have been acting out of zealousness for the cause, and not to undermine it -- or else they would have produced the body.
To accept that some disciples stole the body and the others were duped, we have to accept:No need for "legend creation" from whole cloth here; we need only tall tales, exaggeration, hallucination, and revelatory one-upsmanship.
a) A legend was birthed in two generations rather than the centuries historians accept as needed for legend creation.
The historicity of the gospel writers is more reliable than Alexander the Great’s. Non-theistic scholars claim reports about the disciples arose after sufficient time elapsed to develop legends. In contrast, historical documentation for Alexander the Great’s existence appeared nearly 400 years after his death. Nevertheless, scholars agree he existed.I'm not a Jesus ahistoricist, so you're preaching to the choir. Also, for documents mentioning Alexander, you're probably confusing dates of extant manuscript copies with the dates of the copied texts' composition.
If the gospels were written 150 years after the crucifixion (and some historians have dated the letters to the churches to under 30 years after the event), they are more reliable than accounts of Alexander the Great.What account about Alexander 1) says he was the Son of God and 2) says [cf. Jn 20:31] it has "been written so that you may believe" this? The gospels are indeed reliable evidence of Jesus' life and teachings, but any accounts of miracles by Jesus or Alexander are subject to equal skepticism.
Other established historical figures include Suetonius, Tacitus, Thucydides, and Herodotus. Writings about them appeared 800 to 1300 years after their existenceYou again make it sound as if we have no reason to think that there were copies of the relevant texts before the currently-surviving manuscripts were copied down.
b) A new religion would be created against the odds. Again, visit Holding at http://www.tektonics.org/nowayjose.html .Again: read my demolition of his piece here, and stay tuned for my nearly-completed demolition of his response.
Again, I find it easier by far to accept one miracle of resurrection over 11 in secular explanation.Again, that finding is only valid if you have a good argument that my 1 in 1000 body theft explanation is more improbable than a "one miracle" that is freighted with a creaking superstructure of paranormal abilities and intentions. You don't have such an argument, as is evidenced not only by my rebuttals above but by your continuing unwillingness to quantify how much "easier by far" it actually is to you.
That continuing unwillingness is also evidence that you recognize the corner I backed you into when I asked whether the likelihood of a merely human explanation is closer to 1 in hundred than it is to 1 in a trillion. If you say something like the former (e.g. 1/thousand), then it's obvious that such an improbable human explanation is still to be preferred over a supernaturalism that is otherwise unwarranted. If instead you say something like the latter (e.g. 1/billion), then it's obvious that you're a dogmatist who isn't seriously considering a merely human explanation. Either way, you lose; hence your silence.
Holtz often attempts to allow his argument items to end further debate as his previous attempts with me.I indeed have no desire for interminable debates with the Christian apologists I've so far encountered on the web, as they so rarely offer any arguments for which I don't already know the answers. That is why I originally was seeking merely to learn whether your conversion was due to any such arguments. It's clear that it wasn't..
H: I once debated into a corner some atheists who claimed that miracles by definition can never be the best explanation for any phenomenon.No they couldn't, for the reasons I give there.
J: Holtz “debated” no one “into a corner.” A reader could rationally accept either position argued in Holtz’s referenced page.
I read his other links; nothing earth shattering there. My points remain.Your every contrary point remains rebutted; many of my arguments remain completely unanswered (see below). If in your opinion we are at reflective equilibrium -- i.e., we've each offered our best rebuttals against the other's statements --, then I'm happy to consider this debate finished and allow our readers to evaluate those rebuttals for themselves.
I will, though, forward Holtz’s Cavin comments and correct calculations to the professor so he can discard his Twin Theory. Mr. Holtz is possibly a mere legend in his own mind. [..] He further attacked my character and the character of A.S.A. Jones in his “analysis” of our testimonies.How ironic that you sophomorically attack my character, and then two sentences later charge that I've attacked yours -- when in fact you've offered no response to my previous detailed denials of doing so:
[A]nalyzing your conversion does not constitute a "character attack"; [..]Each and every one of these sentences can easily be defended as an objective statement of fact that is relevant to the issue of whether your conversion points to better arguments than an atheist may have seen before. The only issue of "character" here is whether you will desist from such legend-in-own-mind aspersions and from repeating your now-thrice-rebutted charge of "character attack".
Investigating conversion stories might help uncover better arguments than one has seen (or appreciated) before [..]
[P]ersonal problems are a potentially confounding influence that can make it harder to decide how much the arguments that helped convert you could help convert other atheists with different histories. [..]
I asserted no conclusion about the strength or weakness of your character; I merely noted that your history might confound a conclusion that you "converted to Christianity purely because of comparing arguments".
[Y]our learning as an atheist seemed not to include first-hand familiarity with the text of the Bible [..]
[Y]ou may not be a good example of "an atheist having long-term experience with both side's arguments who later converted to Christianity purely because of comparing those arguments." [..]
One's current "position" may be quite unrelated to the processes involved in one's conversion. Your page's discussion of your being "saved" and your "acceptance" of Jesus is several paragraphs removed from this presentation of your "position", and surrounds a link to your "personal testimony". Your conversion story in fact reiterates your "position" as #8 of the 10 things you "determined" during your conversion, and I quoted the heart of that determination in my analysis.
Holtz’s arguments ultimately lead to mental illness of Christ and His followers then and now. See his exchange with J.P. Holding [aka Robert Turkel].Your citing Turkel is ironic, since you repeat his fallacy of the excluded middle: that Jesus was "nuts" or God. There are varying degrees of delusionality, and no human could reasonably claim to be completely rational all the time. (To see the full unedited history of my exchange with Turkel, you actually have to go here.)
Do note that, at last glance, Holtz has not provided his readers with a link to our replies to his analysis.I've included the link, and posted my full correspondence with you, so that our readers can more easily see just who has or hasn't replied to the other's analysis.
Holtz commonly argues that his operational agreed-upon definitions are actually something other than what the words and sentence structure indicates. Then he charges misrepresentation on those who do not share in his vision.False, and false. I explicitly state my definitions, and ask my interlocutors to state theirs. (For example, I quoted my definition of 'faith' and asked you to quote yours. You haven't.) I daresay I'm among the most careful users of English that you'll ever encounter, and your failures to clearly write what you mean do not constitute a failure of mine to correctly read what you write.
I ask that Holtz please describe for us just what “There is no body,” means in his English.Those are your words, so I ask you what -- precisely -- they mean. Do you deny that in "there is no body" there is an implication that in the days and weeks after Easter there was an actual missing-body problem noted by the relevant disciples? Do you claim that such a prompt noting of a missing-body problem is part of the settled consensus among academic historians? Or do you speciously claim that "there is no body" just means there is no body today?
he needs to accept it as fact that there is no available body—only theories as to its whereabouts."There is no available body" today for John the Baptist or Judas, but that doesn't mean either of them rose from the dead. If your missing-body problem really is just about why the body is missing in 2003CE instead of c30CE, then your "position" is not interesting enough to debate.
H: Your ability to type the phrase "science-based faith" does not constitute an argument.If Turkel has a definition of 'faith' that you like, then cut and paste it here. If instead you're going to emulate his tactic of argument-by-link-to-tektonics-obfuscation, then let's declare this debate suspended so I can devote more of my theopolemics time budget to debating Turkel directly.
J: Then stop arguing about it: http://www.tektonics.org/whatfaith.html
H: most of the disciples were probably not aware of any theft of the body. . .I don't presume it; I conclude it.
J: Though I addressed that above, I add that Holtz presumes non-resurrection.
H: . . . and Peter and James are the only resurrection witnesses who the New Testament names (John 21:18,19, Acts 12:2) as martyrs, but there is no evidence that recanting their presumed belief in physical resurrection could have saved them.Martyrs are a dime a dozen; just sift the ashes down in Waco. Peter and James are indeed exceptional in that they had intense and long-term personal relationships with the salvific martyr for whom they presumably died, and so their martyrdoms are exceptional only in being easier to explain than most.
T: A case of a single martyr under such circumstance warrants a revisit to psychology journals; two further the case.
Granted, no evidence exists that recanting would have prevented martyrdom. No evidence exists to the contrary, either.Not quite true. We know that Christians were routinely spared for recanting monotheism (which the Romans considered effectively atheistic). I know of no Christian ever spared merely for recanting the physical resurrection while still affirming Christian trinitarian monotheism. Thus the traditional apologetic argument that martyrs and persecution verify a specifically physical resurrection is fallacious.
I expect circumstances prior to death would have already possessed a person to back out of a lie about visions or the body.You here do not correctly construe my argument, let alone answer it. I have never said that any visions were a "lie", but instead say they were sincerely misinterpreted cases of mystically intense emotion or outright hallucination.
However, for the sake of argument, let us assume there is substance to Holtz’s concern: Holtz can then calculate the probabilities above excluding two martyrs. My point remains.My rebuttals remain. If you're satisfied that your "points remain", then I'll just repeat the points of mine that remain unanswered: