historical reliability

A Silly Assertion

As Easter approaches, a particularly annoying assertion masquerading as an argument seems to be constantly rearing its ugly head this year. I’ve stopped counting the times I’ve heard or read it.

Here it is: “The Gospel accounts can’t be considered historically reliable because they were written by men who believed that Jesus was God”.

The implication of this statement is that the authors must have been too biased in favor of their subject to record true accounts. It is intended to place the burden of proof of the reliability of the Gospel accounts on we who believe them, and to further place the bar of authenticity so impossibly high as to be unachievable.

It fails miserably in many ways. The first is presenting it as an argument that requires refutation. It is not, and I’ll explain.

An argument posits a conclusion that logically follows from one or more premises. An example is:

All bikers ride motorcycles.

Curly is a biker.

Therefore, Curly is a biker.

In the example argument, if all bikers do in fact ride motorcycles and Curly is in fact a biker, then it MUST be true that Curly rides a motorcycle. If either of the two statements are not true, then Curly is not a biker. This is an argument.

The statement “The Gospel accounts can’t be considered historically reliable because they were written by men who believed that Jesus was God” is not an argument; it is an assertion. Assertions are not conclusions based on logic or truth. They are simply statements of belief. The burden of proof therefore lies upon the person making the claim.

But beyond that, the statement is nonsensical.  The implied premise is that anyone claiming to be writing an account of a person or event cannot be telling the truth if the writer believes what he or she is writing.

For example, the following statements are logically equivalent to the assertion in question:

“Carl Sandburg cannot possibly have written an accurate account of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency because he believed that Lincoln was actually President.”

“There was a story in the newspaper yesterday about a bank robbery, but I can’t give it any credibility because the author believes the bank was robbed.”

Notice that the above statements carry no information or premises to support it. It is the proper responsibility of those making the assertion to provide evidence to support it. It it entirely reasonable for someone objecting to it to consider the statement false unless supporting arguments can be supplied.

My objection to the “the Gospels aren’t true because the authors believed in Jesus” assertion isn’t primarily about whether the Gospels are true or not; it is the sloppy logic and intellectually lazy idea behind it. It is simply an assertion that does nothing but reveal the unwillingness or inability of the person stating it to think through what they are saying.

Sadly, it is increasingly apparent that many college age and younger people are both. Pointing out the deficiency of their statement as gently and objectively as possible, and more often than not they react as if you are personally attacking them. Be prepared, but don’t back down. Truth matters, and this kind of fuzzy thinking rarely leads to the truth. Simply stating that something is so does not MAKE it so.

The evidence (as shown in previous posts) for the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts – and therefore the resurrection of Christ – is better than that for any other ancient text. It is our job to point that out as cheerfully and gracefully as possible when it is contested.

Quick Thought -Bible Conspiracies

There’s been a lot published on the Internet lately about the “Jesus is really Apollonius” theory lately. It has been popularized by an hour long documentary recently been made available through Amazon Prime Video entitled Bible Conspiracies.

Released in 2016, the so-called documentary was written and narrated by Philip Gardiner, a former Marketing Director turned conspiracy propagandist. It is full of undocumented, unverified, and debunked drivel that I and others have rebutted at length repeatedly. The “Jesus is really Apolonius the Greek” is just another in a long line of conjectures made up of whole cloth. 

Even in looking at a number of internet articles on the subject, I could find not even one primary source, or even a reliable secondary source, cited to back up any more than superficial link between the alleged stories about Apollonius and the Biblical narrative about Jesus.

But to get back the film itself. It is a little over one hour of Mr. Gardiner (who never appears on camera) reciting a litany of supposed ‘facts’ about the Bible with a series of still images and short film snippets as backdrop. He cites no primary sources to support his assertions; in fact, his very, very few reference to source material are all passing remarks, and he gives no information as to authorship or level of expertise in the field for ANY of his sources. If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve actually researched most of his speculations and therefore knew where some of his stories originated, I would have assumed that he’d made it all up himself.

Some of the ideas he throws out are:

* Jesus never existed, and is both (!) a recycled Horus myth and was really a Greek philosopher/healer named Apolonius, as well as a physician trained in healing arts in Egypt

Real consistent there, isn’t he? But wait – there’s more!

* The Bible teaches reincarnation

* Jesus was married, and the wedding where He performed His first recorded miracle was His own

* The gospels were written by Gnostics

* Monothiesm was a Christian ‘invention’

….. and on and on and on.

In short, anything concerning the Bible or the Church citing either this film or Gardiner as a major source is very suspect. It is at best poorly researched and logically and historically bankrupt. It is a pastiche of misinterpretation, twisted logic, false statements, and fanciful concoctions that deserves to be ignored.

About the Virgin Birth

Now that what is for most families the whirlwind Christmas season has wound down, I thought it would be appropriate to step back a bit and take a look at how we as Christians can be assured of the authenticity of the virgin conception of the Christ.

I will point out right away that other than the resurrection of the Christ, the virgin conception is the most attacked fact presented in the Gospels, precisely because it is one of the hardest to defend if you do not take a thorough, open-minded examination of the evidence to support it.  I’ll summarise much of that here.

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