9/11/09

A Murder of Atheists, part 4

We now continue considering the group effort by Robert Greg Cavin, Michael Martin, Theodore Drange, Robert Price, Richard Carrier, Peter Kirby, Jeffery Lowder, Evan Fales, Duncan Derrett and Keith Parsons to discredit Jesus’ resurrection?

This group, referred to as a “murder”—a term in this sense is taken from referring to a group of crows a “a murder of crows”—is refuted by one single solitary Christian, Norman L. Geisler, in his article A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave which I have parsed.

Chapter 4: “Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as a Post-Pauline Interpolation” by Robert Price

Summary of the Argument:


Price argues “This periscope presents us . . . with a piece of later, post-Pauline Christianity” (69). In other words, it was not written by Paul but is a later interpolation or redaction. In his own words, “A scribe felt he could strengthen the argument of the chapter as a whole by prefacing it with a list of ‘evidences for the resurrection’” (91). Price offers the following reasons for his view. Response will be given to each argument as presented.

First, Price attempts to shift the burden of proof from those who accept the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 to those who reject it.

Response: But clearly this would unreasonably undermine virtually all ancient texts by the same argument. Further, his argument from the adage that “history is written by the winners” (71) is implausible and contrary to fact. For this is not always true. Indeed, on the accepted dates of 1 Corinthians (A.D. 55-56) by even most critical scholars, Christianity was not a political winner. In fact, it was not a winner until centuries later. What is more, it is Price who bears the burden of proof on his otherwise implausible speculation.

Second, Price’s rejects the argument that a text is “innocent till proven guilty.” Indeed, he argues just the opposite.

Response: But if this were so, hardly anything could be believed from the past or present. For life would be a chaos if we assumed that road signs, speed limits, food labels, and restroom signs were wrong until proven right!

Third, he chides B. B. Warfield for claiming that only the originals are without error. He claims this is misguided and is an unfalsifiable view.

Response: First, it was not Warfield who first claimed this. St. Augustine pointed out 1500 years earlier that only the original manuscripts are without error.[1] Further, inerrancy is not unfalsifiable. All one need to do is find an original with an error in it. So, inerrancy is falsifiable in principle and could be in practice, if one found an original with an error in it. The fact that no one has yet found an error leaves open the possibility that there are none. Further, not positing inerrancy halts research for if one assumes an error in the text, then why research the matter any further. Scientists do not stop researching when they come upon an anomaly in nature, and why should we when we find a discrepancy in Scripture.

Fourth, Price lists several internal arguments against the authenticity of the resurrection. However, none are even close to being decisive. Perhaps the strongest argument is: “If the author of this passage were himself an eyewitness of the resurrection, why would he seek to buttress his claims by appeal to a thirdhand list of appearances . . . ?” (88).

Response: First of all, Price is seemingly unaware that he implies the answer in the word “buttress.” Paul did give his own first-hand experience, and then he sought to buttress it with further support from other living eyewitnesses to the event so that his readers could give confirmation. Further, even Price admits there are other possible explanations for each of his objections then. In fact, he makes a very revealing admission that his hypothesis “can in the nature of the case never be more than an unverified speculation” (93).

Fifth, Price makes the strange claim that “the resurrection of Jesus is not even at issue in 1 Corinthians 15” (96)! Thus, he thinks it is not crucial to Paul’s argument.

Response: It is difficult to see how one can read verses 12-19 and make such a claim. Here Paul lists seven disastrous consequences of denying the resurrection of Christ. Later, he calls the resurrection of Christ the “firstfruits” of those who have died (v. 20). And still later he makes Christ in His resurrection power the “last Adam” who brought life to the race in contrast to the “first Adam” who brought death (vs.46-49). Thus, it is central to Paul’s whole argument here. Finally, couple the foregoing point with Price’s acknowledgment of his view that “I freely admit the lack of direct textual evidence” (92). Indeed, one wonders why he even bothered to write the article since it gives all the appearances of grasping for straws.

To summarize:
(1) He has no manuscript evidence for his view.
(2) He admits it is “unverified speculation.”
(3) He himself lists possible alternatives to his speculation.
(4) It is contrary to some of the earliest testimony of the Church Fathers (1 Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and many others).
And (5) other verses in this same section which he rejects speak of the miraculous resurrection of Christ and believers (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12, 20, 22, 26, 42-46, 53-56). So, it is simply untrue that the resurrection of Jesus is not in view here.

Sixth, Price discusses William Craig’s contention that Paul would not have made known the resurrection to them without providing this evidence by claiming it is implicit in verse 12 which Price claims reads well as a continuation of verse 2. And as for Craig’s argument that verse 12 refers back to verse 11, Price contends it refers to verse 1. In response to Craig’s argument that the logic of the chapter demands the authenticity of these verses, Price contends that he has missed the logic of the chapter with the unlikely hypothesis that “the resurrection of Jesus is not even at issue in 1 Corinthians 15” (96).
In fact, “‘evidence for the resurrection’ is way out of place there, as Bultmann and others . . . [have] observed” (96). Price also rejects Craig’s attempt to explain why the Gospels do not mention an appearance to the 500, claiming that if it had happened, then surely the Gospels would have mentioned it (81).

Response: At best, Price offers here a faulty argument from silence. He has no positive evidence for his view. What is more, as Habermas notes, even Bultmann admitted that Paul is trying to produce evidence in 1 Cor. 15. Further, some believe this appearance may be mentioned in the Gospels (as the appearance in Galilee – Matt. 28:16). Even if it is not, there is no reason why it cannot be true. After all, almost all scholars agree, even the critics, believe that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians and that it is very early – by the mid fifties.
By virtue of its being written by an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8) at such an early date and which offers multiple confirmations by other eyewitnesses, it has a rightful claim to authenticity. Further, as Habermas observes, Price also uses Galatians 1 to note Paul’s comment that he received this materials from the Lord and so he didn’t go to Jerusalem to see the other apostles. This shows that Paul was convinced by his own experience that Christ had been raised from the dead (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1).

[1] See St. Augustine, “Reply to Faustus the Manichaen,” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publication Co.,1887; reprint Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 4:155-345

6 comments:

  1. Maybe Mariano should get his kid a hat, while his head is still small enough to fit into one.

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  2. Mariano's kid is going to eventually have a Pete Rose haircut and a ham tounge.

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  3. Second, Price’s rejects the argument that a text is “innocent till proven guilty.” Indeed, he argues just the opposite.

    Response: But if this were so, hardly anything could be believed from the past or present. For life would be a chaos if we assumed that road signs, speed limits, food labels, and restroom signs were wrong until proven right!


    When evaluating the truth of a road sign, a historic text, or anything else, it's important to consider:

    1) How easily could I find evidence to falsify this claim? The easier it is to falsify, the more confident we should be. Restroom signs? Easy to falsify. Uncle Ned's UFO sighting? Hard to falsify.

    2) What are the consequences if the claim is discovered to be a lie? The stronger the consequences, the more confidence we should have. This is one reason why I rarely trust politicians. When they are found outright lying, the consequences are usually pretty mild. I do, however, trust food labels (to some degree), because of potential lawsuits and government regulation.

    3) Does the claim-maker have a motive to claim something other than the factual truth? It would be hard for me to imagine why a CalTrans worker would place a "No U-turn" sign where a "Speed Bump Ahead" sign was needed. However, it is understandable why someone being waterboarded would lie about their neighbor's involvement in terrorism.

    These are all just heuristics with many counterexamples. They are, nonetheless, very useful for practical reasoning under uncertainty.

    Even if it is not, there is no reason why it cannot be true.

    The next time you find yourself writing "no reason why it cannot be true", I hope that you'll stop and recognize what a weak statement that is. There are infinitely many things that could be true (in the logical sense) that are, in fact, false. If we believe every claim that could be true and not just those for which we have evidence, our minds would fill up quickly with false beliefs.

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  4. @GregK

    If we believe every claim that could be true and not just those for which we have evidence, our minds would fill up quickly with false beliefs.

    You mean like arguing that the list provided in 1st Corinthians is later assertion and not part of the original text? With no proof that that is what happened! I'd agree with the point you raised. Sure wish people would tell that to Robert Price.

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  5. The Bible says it, I believe, that settles it.

    Need I say more?

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  6. Mariano, again demonstrates his lack of reading comprehension: Price does not try ‘to shift the burden of proof’ and go to a ‘guilty till proven innocent’ standard. What he said was:

    “The whole judicial verdict analogy is inappropriate to Wisse's argument anyway. In the one case, we have two choices, to put a man in jail or not. In the other, we have three choices: certainty of an authentic text, certainty of an inauthentic text, and uncertainty. A suggestive argument that nonetheless remains inconclusive should cause us to return the third verdict, but Wisse will not consider it. The logical implication would seem to be textual agnosticism, but Wisse prefers textual fideism instead. “

    In other words, we can’t know for sure but there is good reason to doubt. The bulk of the essay is a discussion on the different views, his assessment of other people’s arguments and he makes a case that the verses in question really do deserve to be looked on with suspicion.

    Mariano’s comment about the status of the Christian Church in the mid first century shows that he has completely misunderstood the basics of the argument. It is one thing to disagree with Prices argument but really, Mariano, you should at least try to understand it. Price’s point about the ‘victors writing the history’ is that all the extant documents are from the period after Catholic Christianity has become dominant. He is presenting the idea that those verses are best understood as a later addition. The status of the Church in the mid-first century is irrelevant.


    It would be a pointless exercise to go through each and every one of Mariano’s mistakes, misunderstandings and logical errors. Anyone that is interested in what Robert Price actually wrote, as opposed to what Mariano mistakenly thinks he wrote should read the essay here:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/apocrypha.html

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