Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gospels and Acts as History by Timothy McGrew - Apologetics 315

Brian Auten just posted a lecture by Dr Timothy McGrew on the reliability of the New Testament. He explains why we should take the Gospels and Acts as Historical and not fiction. Brian posted Dr McGrew's lecture in Video format, MP3, and even the powerpoints! Follow the link to Apologetics 315 to get your hands on this information!

Gospels and Acts as History by Timothy McGrew - Apologetics 315
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107 comments:

  1. Well, I think Tim’s a little too certain about the composition date of Polycarp’s Epistle, and errs way too much on the early side, but that’s typical of apologists. Lots of confirmation bias going on here.

    And wow is his “trilemma” confused, nowhere near as "almost bullet proof" as Lewis’. There’s no reason a direct witness can’t also be a deceiver and no reason one who deceives, can’t also be duped about something else. One can even dupe themselves while being deceived by those that dupe themselves in a horrible dupe/deceiver feedback loop. Look at you, for example, you think you have a relationship with a dead Palestinian. Lots of non-mutually exclusive permutations in his so called trilemma…

    Also, remember, Homer and Virgil were also “intimately familiar” with historical minutia, and were writing a sort of historical fiction. George Rawlinson doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

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  2. You know a lot about duping oneself and missing truth. But I think you still don't think you know better than Dr Tim McGrew.

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  3. And you don't know more than Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens?

    Do you really want to play the "I'm appealing to a mid-list scholar" game?

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  4. Lots of arrogance to call Tim McGrew a "mid-list scholar". I'd thought you would have more class. Guess I was wrong. And did you really call Christopher Hitchens an Academic scholar? LOL. You sure have a problem. If Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins are the experts you'd like to appeal to then they can answer those 15 questions:

    http://creation.com/question-evolution

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  5. And did you really call Christopher Hitchens an Academic scholar?

    Did I? No, I just implied he's a lot smarter than you.

    For someone who indiscriminately throws around claims that others don't have reading comprehension skills, you sure have your own problems.

    If Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins are the experts you'd like to appeal to then they can answer those 15 questions...

    Um, how's Jerry Coyne going to even know about the questions if you are too chicken to post over there. Do you think he reads your hog of a blog?

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  6. Also, "mid-list" was being beyond generous given his CV...

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  7. Did I? No, I just implied he's a lot smarter than you.

    For someone who indiscriminately throws around claims that others don't have reading comprehension skills, you sure have your own problems.


    You do indeed have reading comprehension problem because I didn't say that Dr McGrew was smarter than you. I said he knows more about history and the Bible than you do. Very indiscriminate on your part. And none of the people you suggest as being smarter than me have any professional ability to argue anything about the subjects on which this post addresses. You just keep digging yourself a hole. You need to get out of that hole.


    Um, how's Jerry Coyne going to even know about the questions if you are too chicken to post over there. Do you think he reads your hog of a blog?


    I didn't come up with the questions and they are not new at all. As far as I can tell none of your "champions of macro evolution" can answer them - and more to the point - neither can you.

    He doesn't have to read my blog. the questions are on several websites and books for the past several years. He might not read my blog, but you do. And since you are fond of looking for help at times - desperate to prove me wrong - feel free to send him the list.

    Also, "mid-list" was being beyond generous given his CV...

    Yup, you are arrogant and poorly informed. No class. You are no where on Tim McGrew's level.

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  8. Bart Erhman is smarter than you. Richard Carrier even, is smarter than you. Robert Prince is much smarter than you. Robert Funk was much much much smarter than you.

    As for the rest, you are a coward.

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  9. Again, since you obviously missed this, I never brought up or argued who is "smarter" (ie raw intelligence). I said that Dr McGrew knows more about the subject you ineptly critiqued in your comments on this post. That does not mean you are less intelligent - just wrong. You can be intelligent yet wrong about somethings (in your case quite a bit of things). Nothing to be ashamed of. Shame comes when your pride and arrogance become obstacles to your growth - which is your case.

    So I'm not denying that Carrier, Hitchens, Ehrman, Funk, or Price (I assume that's who you mean by "Robert Prince") may indeed be more intelligent than I but that doesn't mean that I'm wrong when I disagree with them. They certainly are wrong as I shift and understand the evidence that we do have. McGrew on the otherhand is correct in the information he presents and the conclusions he comes to. I wouldn't put much stock in most of what the men you have cited say or write because each of them were unable to successfully defend their points of view in scholarly debate so that means they ain't at the apex of intelligence either. We are in good company.

    Of course each of them are much smarter than you.

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  10. So I'm not denying that Carrier, Hitchens, Ehrman, Funk, or Price (I assume that's who you mean by "Robert Prince") may indeed be more intelligent than I...

    May be??? AHAHAHAH!!!

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  11. I said that Dr McGrew knows more about the subject you ineptly critiqued in your comments on this post.

    A critique you failed to address in anyway, by the way.

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  12. Remember he's smarter and more knowledgeable than you.

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  13. Why should I entertain your drivel? Dr McGrew more than swatted them away just like swatting annoying gnats. Just listen to the presentation. Maybe you should look at the powerpoint also - it might help you understand what he said...but then from what you have demonstrated maybe not.

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  14. Well said Marcus, good argumentation.

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  15. OK, so besides being ignorant of evolutionary theory, you also have no idea what sarcasm is, you didn't make an argument. You've not address my original comment. I'm confident you can't.

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  16. McGrew already did. I get sarcasm. You don't seem to get it when sarcasm is used against you. Yup, I don't understand evolution theory - the parts that don't make sense.

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  17. McGrew already did.

    No, he didn't, or perhaps you can point me to the exact time stamp where he explains why the three parts of a "trilemma" don't need to be mutually exclusive. I really don't think you (or Tim) know what the "lemma" part requires...

    Plus, there's Polycarp...

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  18. Yes there are many people who would agree with his dating for Polycarp and you can't prove he's wrong outside of saying that there are some scholars disagree with him on when the Epistle to the Philippians was written.

    As your attempt at the Trilemma you are the confused one. Offering possibilities don't show he's wrong. Stop trying to play with the big boys you don't belong there.

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  19. It wasn't that I was saying he was wrong, my point is he's a typical dishonest apologist because he assumes the earliest possible date with certainty that no real scholar would claim.

    You don't really know what a dilemma or trilemma is, do you?

    If you think you can play with the big boys, you had best work on your English.

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  20. It wasn't that I was saying he was wrong, my point is he's a typical dishonest apologist because he assumes the earliest possible date with certainty that no real scholar would claim.

    So he's not wrong. You claim he's being dishonest - which you can't possibly prove. You are claiming that everyone who agrees with him is dishonest as if there are no good reasons to hold that position. That's stupid.

    You don't really know what a dilemma or trilemma is, do you?

    If you think you can play with the big boys, you had best work on your English.


    Again claiming to know something you can't know. Blind assertion which fits you well.

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  21. So he's not wrong.

    Wow, the stupidity burns... The point is, he can't know if he's right or wrong, yet in his lecture he speaks with a certainty that's not warranted. You really have a problem not seeing things in binary, which makes it all the more surprising that you don't know what a dilemma/trilemma is...

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  22. McGrew is smarter and more informed than you. Indisputable. Even if you think he is a "mid-list scholar" he is on the list you are not. How do you know that he has more reason to be certain than you do to be uncertain? The arrogance is yours because of your abject ignorance.

    I know what a trilemma is you have not proven that he misused the term at all.

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  23. You claim he's being dishonest - which you can't possibly prove.

    Of course I can, if he was honest, he wouldn't have said "Polycarp's epistle was written in 108" (paraphrase), he would have said, "Polycarps epistle was written somewhere between 108 and 140".

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  24. I know what a trilemma is you have not proven that he misused the term at all.

    Oh, no, I don't think you do. By claiming that three options that are not mutually exclusive make up a trilemma, Tim proves he doesn't know either.

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  25. Of course I can, if he was honest, he wouldn't have said "Polycarp's epistle was written in 108" (paraphrase), he would have said, "Polycarps epistle was written somewhere between 108 and 140".


    Even if the Epistle was written 140 AD, McGrew's point does not change. You have a problem.

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  26. Of course it does. 30 years is a long time...

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  27. 30 years is nothing compared to other ancient manuscripts we have. Aren't you being dishonest by being certain by the later date when you admit that it could be a range of dates? Thirty years is a very narrow range. Sounds like you have a plank in your eye. And again it doesn't derail McGrew's argument in any way. It doesn't help you show anything he said was wrong.

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  28. And again it doesn't derail McGrew's argument in any way.

    Debatable.

    But what it does definitely show is that he's dishonest enough to fudge the numbers for the sake of his message. But that's expected given that apologists are working backwards from a preselected conclusion.

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  29. Debatable.

    Then demonstrate that his conclusions about what Polycarp's letter shows is wrong which you haven't.

    But what it does definitely show is that he's dishonest enough to fudge the numbers for the sake of his message. But that's expected given that apologists are working backwards from a preselected conclusion.

    He didn't fudge. You admit that the date he gave is an acceptable date in the range given by scholars. It's you who have the "preselected conclusion". You are too blind to see your own wrong presuppositions.

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  30. You admit that the date he gave is an acceptable date in the range given by scholars.

    Actually, I was being generous, he's two years earlier than the date ranges I've seen in my readings. He doesn't explain why he thinks it definitely from 108, and he doesn't tell his audience it could be 32 years later. Sloppy. Plus he doesn't know what a trilemma is. Terrible.

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  31. Actually, I was being generous,

    I think you have "generous" confused with "ignorant" or "ill-informed".

    he's two years earlier than the date ranges I've seen in my readings. He doesn't explain why he thinks it definitely from 108, and he doesn't tell his audience it could be 32 years later.


    Nice. Arguing from silence. Making unfounded assertions to McGrew's intentions. Yup - that's academic behavior all right. Oh yeah, that right. McGrew is a scholar and you're not. That's to be expected from you.

    Sloppy. Plus he doesn't know what a trilemma is. Terrible.

    You really shouldn't be so negative on your comments. I'm sure if you were as educated on the subject as Dr Tim McGrew, you might actually offer something useful.

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  32. Nice comments Marcus, empty as always.

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  33. I think you are indeed confused. You still haven't explained how re-dating Polycarp's epistle falsifies McGrew's logic and arguments. So far your comments have been pointless.

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  34. You still haven't explained how re-dating Polycarp's epistle falsifies McGrew's logic and arguments.

    Again, that was not my point. Try to follow...

    1) A book is thought to be written sometime between x and x+40

    2) a philosopher/apologist who is not a biblical scholar says "book was written on x"

    3) Either philosopher/apologist is ignorant of the scholarship (which is likely given he's a philosophy of knowledge guy and not a biblical scholar) or he's intentionally trying to mislead his audience (which is also likely, considering how well known and accessible the scholarship is on this subject).

    Also, I was looking forward to you trying to defend the use of non-mutually exclusive options in a "trilemma", it would have been amusing.

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  35. Additionally, I'm not "re-dating" anything, McGrew is since he inexplicably throws out a very specific date which is technically outside the range scholars who are familiar with the subject hold

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  36. Again, that was not my point. Try to follow...

    So I was right. You have no point or conclusion you are trying to demonstrate. You just don't know what you are talking about. You are basically saying that Dr. McGrew is right. Fine.

    1) A book is thought to be written sometime between x and x+40

    So what? McGrew is not denying that. You have not demonstrated that he is wrong. All you've got is that some people you have read would use a different date. Again, So what? Have you read every single scholarly paper/book/resource on Polycarp? I bet he has and I'm certain you haven't.

    2) a philosopher/apologist who is not a biblical scholar says "book was written on x"

    Polycarp is not in the Bible. So again. So what? The lecture was on the historicity of the Gospels and Acts. And he appealed to sources outside the Bible as well as the text itself. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and "In addition to epistemological studies, McGrew also specializes in philosophy of science, probability theory, and history of science issues as well as historical apologetics." link. He is more than qualified. What are yours?

    3) Either philosopher/apologist is ignorant of the scholarship (which is likely given he's a philosophy of knowledge guy and not a biblical scholar) or he's intentionally trying to mislead his audience (which is also likely, considering how well known and accessible the scholarship is on this subject).

    I think your ignorance of why he gave the date of 108 AD for the writing of Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians is far more likely than his ignorance or dishonesty. You're just mad because he schooled you in a comment on one of my previous posts.

    Also, I was looking forward to you trying to defend the use of non-mutually exclusive options in a "trilemma", it would have been amusing.

    The amusing part was your lame attempt to show that he didn't present a trilemma. Classic. But how about first demonstrating that McGrew is incorrect in his dating of Polycarp's epistle and why that matters in denying his conclusions. Then we can see how wrong you are about the trilemma. Good luck with that.

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  37. So what? McGrew is not denying that.

    Wow, ok, so a book most scholars believe a book is written between x and x+40 and you assert without argument that it's written x-2. OK...

    Have you read every single scholarly paper/book/resource on Polycarp? I bet he has and I'm certain you haven't.

    You honestly think he has?

    You're just mad because he schooled you in a comment on one of my previous posts.

    I don't recall, but I'd love to reread it, link please?

    But how about first...Then we can...

    When you are over your head, you'll do anything to get out of actually engaging. As always, fascinating...

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  38. You still didn't explain why changing the date of Polycarp's writing changes the McGrew's conclusions. Guess you're in over your head.

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  39. It's been about about 3 days since I've listed to the lecture, but as I recall, he was asserting that because of Polycarp, we "know" that that the gospels and acts were written and well known by 108.

    Do you think asserting that "because of Polycarp, we "know" that that the gospels and acts were written and well known by sometime between 110 and 140" makes the same point?

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  40. You honestly think he has?


    I think he is much more well informed on dating Polycarp and you aren't.

    This will help your amnesia.

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  41. Good reading... I didn't realize that was McGrew, and you consider that "schooling"? But thanks for the link, it was hilarious to revisit your mitochondrial eve disaster.

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  42. Good lord you have no idea what evolutionary theory is, do you? Hahahahahaha! So ignorant! Good stuff.

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  43. Dr McGrew didn't say he schooled you. I did. And you still didn't prove your really silly explanation for why all living human beings can be traced back to one woman. You don't seem to know much about evolution.


    Do you think asserting that "because of Polycarp, we "know" that that the gospels and acts were written and well known by sometime between 110 and 140" makes the same point?


    Yes it does - good evidence. I asked you to show that it doesn't - which you have failed to show.

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  44. You don't seem to know much about evolution.

    That's it. You are literally half-retarded.

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  45. "... he's dishonest enough to fudge the numbers for the sake of his message ..."

    Hmm. Ryan hasn't read Eusebius's Chronicon, I take it?

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  47. Tim; Yes, I have, but I take it you also are aware that Eusebius' 4th Century work is not the final word on Ignatius' date of death? But again, it's not my point that you are necessarily wrong (broken clocks...), but rather that you're level of certainty on this subject seems less to be driven by your knowledge of the relevant data, and more by the requirements of your argument.

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  48. Plus, your trilemma was awful, as trilemmas go.

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  49. Ryan,

    Nobody worth talking about dates the death of Ignatius to 140. Eusebius quite expressly dates it to the 11th year of Trajan's reign, and there is no serious historical reason to call this into question. Polycarp's letter to the Philippians asks for news about Ignatius; in any subject not religious, this would be sufficient to set the terminus ad quem. There is nothing dishonest about using a date that is nailed down with the kind of evidence used in all other historical inquiries.

    As for the trilemma, you write:

    "There’s no reason a direct witness can’t also be a deceiver and no reason one who deceives, can’t also be duped about something else."

    Go back to 2:55 or so and listen to the more formal way of laying it out. The three "d" terms are glossed there in a way that gives precising definitions for my use of them. Sure, we can focus it on any particular proposition you like. But at that level, the alternatives (true, false and known to be false, false and not known to be false) are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive.

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  50. So, you're dating the whole of Polycarp's letter based on Eusebius mention of Ignatius' death. Doesn't really seem warranted if you actually read the letter, given that in addition to asking for news of Ignatius in one place, he lists him among mayrters in another. But to each their own. Plus, I'm surprised who you don't find worth talking about.

    The problem with your trilemma is that when you say “either what the authors of the gospels said was true or it was false…”, it’s so unspecific as to be worthless. Are you claiming that it’s not possible for a direct witness to correctly state one thing while incorrectly (intentionally or not) stating another? It’s interesting that you’d pick 2nd Peter to start the lecture off with given that it’s likely the author was not even honest about his own identity. But, either what “Peter” said is 100% true, or it’s 100% false, right?

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  51. Just can't admit that you have no reason other than what other people say as to why you would date Polycarp's letter to 140 AD. And then just pretend that it's a matter of preference not history or evidence. Just another classic and pointless "argument" from Ryan.

    Oh and suggesting that 2 Peter was not written by the Apostle Peter...rather desperate. But then you probably haven't listened to the lecture in a while so let me help you: The lecture was regarding the Acts and the Gospels. So another pointless assertion. Just you trying to save face. Nothing is wrong with the way Dr McGrew phrased his arguments and at least he made arguments and had points.

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  52. Ryan,

    Yes, I think Eusebius’s reference suffices, in the absence of any significant evidence to the contrary, to date the whole letter.

    I am unmoved by the fact that many scholars deny the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter. Truth is not established by vote, and in a matter where the evidence lies open to everyone’s inspection, there is no reason to defer to majority rule. The external evidence for 2 Peter is less extensive than that for most of the other books of the New Testament, though such as it is, and stretching back into the first century given Clement’s apparent familiarity with the book, it strongly favors Petrine authorship. It has been attacked on internal grounds—I am familiar with about half a dozen such arguments from the contents and style—but the arguments from vocabulary and style dissolve on the supposition (itself intrinsically probable) that Peter used an amanuensis, and the arguments from content seem to me to miss the point that 2 Peter is addressing different issues than 1 Peter. Its genuineness can be defended quite powerfully on internal grounds as well. So I make no apology for using a quotation from 2 Peter as an epigraph.

    Your objection regarding Ignatius’s being (apparently) alive in §13 after having been noted as dead in §9 rests on a mistranslation. The Latin translator on whom we rely where the Greek is missing has rendered “περι των συν αυτω” as “qui cum eo sunt.” having made a guess at the verb tense and gotten it wrong. This is not bare conjecture: we can see that he has made exactly this sort of error in §9 where we have both the Latin and the Greek (rendering “ην και ειδατε ... εν αλλοις τοις εξ υμων” as “quam et vidistis ... in allis qui ex vobis sunt,” the context making it plain that this is a blunder). Note that this translation back from the Latin into the Greek is wholly in keeping with Polycarp’s habit of omitting the participle, a habit visible in right the opening lines, Πολυκαρπος και οι συν αυτω, etc.

    The true situation is this: Ignatius has passed through on his way to his death; Polycarp knows that by now he must have been martyred, but no definite word regarding this has reached Smyrna. So the reference in §13 should be rendered

    ... Ignatius himself and those that were with him ...

    With this realization, all appearance of difficulty vanishes.

    Your objection to the “trilemma” seems to me to be mere pettifogging. Of course an honest witness may misremember something here or there; I state explicitly in the Q&A that my objective here is to show the substantial veracity of these narratives, not their inerrancy. The main point is simple: the historical data do not support the claim that in any substantial proportion these authors are either wilfully or unconsciously promulgating falsehoods. The trilemma provides a convenient framework for thinking about the matter, and it does its job adequately provided that one does not try to push it into an all-or-nothing argument, which I do not, though apparently you are more of a fundamentalist in this respect than I am. That’s all.

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  53. The Latin translator on whom we rely where the Greek is missing has rendered “περι των συν αυτω” as “qui cum eo sunt.”

    Just out of curiosity, if the greek is missing, how would we know how the Latin translator on whom we rely where the Greek is missing has rendered “περι των συν αυτω” [MISSING!!!!] as “qui cum eo sunt.”

    If you are saying it's because he made a similar mistake elsewhere, well, Marcus has made a million blatant mistakes with his native tongue on his own blog. So yes it's bare conjecture. And?

    ...my objective here is to show the substantial veracity of these narratives, not their inerrancy.

    Well if you mean to say a Jesus went from a to b between x and y, then sure. But you've got a long way to go for any supernatural/extraordinary claims from the NT.

    Face it, you're just trying to sell a book idea with the triple D aren't you?

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  54. Ryan,

    1. No, it is not a bare conjecture. The form of the Greek, omitting the participle, is one that Polycarp uses multiple times in this very epistle, as we can see where we have the Greek (which is most of it). The Latin translator has to deal with this over and over, as we see in the multiple places where this sort of construction is found in the Greek and we have both the Greek and the Latin. The translator has made this very blunder in a case where we have both the Latin and the Greek.

    Ryan, I don't mind if you don't know anything about patristics that you didn't read on a website in the past 24 hours. But you're bluffing here, and it's painful to watch. Please stop.

    2. The whole point of the lecture was to show that the Gospels and Acts are substantially truthful historical records. It is not an attempt to argue straight for the resurrection merely from accuracy of chronology, geography, and political setting. How could you possibly manage to misunderstand this point?

    3. No. You need a new crystal ball.

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  55. I don't mind if you don't know anything about patristics that you didn't read on a website in the past 24 hours.

    Clever Tim. But I'll trust what I've read about the early church fathers in books over the course of 20 years over some philosophy of knowledge guy.

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  56. But lets get to your main claim. This is something I would think an epistemologist turned apologist would be painfully aware of. Surely you are aware that there are other ancient documents that have value as historical records that include fantastic claims that we dismiss out of hand. Why don't you treat the gospels the same way?

    PS: I've heard you speak before, so what's the deal with the "scholarly" voice now?

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  57. I feel sorry for Ryan. He is embarrassing himself with his ad hoc knowledge of ancient history. The derogatory tone only works if you also have the high ground in the argument, which he clearly doesn't. With each additional post, he amplifies his foolishness. Prudence dictates that he should quietly back out of this discussion and do a lot more careful study on a subject before engaging an expert. A course in basic manners is also advisable.

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  58. Ryan,

    1. Perhaps you have forgotten that your argument depends on the Greek used by Polycarp. Since (a) the Latin translator has blundered by inserting sunt instead of erantin this very piece, and since (b) your only ground for claiming that Polycarp refers to Ignatius as alive is the present tense in the Latin in §13, and since (c) the most natural Greek construction to express the thought there, the one used by Polycarp throughout this letter, omits the participle, your argument is in serious trouble.

    2. You have not given the faintest evidence that you have any firsthand knowledge of the Apostolic fathers. Reading books by Robert Price does not qualify.

    3. As I have already explained, it was not my purpose in the Belfast lecture to argue for the truth of the miracle claims of the Gospels and Acts, and I am not going to make that argument in a combox for someone who cannot or will not follow a simple philological argument. If you would like to see how I think the case should be made, you can find it here.

    4. You write:

    PS: I've heard you speak before, so what's the deal with the "scholarly" voice now?

    What, exactly, is your question for me?

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  59. So Ryan's argument now is that Tim is a philosopher and Ryan has read books that contained mention of the church fathers over a period of 20 years even though he hasn't specified 1) which books those were, 2) how many books, and 3) why the information in those books help his argument.

    Yep, looks like bluster to me.

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  60. "But I'll trust what I've read about the early church fathers in books over the course of 20 years ..."

    Just out of curiosity, Ryan, how old are you? Early to mid 20s?

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  61. Perhaps you have forgotten that your argument depends… your argument is in serious trouble.

    Perhaps you should remind me of what you think my argument is, because as I recall, it is simply that there is a variety of qualified opinion on the date of Polycarp’s Epistle, which is less argument and more statement of fact. I don’t find your argument all that forceful given the missing Greek, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume all usages of sunt are in error based on one error, but I'll need to dust off my Wheelock and Zerwick before commenting further. However, my actual argument is simply that one cannot in good faith make a statement like “Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians was written in x (any x)” without further qualifiers to their audience, and I would expect someone with a background in epistemology to know that. Of course, I could just revert to Marcus’ favorite form of argumentation and say “You can’t prove Polycrap’s Epistle weren’t written exactly when if when I baldly assert it were” and call it quits. House rules, right?

    Reading books by Robert Price does not qualify.

    I am mainly referring to Harrison here.

    As I have already explained, it was not my purpose in the Belfast lecture to argue for the truth of the miracle claims of the Gospels and Acts…

    Right, my bad, where in the world would a simpleton who cannot follow a simple philological argument get the idea that saying “Either what the authors of the gospels said was true, or it was false”. doesn’t include everything that the gospel authors said, including the fantastic claims. But this seems to me to be typical of what apologists do, dial back their claims when pressed. So if the purpose of the Belfast lecture was to merely argue for something as basic as “the gospels contain history”, which no one I know would argue against, then what was the point?

    Just out of curiosity, Ryan, how old are you? Early to mid 20s?

    Clever question, when did you stop beating your wife? But no, I'm not.

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  62. "Perhaps you should remind me of what you think my argument is ..."

    Perhaps I should. It was this one:

    So, you're dating the whole of Polycarp's letter based on Eusebius mention of Ignatius' death. Doesn't really seem warranted if you actually read the letter, given that in addition to asking for news of Ignatius in one place, he lists him among mayrters in another.

    Moving on ...

    However, my actual argument is simply that one cannot in good faith make a statement like “Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians was written in x (any x)” without further qualifiers to their audience, and I would expect someone with a background in epistemology to know that.

    On the contrary: if one has looked into the matter and thinks that the arguments to the contrary are weak, one can indeed do this in good faith. You would extend the right to do that to, say, Bart Ehrman, right? Or are you under the illusion that Bart never contradicts the mainstream consensus in his popular works -- much less his public lectures?

    But this seems to me to be typical of what apologists do, dial back their claims when pressed.

    It is difficult for me to see how I can be accused of "dialing back" a claim that I clearly denied making in the presentation itself.

    [I]f the purpose of the Belfast lecture was to merely argue for something as basic as “the gospels contain history”, which no one I know would argue against, then what was the point?

    The point was that the Gospels and Acts are substantially historical. And there are plenty of people who deny that.

    But no, I'm not.

    Just wondering, since I thought this might be your webpage over on Think Atheist.

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  63. @Ryan

    So it's okay to question others' certainty just like you do to me all the time and like you did to Dr McGrew but it's not okay to ask for someone to demonstrate that their claims are valid? You really don't understand what Dr McGrew is saying are you?

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  64. @Ryan

    So it's okay to question others' certainty just like you do to me all the time and like you did to Dr McGrew but it's not okay to ask for someone to demonstrate that their claims are valid? You really don't understand what Dr McGrew is saying are you?

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  65. if one has looked into the matter and thinks that the arguments to the contrary are weak, one can indeed do this in good faith.

    No, I don't think so. And if by looked into the matter, you mean used Lightfoot's argument*, then ok, but there are other arguments and you (Lightfoot) you could be correct about 108, but Harrison could be correct. There are a number of good arguments, but given the gulf of time, the missing greek, the variety of qualified opinions, there is no way (in my opinion) one can make a statement with the certainty you did without qualification.

    You would extend the right to do that to, say, Bart Ehrman, right?

    No.

    The point was that the Gospels and Acts are substantially historical.

    The Gospels can still be substantially historical without a single supernatural event recorded in them being true. Which then I have to ask again, what's the point? Never the less, this is just my perception, but I think if an apologist speaks on the historicity of the gospels, and says something like "Either what the gospel authors said is true, or it is false", then one is implicitly talking about the miracle claims.

    Just wondering...

    Not I. I'm also not the national guardsman who tried to sell intel to Al Qaeda. But I'm in my late 30s, the started of college 20 years ago. So technically I guess I should have said 21 years since this all started in High School.

    *and apparently my crystal ball needs a tune up but I suspect you less "looked into the matter" and more sought out the optimal argument required by your predetermined position.

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  66. Ryan,

    No, I don’t think so.

    Then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I call ’em like I see ’em.

    And if by looked into the matter, you mean used Lightfoot’s argument, then ok, but there are other arguments and you (Lightfoot) you could be correct about 108, but Harrison could be correct.

    Harrison’s hypothesis of two letters is precisely the sort of conjectural argument that I think is not well grounded in the available facts. The early work of Lightfoot is, of course, extremely important, and on this point I have no hesitation in judging that Lightfoot has the much better argument.

    People with relevant credentials and competencies disagree about all sorts of things. There is no reason to let that paralyze one’s judgment. Often the disagreements turn not the available evidence but on methodological differences in the evaluation of that evidence. On that subject, above all, I unrepentantly reserve the right to form my own judgment.

    You would extend the right to do that to, say, Bart Ehrman, right?

    No.

    Since you intend to apply that standard to everyone, I look forward with interest to your critical strictures on Bart’s introduction to the New Testament, a textbook that not only does not tell students that some scholars think the patristic evidence strongly favors traditional positions on the authorship and dating of the books of the New Testament but does not so much as mention the existence any of the patristic evidence on the matter whatsoever.

    [A]nd apparently my crystal ball needs a tune up but I suspect you less “looked into the matter” and more sought out the optimal argument required by your predetermined position.

    I’m not sure why you feel driven to insinuate that I am motivated by anything other than my honest opinion on the quality of the arguments I’ve seen. In the case at hand, I gave you the argument that had persuaded me already that the charge of inconsistency in the references to Ignatius is without force. And yes, I had read Lightfoot on the subject long ago.

    I have, in fact, made a particular effort over the past 30 years or so to read everything I can get my hands on from the skeptical side. Late in high school I read everything in the nearby library by G. A. Wells (three books, as I recall), Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian, Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God, large swaths of Ingersoll (and yes, I want those hours back), and even some of Robert Price’s early journal articles. In the intervening years I’ve read books attacking traditional Christianity by Spinoza and Blount, Annet and Chubb, Tindal and Hume, Dodwell and d’Holbach, Voltaire and Paine, Bentham and Bradlaugh, Strauss and Renan, Bultmann and Lake, several works apiece by Spong and Bork, one big one by Crossan, most of the articles in The Empty Tomb, Loftus’s Why I Became an Atheist, most of Bart Ehrman’s works (one of which -- The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture -- I discussed at length with Bruce Metzger), Martin’s Case Against Christianity, five or six books by Dawkins (mostly not on Christianity), and other books, parts of books, and articles too numerous to mention.

    I would never claim to have read all or even most of what is out there. The literature fills libraries. But I have probably read more of what has been written against Christianity than it would be good for anyone to read again.

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  67. People with relevant credentials and competencies disagree about all sorts of things. There is no reason to let that paralyze one’s judgment.

    Well, paralyze is not the right word here, but I can see why an apologist would use it. Seems to me, and maybe at this point it's just pettifogging, but a simple probably or we think was required in your original statement.

    I’m not sure why you feel driven to insinuate that I am motivated by anything other than my honest opinion on the quality of the arguments I’ve seen.

    Truthfully, I don't know your story, (I'm assuming you've been a christian since the confusing and impressionable age of "Late in high school", but that's just an assumption...) but that is really the essence of what apologist do, work backwards from a predetermined conclusion. It's sort of definitional...

    I have, in fact, made a particular effort over the past 30 years or so to read everything I can get my hands on from the skeptical side.... But I have probably read more of what has been written against Christianity

    That's actually really interesting to me, because as a skeptic, I'm drawn to the opposite side more than my own as well (as a Liberal, I can't get enough of Sean Hannity, although he drives my blood pressure up, same thing I would think). I wonder what drives that.

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  68. "Seems to me, and maybe at this point it's just pettifogging, but a simple probably or we think was required in your original statement."

    If, in my judgment, the evidence were more mixed, that is what I would have done. But -- again, in my judgment -- it isn't. The only wiggle room I felt necessary was to put "~108" on the slide and to say that the epistle was written "around the year 108."

    "... but that is really the essence of what apologist[s] do, work backwards from a predetermined conclusion. It's sort of definitional."

    On that definition, I guess I am not an apologist. But it does not seem to me to be a very good or useful definition; it looks more like an insult masquerading as a definition.

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  69. What's ἀπολογία mean to you?

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  70. A reasoned defense that shows why the available public evidence favors a particular proposition that one believes.

    This is not incompatible with the belief's having been arrived at by a process of inquiry as impartial as any that an adversary might initiate or with its being sustained by reasons that ought to be seen as cogent by any fair-minded investigator. In fact, that's the whole point.

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  71. Right, so as an apologist, your prime motivation is to defend a conclusion you've already made, correct? Apologetic endeavors won't lead you anywhere you don't want to go.

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  72. "Right, so as an apologist, your prime motivation is to defend a conclusion you've already made, correct?"

    No. My prime motivation is to find the truth. That involves testing everything and criticizing arguments for conclusions I would like to hold as well as defending arguments for those conclusions when I think that they are good.

    Your description gives the impression that the conclusion, for an apologist, must predate the possession of reasons and be presently held on account of something quite separate from the reasons. There are some people for whom this is true. But there are others for whom it is not.

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  73. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  74. "Apologetic endeavors won't lead you anywhere you don't want to go."

    I think there is a semantic sleight-of-hand going on here. An ἀπολογία is a defense; obviously, the abandoning of P is not a defense of P. But it does not follow that the arguments given in defense of P are an afterthought or that, if the investigation had turned out to favor not-P, the investigator would not have repudiated P.

    You seem determined to hold that if someone is defending a position, then he cannot be holding it as a result of legitimate, open-minded inquiry. But this is false.

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  75. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  76. My prime motivation is to find the truth.

    I think the heart of the disagreement here is that we hold wildly different opinions on how possible it is to actually know "truth" from history. But surely you must agree that not all truths are knowable?

    if the investigation had turned out to favor not-P, the investigator would not have repudiated P.

    Well no, but I think people who make a career out of "defending" a specific claim are far less likely to ever repudiate that specific claim. Being an apologist (in the popular usage) is to be entrenched.

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  77. "But surely you must agree that not all truths are knowable?"

    Practically speaking, sure. It seems ludicrous to think that we could now find out how long Julius Caesar's sandal straps were to the nearest millimeter. But that is a fairly extreme case. I think we probably do differ quite significantly on which historical claims are knowable.

    "I think people who make a career out of "defending" a specific claim are far less likely to ever repudiate that specific claim. Being an apologist (in the popular usage) is to be entrenched."

    It may be harder for such people, but it happens. Priests and pastors have become atheists. Atheist writers and debaters have become Christians. There is traffic both ways.

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  78. It seems ludicrous to think that we could now find out how long Julius Caesar's sandal straps were to the nearest millimeter.

    Yes, but it also seems ludicrous to think that we could know for certain any of Habermas' 12 facts as well. Knowing something for certain and recognizing that "most scholars believe it" are two completely different things.

    [Christians] have become atheists.

    Tell me about it, I was a Christian for most of my life.

    Yes, I'm baiting you... no true scotsman?

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  79. 18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. - 1st John 2:18-19

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  80. Anyone familiar with classical Greek texts would not claim that the nature of the term ἀπολογία (and the activities pertaining to apologetics) is inherently contrary to truth-seeking. This is the same term used for Socrates's defense in Plato's _The Apology_ (Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους). Was Socrates engaged in a self-serving rationalization of his own activities with no interest in the truth of the matter? But it is pretty clear that Ryan isn't interested in a civil conversation concerning the merits of historical evidence. Instead, he throws out one-liners without engaging with the reasons presented that count against his position. When he can't argue, he accuses the person who is making an argument for the position as being intellectually dishonest. Even if they would stick (and they clearly don't), the ad hominem and genetic fallacies are not substantive reasons to discredit any of the reasons put forward by Tim that support the points in question.

    It is interesting that Ryan raises the issue of the minimal facts, given by apologists like Habermas. Tim explicitly states at the start of the video that he is not making an argument based on the minimal facts given by the consensus of scholars working in first century history. It is also interesting to see Ryan admit that his own views of history are not in accord with the mainstream of historians by his own admission. His statement: "Knowing something for certain and recognizing that "most scholars believe it" are two completely different things" is telling on at least two points. First, it implies that if one doesn't know something for certain, then it can't have some valuable, positive epistemic status (like being rational or probable); or perhaps he is saddling the minimal facts advocate as presenting the scholarly consensus as making it certain that these facts are true (which I've never heard them claim). Secondly, he misunderstands the point, which is that the experts who employ their specialized training and knowledge have reached a virtual uniform consensus on a number of important claims pertaining to the historicity of the claims in the Gospels. It's not that popularity has anything to do with truth. Rather, the point is that there must be good evidence for these facts to enjoy such wide acceptance from those in the know. Perhaps, it would be useful to examine the reasons why the overwhelming majority of scholars who work in this area agree that these facts are very likely to be true.

    All of this leads me to wonder, what are the standards by which Ryan assesses events of ancient history? Are you a skeptic about all of ancient history, or do you think it is reasonable to think Plato, Aristotle, Philo, Josephus, Julius Caesar, Trajan, or Marcus Aurelius (to name a few) really existed and performed some of the events commonly attributed to them. Tim has been forthcoming and clear on his methodology and reasons that support his assessment of the reasonableness of the historical reliability of the Gospels and Acts. Since Ryan admits he doesn't agree with the mainstream of ancient scholarship, I presume he has a very different approach to assessing ancient history. Rather than haggle over minutae, I think he needs to provide the substance behind his position. I suspect that even when presented with evidence that substantiates the Christian position, he is going to revert to complicated hypothetical possibilities that could also explain the same data, although these hypotheticals have no shred of historical evidence in their favor. I've always thought ancient history cannot be reasonably judged by coming up with some way it might have been. Rather, we make reasonable judgments about the evidence that indicates some event took place in the past.

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  81. Are you a skeptic about all of ancient history, or do you think it is reasonable to think Plato, Aristotle, Philo, Josephus, Julius Caesar, Trajan, or Marcus Aurelius (to name a few) really existed and performed some of the events commonly attributed to them.

    Yes and yes. This is really a false dilemma unless you want to get more specific about what "think" and "some" mean.

    I presume he has a very different approach to assessing ancient history...

    I take it all with a grain of salt and discount miracle claims out of hand. You probably do this as well with everything else except the Gospels and Acts. Did Mohammed exist, yes, most likely, no reason not to believe that. Did he fly on a winged horse? No, it's a reasonable certainty that he did not. Is there, however, documentary evidence that he did? Sure. Was Jesus born in Bethlehem, yes, most likely, no reason not to believe that. Was he born of a virgin and raise the dead? No, it's a reasonable certainty that he was not and did not. Is there documentary evidence that he was and did? Sure. Does this help you?

    I've always thought ancient history cannot be reasonably judged by coming up with some way it might have been.

    I agree, how would one even begin to verify unevidenced alternate theories? But something being unevidenced doesn't mean it isn't what actually happened. But that doesn't really do us any good (hence the grain of salt taking above). One can't reasonably say, "oh, no, Jesus definitely wasn't dead when he came down off the cross" or "Jesus' corpse was definitely chucked into Gehenna and eaten by dogs, fact, true story!!!" or some such, but one (you) also, can't categorically wave away all possible unevidenced explanations as not valid possibilities. Maybe you don't like that this, as Tim puts it, paralyzes your ability to judge the truth about the ancient world, but the way I see it, that's just the way it is. It's also worth noting that even the kookiest "conspiracy" theory explanations of the resurrection are far more probable than the miraculous one, by definition, regardless of who was duped, deceived or both.

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  82. Ryan,

    I'm fascinated by this line:

    It's also worth noting that even the kookiest "conspiracy" theory explanations of the resurrection are far more probable than the miraculous one, by definition, regardless of who was duped, deceived or both.

    What line of reasoning persuades you that this claim is true?

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  83. I take it all with a grain of salt and discount miracle claims out of hand. You probably do this as well with everything else except the Gospels and Acts. Did Mohammed exist, yes, most likely, no reason not to believe that. Did he fly on a winged horse? No, it's a reasonable certainty that he did not. Is there, however, documentary evidence that he did? Sure. Was Jesus born in Bethlehem, yes, most likely, no reason not to believe that. Was he born of a virgin and raise the dead? No, it's a reasonable certainty that he was not and did not. Is there documentary evidence that he was and did? Sure. Does this help you?

    And by what logic do you discount miracle claims out of hand. Either they happened or they didn't. I would dismiss a miracle claim based on itself and not because of a prior commitment to protect my worldview. It is possible that some non-Biblical miracles are true? Yup. Can we accounts for this? Yup. Read Deuteronomy 13. And there are several Biblical passages that speak to this. This is a non-issue and should not preclude you to affirming anything found in the Bible - unless you just want to.

    It's also worth noting that even the kookiest "conspiracy" theory explanations of the resurrection are far more probable than the miraculous one, by definition, regardless of who was duped, deceived or both.

    That's a bold assertion. Care to back it up with something more than your imagination?

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  84. Tim, I'm fascinated that you are fascinated. Clearly it's not at all surprising that Marcus is unfamiliar with Hume, but given your background, I can't imagine you aren't.

    Do you want me to paraphrase Hume on miracles or are you familiar?

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  85. Ryan,

    I suppose you could say that I am familiar with Hume on miracles. You might want to look at section 3.

    I agree with John Earman (who is an atheist) that Hume's argument is just terrible and would, if it worked, be a real science stopper.

    But I'd be very glad to discuss it with you.

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  86. Ryan, who says I don't know anything about Hume? And if even if I didn't, what does that have to do with miracles. And appealing to Hume on this just underscores your own ignorance as to just how bad Hume's arguments really are regarding miracles. What is it with you and red herrings? Do try to do better. Dr. McGrew is trying to help you.

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  87. who says I don't know anything about Hume? And if even if I didn't, what does that have to do with miracles.

    ???

    Tim; nice work making the bibliography. Every critique I've seen (not exhaustive, obviously) seems to push "miracles" into "currently unexplained natural phenomena" or says something like "well, if Hume's right, then we can't judge anything from ancient history, so he's not right".

    I'll check out your article in Mind and report back.

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  88. "Tim; nice work making the bibliography."

    I'm sorry, Ryan -- I think I was too subtle there. I wrote this SEP article. You'll find my name and email address at the bottom.

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  89. Well, Ryan looks like only Jesus can help you. You can't see that your stupid presuppositions about what I don't know about what David Hume said about miracles has any bearing on what you have written here. That is truly sad. But at least Jesus can fix you.

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  90. Tim, given your obvious familiarity with Hume, I'm still fascinated that you are fascinated with my comment. Agree or disagree with Hume on miracles in general, or agree or disagree that my interpretation of his argument against miracles is accurate, I don't think anyone would deny that my paraphrasing is an accurate paraphrasing of a fairly common interpretation (as it turns out, Erhman, who I've not read on this subject). So what was "fascinating"? Was it the use of the phrase "even the kookiest conspiracy theory explaination" in place of "any natural phenomenon"? Interested in your thoughts.

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  91. What I find fascinating, Ryan, is that you think what David Hume thought about miracles has any real relevance to this discussion. Kind of fascinating like a small child who is riding in a car and worried that the sun is chasing him.

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  92. Ryan,

    I think Hume's argument and was refuted decisively in his own time. Adams, Campbell, Leland, and Douglas all got the better of the argument on this issue. It is a pity that their replies are not more widely read.

    Ehrman's version of the complaint seems to me to involve several fundamental confusions, one between the prior probability of a miracle and the posterior probability, and one between the prior probability of a miracle simpliciter and the prior probability of a violation of a heretofore unbroken uniformity given that there is no divine intervention.

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  93. Thanks Tim, the way I look at it, you can either presume divine intervention which is fine, but if you fairly apply that to history, one is left with a crazy Robert Howard world where Thor fights giants for Christ against Cthulu, chupacabra and the Vega Lyraens.

    Or you can presume no divine intervention and hope to be surprised. I think Erhman is right, albeit not from a philosophical point of view (but so what, it's philosophy?).

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  94. Ryan,

    I think it's wrong to presume either way. Hume was wrong; everything depends on the evidence, which he had never examined with care or candor.

    And once you sit down to look at the evidence, you cannot assume that all miracle claims are equally well attested. Only after he has proved that they are all on a par evidentially can a skeptic use Heinlein's quip. To use it in advance of that examination -- and, as Hume and Ehrman both use it, as a reason for not entering into that examination -- is simply to close off the path of inquiry.

    Merry Christmas!

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  95. I think it's wrong to presume either way.

    Actually, agreed. Merry Christmas to you as well.

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