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Author Topic:   Interrogation of an Apostle
Jon
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Message 1 of 48 (604067)
02-09-2011 9:05 PM


Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
What practices are used by investigators who must sift through numerous eyewitness accounts of an event to sort out what happened and did not based on consistencies/inconsistencies in the accounts given? When considering whether or not a particular aspect of the incident did or did not occur, what value might consistent accounts add to support the incident's happening? What effect might inconsistent accounts have on the believability of the account?

One of the methods used by scholars who look through the New Testament in search of the 'historical Jesus' is what Robert Stein calls the Criterion of Multiple Attestation:

quote:
Stein in The Synoptic Problem (1987):

We still must ask how our knowledge of the relationship between the synoptic Gospels assists us in historical criticism. One way is by means of the "Criterion of Multiple Attestation." Essentially this criterion works as follows: Assuming that the Markan, the Q, and the unique Matthean (M), Lukan (L), and Johannine material come from different sources, if a teaching or activity of Jesus is witnessed to in a number of these sources rather than just one (e.g., John or M), the probability of its historicity or authenticity is much greater. In other words, each source of the Gospels acts as a witness before the judgment seat of history, and the more independent witnesses (i.e., sources) that can give testimony, the stronger the case. An example of how this works is as follows. Did Jesus teach that the kingdom of God had actually come in some way in his ministry? ... We find support for this view in the Markan material (Mark 2:2122), the Q material (Luke 11:20/Matt. 12:28), the M material (Matt. 5:17), the L material (Luke 17:2021), and in John 12:31. With this kind of multiple support from a fivefold tradition, certainly any burden of proof should then lie with those scholars who would deny that Jesus taught that in his coming the kingdom of God had arrived in some unique way. (p. 142)


quote:
Ehrman in The New Testament (2004):

In any court trial, it is better to have a number of witnesses who can provide consistent testimony than to have only one, especially if we can show the witnesses did not confer with one another to get their story straight. A strong case will be supported by several witnesses who independently agree on a point at issue. So too with history. An event mentioned in several independent documents is more likely to be historical than an event mentioned in only one. This principle does not deny that individual documents can provide reliable historical information, but without corroborating evidence it is often impossible to know if an individual source has made up an account, or perhaps provided a skewed version of it. (p. 218)


Ehrman gives the examples of John the Baptist encountering Jesus, Jesus' brothers, and Jesus' teaching in parablesthings multiply attested, and so more likely to be true.

For this thread, I'd like to examine some of the techniques used in detecting false accounts given multiple different tellings, and then apply those techniques to the post-resurrection appearance accounts in the gospels and try to determine whether the gospel accounts are trustworthy evidence of a resurrection or not. For this purpose, I think we can ignore the 'empty tomb' story, and just stick to the appearances, which occur in Matt. 28:1620, Luke 24:1353, and John 20:1121.1

When we apply whatever lie-detecting tools we might have to the accounts of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, what can we conclude about the veracity of the claims? And, if the claims are likely true, does this validate the resurrection account? If the claims are likely false, does this invalidate it?

When we interrogate the apostles, do we find them lying or telling the truth?

Jon
__________
1 Perhaps to this list we could also add the short and long endings of Mark, even though they don't appear to be original to his gospel.
__________
Ehrman, B. (2004) The New Testament: a Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP.
Stein, R. (1987) The Synoptic Problem: an Introduction. Michigan: Baker Books

Edited by Jon, : subtitle, sources, etc.

Edited by Jon, : clarity


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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AdminSlev
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Message 2 of 48 (604069)
02-09-2011 10:57 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Interrogation of an Apostle thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
Trae
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Posts: 442
From: Fremont, CA, USA
Joined: 06-18-2004


Message 3 of 48 (604076)
02-09-2011 11:35 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
02-09-2011 9:05 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
Can you show that the accounts you are presenting are not heresy. Can you establish chain of custody? Youre also failing to present your witnesses, nor have you established their identity. Lastly, because you have not established chain of custody, and because youre not able to present the actual evidence it not only is likely your evidence has been tampered with, but there is actual evidence that your evidence is tainted.

[qs=Jon]What practices are used by investigators who must sift through numerous eyewitness accounts of an event to sort out what happened and did not based on consistencies/inconsistencies in the accounts given? When considering whether or not a particular aspect of the incident did or did not occur, what value might consistent accounts add to support the incident's happening? What effect might inconsistent accounts have on the believability of the account?

One of the methods used by scholars who look through the New Testament in search of the 'historical Jesus' is what Robert Stein calls the Criterion of Multiple Attestation:

quote:
Ehrman in The New Testament (2004):
In any court trial, it is better to have a number of witnesses who can provide consistent testimony than to have only one, especially if we can show the witnesses did not confer with one another to get their story straight. A strong case will be supported by several witnesses who independently agree on a point at issue. So too with history. An event mentioned in several independent documents is more likely to be historical than an event mentioned in only one. This principle does not deny that individual documents can provide reliable historical information, but without corroborating evidence it is often impossible to know if an individual source has made up an account, or perhaps provided a skewed version of it. (p. 218)

You have not established that the witnesses did not confer with one another to get their story straight.
quote:
Ehrman in The New Testament (2004):
An event mentioned in several independent documents is more likely to be historical than an event mentioned in only one.

How likely is it that Sir Lancelot du Lac is an actual historical figure who vied for Guineveres attention? How likely is Hercules the son of Zeus? The accounts seem to agree on that point. Is Batman more likely than Green Hornet simply because more writers have written about Superman?

How many witnesses can the Mormons produce for their beliefs? Do Catholic saints perform miracles? Tens of thousands or perhaps millions of Catholics can give witness. Are Asian beliefs more probable since they have more witnesses? Are protestant beliefs less probable as they have less? Just something to consider.

If consistency is that important, how important is inconsistency?

If the accounts are said to be from eye witnesses then do not omissions (where one neglects to mention something) all that more suspect?

Ultimately, that they build on each other is a huge hurdle to overcome in establishing theyre independent witnesses, but that pales in that youre not going to be able to establish theyre witnesses in the first place.


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Jon
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Posts: 4329
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 4 of 48 (604094)
02-10-2011 12:56 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Trae
02-09-2011 11:35 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
You have not established that the witnesses did not confer with one another to get their story straight.
...
How many witnesses can the Mormons produce for their beliefs? Do Catholic saints perform miracles? Tens of thousands or perhaps millions of Catholics can give witness. Are Asian beliefs more probable since they have more witnesses? Are protestant beliefs less probable as they have less? Just something to consider.
...
Ultimately, that they build on each other is a huge hurdle to overcome in establishing theyre independent witnesses

Did you read the passages this thread is supposed to be about?

Can you show that the accounts you are presenting are not heresy.

Obviously they are; but that's all we've got to work with.

Can you establish chain of custody?

No, but that's all we've got to work with.

Youre also failing to present your witnesses, nor have you established their identity.

That's not relevant here; I'm more interested in what is said rather than in who is saying it. Afterall, the former is all we've got to work with.

Lastly, because you have not established chain of custody, and because youre not able to present the actual evidence it not only is likely your evidence has been tampered with, but there is actual evidence that your evidence is tainted.

What 'evidence'? All we've got are the accounts in the gospels; chain of evidence is irrelevant. The accounts aren't likely from first-hand witnesses, but their all we've got to work with.

If consistency is that important, how important is inconsistency?

That was one of the big questions I raised in the OP; I was hoping we could figure it out with some good discussion.

Jon

Edited by Jon, : niceness...


Check out Apollo's Temple!
Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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PaulK
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Posts: 11008
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 5 of 48 (604113)
02-10-2011 2:02 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
02-09-2011 9:05 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
We must remember that Luke is NOT an eye-witness account and Matthew is very unlikely to be. And you've hit on one of the ares where there are reasons to doubt John.

We can tell that there are two rival traditions. In one the post-resurrection appearances took place in Galilee, while the other places them in Jerusalem. Matthew follows one line, Luke follows another and John appears to be trying to have it both ways.

It is implausible that the author Matthew would forget about the miracles of Pentecost or that the story would be lost to him. Likewise it is implausible that the author of Luke would be so against appearances in Galilee if he believed in those stories.

And if Christians were disputing over two incompatible stories at the time when Matthew and Luke were written how can we trust either story ?


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Jon
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From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 6 of 48 (604164)
02-10-2011 12:00 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by PaulK
02-10-2011 2:02 AM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
We must remember that Luke is NOT an eye-witness account and Matthew is very unlikely to be. And you've hit on one of the ares where there are reasons to doubt John.

Whether they were direct eyewitnesses or not, they pass off their accounts as at least originating with eyewitnesses (they are told from an eyewitness perspective), and since they are as close to eyewitnesses as we've access to, I don't think too much more can be made of that fact in line with the topic at hand.

We can tell that there are two rival traditions. In one the post-resurrection appearances took place in Galilee, while the other places them in Jerusalem. Matthew follows one line, Luke follows another and John appears to be trying to have it both ways.

It is implausible that the author Matthew would forget about the miracles of Pentecost or that the story would be lost to him. Likewise it is implausible that the author of Luke would be so against appearances in Galilee if he believed in those stories.

Okay, so are you saying that given the multiple accounts which do not agree, it is likely that the supposed event underlying these accounts is a fabrication?

And if Christians were disputing over two incompatible stories at the time when Matthew and Luke were written how can we trust either story ?

When different witnesses testify to the same event, but fail to agree on even the most conspicuous details, should their accounts be regarded as untrustworthy?

What does that let us say about the main event itself, the resurrection?

Jon


Check out Apollo's Temple!
Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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PaulK
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Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 7 of 48 (604201)
02-10-2011 1:51 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Jon
02-10-2011 12:00 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
quote:

Whether they were direct eyewitnesses or not, they pass off their accounts as at least originating with eyewitnesses (they are told from an eyewitness perspective), and since they are as close to eyewitnesses as we've access to, I don't think too much more can be made of that fact in line with the topic at hand.

I don't believe that the unknown author of Matthew mentions his sources at all. So that claim is false right there.

quote:

Okay, so are you saying that given the multiple accounts which do not agree, it is likely that the supposed event underlying these accounts is a fabrication?

No. All I claimed is that there were two rival traditions with the author of Matthew endorsing one and the author of Luke endorsing another (and the Gospel of John trying to have it both ways). I said nothing about the origin of those traditions, although if there was an underlying event we cannot rely on it being much like either one (clearly it cannot closely resemble both !)

quote:

When different witnesses testify to the same event, but fail to agree on even the most conspicuous details, should their accounts be regarded as untrustworthy?

Clearly at least one of them is untrustworthy. The presence of important and obvious differences alone cannot tell us more. In this case we can reasonably say that if either tradition was true there would be no good reason to invent the other.


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GDR
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Message 8 of 48 (604212)
02-10-2011 2:10 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
02-09-2011 9:05 PM


N T Wright
I'm short of time so I'll just say this and post a couple of links. The central point in both gospels and epistles is that Jesus was bodily resurrected. As Paul says, "if this isn't true then we are to be most pitied" or that essentially we are living a lie and wasting our time.

In my view, N T Wright is the foremost historian/theologian we have around. Here are links to 2 lectures he gave a few years back on the historical accuracy of the resurrection.

http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Historical_Problem.htm

http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Early_Traditions.htm

Interesting topic. Thanks


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Jon
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Posts: 4329
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 9 of 48 (604232)
02-10-2011 3:03 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by PaulK
02-10-2011 1:51 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
I don't believe that the unknown author of Matthew mentions his sources at all.

But he presents his story from an eyewitness perspective; the matter in question is whether we can determine if his account (or any of the gospel accounts) represents a fabrication (either on his part or on the part of one of his sources) or whether it may be trustworthy (either because he saw it himself or copied it from a source that saw it).

So once again, who says it isn't overly important; the issue is whether we can conclude a fabrication occurred at any point in the chain from witness to gospel writer regarding the resurrection appearances.

I said nothing about the origin of those traditions, although if there was an underlying event we cannot rely on it being much like either one (clearly it cannot closely resemble both !)

I think it could resemble both; nothing prevents the resurrected Jesus from revealing himself to his disciples in several instances in several different places. Ignoring some of the minor contradictions that this would present, we must wonder what the likelihood is that the accounts given would not have any overlap supposing they describe a true eventthe resurrection of Jesus.

Jon


Check out Apollo's Temple!
Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
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Message 10 of 48 (604233)
02-10-2011 3:03 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by GDR
02-10-2011 2:10 PM


Re: N T Wright
I'm short of time so I'll just say this and post a couple of links. The central point in both gospels and epistles is that Jesus was bodily resurrected. As Paul says, "if this isn't true then we are to be most pitied" or that essentially we are living a lie and wasting our time.

And this is at the heart of the problem: they all agree that Jesus was resurrected, but aside from that, none of their stories are corroboratory (except, maybe John 20:1920 and Luke 24:3640, which may just be an instance of same-source borrowing).

Imagine a man on trial for murder. His buddies decide to come up with the alibi that he was with them in the coffee shop when the murder took place. Upon being interrogated, however, the investigators discover that despite agreeing on the one facthe was in the coffee shop, they all present a different account of what they were doing and talking about. While it is possible that all of the things they describe may have taken place, what is the likelihood that none of their accounts would overlap on any of the details were their story true? And what does that tell us about the believability of the scenario this man's alibi proposes?

(I can't get your links to load right now, but I will look at them later when I get some time!)

Jon


Check out Apollo's Temple!
Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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PaulK
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Message 11 of 48 (604239)
02-10-2011 3:37 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Jon
02-10-2011 3:03 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
quote:

But he presents his story from an eyewitness perspective;

Does he ? In what way ?

quote:

the matter in question is whether we can determine if his account (or any of the gospel accounts) represents a fabrication (either on his part or on the part of one of his sources) or whether it may be trustworthy (either because he saw it himself or copied it from a source that saw it).

I think that we have very good evidence that the story grew in the telling - and in two different directions. Which indicates that it is not trustworthy, but neither is it a simple fabrication.

quote:

I think it could resemble both; nothing prevents the resurrected Jesus from revealing himself to his disciples in several instances in several different places.

But you aren't dealing with the points I raised. If there was something so important as Pentecost, why would the author of Matthew omit it ? If there were appearances in Galilee why is the author of Luke so determined to deny them ? If there was something really important and impressive then why did the stories not stop with that ?

The obvious answer is that the stories were unimpressive and confused and grew greatly over time.


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Jon
Member
Posts: 4329
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 12 of 48 (604255)
02-10-2011 4:32 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by PaulK
02-10-2011 3:37 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
But you aren't dealing with the points I raised. If there was something so important as Pentecost, why would the author of Matthew omit it ? If there were appearances in Galilee why is the author of Luke so determined to deny them ? If there was something really important and impressive then why did the stories not stop with that ?

Look at Mark.

quote:

But he presents his story from an eyewitness perspective;

Does he ? In what way ?

Yes; he is a narrator who relates the story. There are no 'and my sources tell me...' anywhere. Which means he is either copying it from a source that got it from a source, etc. that witnessed the events/fabricated the story; or, he himself has witnessed/fabricated the account.

No matter which of these we assume, our methodology for determining the reliability of his account in light of the other gospels' accounts will be rather the same: we compare what is said in one account against what is said in another.

Jon


Check out Apollo's Temple!
Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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PaulK
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Posts: 11008
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 13 of 48 (604258)
02-10-2011 4:39 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Jon
02-10-2011 4:32 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
quote:

Look at Mark.

There aren't any post-resurrection appearances in Mark, but there is an indication that there will be some - in Galilee. So ? At most all we have is an earlier version of the Galilee tradition.

quote:

Yes; he is a narrator who relates the story. There are no 'and my sources tell me...' anywhere. Which means he is either copying it from a source that got it from a source, etc. that witnessed the events/fabricated the story; or, he himself has witnessed/fabricated the account.

So all we have is a guy telling a story. Hardly a claim to be an eyewitness.


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AdminSlev
Member (Idle past 1163 days)
Posts: 113
Joined: 03-28-2010


Message 14 of 48 (604268)
02-10-2011 5:26 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by GDR
02-10-2011 2:10 PM


Re: N T Wright
Hi GDR,

Bare links are to be avoided. If you feel what you have linked relates to this thread, then you can certainly quote them here but not simply give the link.


- EvC Administrator -

Understanding through Knowledge and Discussion


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Theodoric
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Message 15 of 48 (604282)
02-10-2011 9:18 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Jon
02-10-2011 4:32 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
Which means he is either copying it from a source that got it from a source, etc. that witnessed the events/fabricated the story; or, he himself has witnessed/fabricated the account.

And if it is just a story then it is just a story. No witnesses of any kind needed eyewitness or not.

Edited by Theodoric, : No reason given.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts
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