Catholic Anti-Apologetics by Kenneth Humphreys

I’m wondering what the response is to these Anti-Christian arguments. I have cut and paste a summary of most of the here. But the full text is here: jesusneverexisted.com/circus.html

They are quite compelling.

[quote=Kenneth Humphreys]3. The “Suffering Disciples” Argument

This one really takes the biscuit. Our Apologist, aware that non-Christians also have beliefs, now inflates a fallacy, invented by a triumphant Church and perpetuated by Hollywood. “Would the disciples have suffered and died for a fabricated saviour?” (Lurid pictures of stoning, beheading, savage beasts).

This audacious nonsense is destroyed utterly by two separate realities:

  1. People suffer and die all the time for erroneous causes.

Did the 9/11 terrorists go straight to the Islamic paradise?

Pagans died at the hands of Christians. Did this prove the existence of Isis and Dionysus?

  1. There is NO evidence at all for the existence of the Apostles and NO evidence for widespread suffering by Christians either – until, that is, the Christian Empire turned its ferocity upon the heretics.
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[quote=Kenneth Humphreys]4. The “Too Soon For a Legend” Argument.

Briefly stated the argument runs like this. ‘Belief in JC and his resurrection arose almost immediately. There was not enough time for this to have been a legendary development overlying a less dramatic historical truth.’ Myth, we are told, takes a number of generations to develop. (Really? It didn’t take more than a few days for the US military and media to finesse Pfc Jessica Lynch into a fake female Rambo. Fortunately we had Lynch’s own subsequent candour to squelch the counterfeit heroics.)

We are told still living witnesses would have shouted ‘false’ if the story writers had got their facts wrong – an imaginative but preposterous notion, implying that in the ghettoes and scriptoriums of the eastern Roman Empire an army of literary inspectors were checking on rabbinic scribbling. This argument also sneaks in the unsubstantiated claim that the gospels were written ‘early’ and yet in truth, they don’t surface until the mid-2nd century when every witness from the first half of the 1st century would have been long dead.

Nonetheless, the implication is that within a decade or two of JC’s death “numerous” Christians all had more or less the same conviction. “Surely,” runs the argument, “this would only be the case if something truly remarkable had occurred?”

Wrong.

Lets remind ourselves: we are looking for evidence of JC. That doesn’t mean we assume a specific date for a crucifixion of our hero and then count off to a time when there were Christians. No one doubts that a messianic godman faith emerged sometime in the late 1st/early 2nd century. The legend is a composite construct over many generations. Its emergence from the very real suffering of the Jews and the dispossessed of the Roman Empire is a fascinating study.
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[quote=Kenneth Humphreys]5. The “Sheer Quantity of Documentation” Argument

This one really is a crude bludgeon.

“Do you know,” says the Apologist, “there is only one manuscript copy of Caesar’s Gallic Wars and that dates from the 10th century? In contrast there are 20,000 manuscripts of the gospels, in various languages, dating from the 6th to 12th centuries. Doesn’t that PROVE the correctness of the New Testament”!

The logic is appalling – as if a lie repeated a hundred times bested a single truth. The really significant point is how few Christian manuscripts – or even scraps of manuscripts – exist from before the cult became endorsed as the state religion of the Roman Empire.

Whole libraries of ancient wisdom and erudition were torched by the Christians. For centuries, by Church dictate, the only remaining literature was the dreary diet of biblical fantasy.

And then latter-day Apologists have the effrontery to mock the dearth of classic learning. It’s as if the Nazis bemoaned the lack of Jewish literature.
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[quote=Kenneth Humphreys]6. The “Embarrassing Errors” Argument

Modern scholarship exposes the barbarous nonsense of the Bible as never before. The men who, 1800 years ago, wrote the gospels, knew nothing of science and rationality. They could in no manner anticipate the skills and insights which would be brought to bear on their pious fantasy far into the future.

Indeed, until relatively recent times, the Bible was a forbidden book, denied to all but the clergy. In the vast compendium of nonsense, selectively read in Latin (or Greek) to an illiterate peasantry, who would have noticed the myriad inconsistencies, contradictions and absurdities?

Now of course, we know all this and more.

None abashed, the Apologist boldly turns the disaster to his advantage. “The errors obviously prove the essential truth. If the writers had wanted to tell a lie they would have got it right.”

Not so. The writers were con men of their time – unable to anticipate mass literacy, the printing press, computers or the internet.

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[quote=Kenneth Humphreys]7. The “NO Credible Historians” Argument

“Ok,” says the Apologist as a last resort, “if all what you say is true why aren’t ranks of established academics lining up to endorse the Jesus myth idea?”

Unlike men of religion, broad-brush generalists expatiating on life, death and eternity, academia is populated by scholars who are increasingly specialized, knowing more and more about less and less. Personal advancement and professional kudos come from small advances within their own narrow field of research. Understandably many are loath to proffer commentary beyond their own area of expertise.

Within the confines of their own disciplines, academics certainly do challenge and reject biblical nonsense. Many of them are quoted in this collection of articles, indeed have made the demolition of the Jesus myth possible. Few choose to take on “Big Church” with its $billions and millions of gullible supporters. It requires others, not constrained by the politics of academia, to bring the thousand and one pieces together.
Having said that, the idea that Jesus of Nazareth never existed is not new but has been endorsed by a minority of scholars for more than 200 years.
Doubts about the literal truth of the godman were first raised – not by secularists – but by liberal theologians whose reason prevailed over their faith. Sadly, fundamentalism turns that approach on its head, allowing faith to prevail over reason.

This is it. The best evidence for believing in a resurrected Jesus.

Five 3rd-hand anecdotes of “sightings” !

And you thought the evidence for WMDs was a bit thin …
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I don’t understand how you find these “compelling” because they are actually very shallow.

2 & 3 are complete hogwash…

The martyrdom argument is only useful in showing that 3 centuries of believers paid a high cost for what they believed. Evidence of faith, yes. Evidence of apostolic existence, no.

He denies that the apostles (and I’ll expect Christ Himself) were non-existent. He has no such evidence because none exists. At best it’s his wishful thinking, and at worst just a specious attack.

There is a great deal of extant early church material that is indeed historical fact. Look it up…but don’t believe this guy just because he says so. :rolleyes: Catholic First Information Center, Church Fathers Index

Further…as to #3 he’s crazy. Ask him why the Edict of Milan was necessary. Ask him who was blamed and persecuted for the fire in Rome by Nero/ he’s clearly talking through his hat. I would then suppose that if he denies 300+ years of persecution, that he will also deny a mere few years of the Holocaust as well?

4 is also trash because we have Josephus and other historians who document his existence. Why do you listen to this guy?:shrug:

  1. is just specious bunkum. If he wants to reject it fine, but don’t lie and tell people that all those manuscripts don’t exist because they are historical and easily documented fact. Moreover, his allegation against Christians as destroying knowledge flies right in the face of historical fact.

When the barbarians tore through Europe and plundered and burned every church, school, medical facility, and monastery,they destroyed all the repositories of scientific learning to that time and that included scientific farming. Hence the Middle ages were called the Dark Ages because of the famines and diseases and general anarchy that ensued. This was not done by Christians, so he’s lying about it.

What one might point out is that the salvation of Western Civilization was in fact Catholic monks from Ireland who reveangelized Europe and brought with them their Bibles and other books of knowledge which pretty much turned the whole era around.
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51yX6x1E1JL.AA160.jpg

** How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise… by Thomas Cahill **

Stay tuned…more to come…

6 is complete specious trash. He alleged barbarous non-sense where none exists and “modern scholarship” (whatever he means by that) proves no such thing.

The apostles and the early church (in fact the entire bevy of OT authors) were not scientists and never claimed to be. one of the stupidest things anyone can do is try to make the Bible a science book, a math book or whatever when it never asserts itself to be anything but the writings of men of faith.

Calling the apostles con men is just his baseless attack. again, it may be his wishful thinking…but I think he no longer merits a hearing or effort to discuss with him.

If he lacks faith and doesn’t like Christianity, that’s on him, but lying and badmouthing us doesn’t make his case “compelling”.

“Understandably many are loath to proffer commentary beyond their own area of expertise.”

Here he should take his own advice, since thus far he has done exactly what he says that wise scholars are loath to do. How’s he justify that?

I don’t see any citations of any of these academics, though I concede there are some. so what…if their scholarship is no better than this rant of his then we can all just walk away and go to Mass, grateful for the gift of faith we have and willing to dialog with anyone who is charitable and honest enough to do their own homework.

There;s nothing “compelling” here my friend. Blow him off and stay away from people like this. There are thousands more who are hungry for the truth and we need more servants in the master’s vineyard.

I wouldn’t waste my time with this guy.

Please don’t find offense. I found them personally compelling. But that is, of course, only if the historical evidence amounts to what this man is claiming. Don’t get me wrong- I am a Catholic. But I find that the best inoculation against disbelief, especially in keeping with Catholic tradition, is meeting such claims straight on, not just claiming “faith” or “hogwash” without explanation. As such, I really appreciate your feedback!

You have to understand that most of the younger generations in the U.S. have virtually no appreciable knowledge of proper history. We have been robbed. I have been trying to teach myself- but we live in an ultra-skeptical world where everything not in accordance with the current post-modern, materialist, scientism story is questioned.

Interesting so far. I am looking forward to it!

Perhaps you would like to invest in some serious historians like Hillare Belloc.

Remember too that in any debate, the burden of proof is upon the one setting forth his position. that’s one way to spot real hogwash vs an authentic attempt at an argument.

This sort of argument is not worth responding to, as it disappears like fairy floss in the mouth, but leaving this time a bad taste.
It is hard to argue against this sort of flim-flam, not because they are compelling but because they set up straw men and then huffs and puffs like the fairy-tale. Do your own research, but this man is not worth the trouble as his kind is not open to debate.
Wipe the dust off your sandals and leave him to your prayers for the incorrigibly ignorant.

AMEN, Thanks Church Militant, God Bless, Memaw

Originally Posted by Kenneth Humphreys
2. The “Belief of Others is Evidence” Argument

Early Christians are themselves presented as “evidence.”

Simply put, evidence of belief is not evidence of reality – and if that line of argument had any validity it would better validate the 3000 plus years of Egyptian and Indian deities, and the almost as long-lived Gods of Greece and northern Europe!

If the early apostles had not seen the miracles themselves and heard Jesus speak they would not have followed him after his death. There were many so-called messiahs most of whom tried to lead a rebellion against Rome during the 1st century and they all faded away.

I read a paper in College many years ago where a man tried to argue that Paul never existed. If you read his letters that is not somebody pretending to be Paul. Luke wrote about him in Acts which is entirely separate from the letters Paul wrote.

Originally Posted by Kenneth Humphreys
3. The “Suffering Disciples” Argument

This one really takes the biscuit. Our Apologist, aware that non-Christians also have beliefs, now inflates a fallacy, invented by a triumphant Church and perpetuated by Hollywood. “Would the disciples have suffered and died for a fabricated saviour?” (Lurid pictures of stoning, beheading, savage beasts).

This audacious nonsense is destroyed utterly by two separate realities:

  1. People suffer and die all the time for erroneous causes.

Did the 9/11 terrorists go straight to the Islamic paradise?

Pagans died at the hands of Christians. Did this prove the existence of Isis and Dionysus?

  1. There is NO evidence at all for the existence of the Apostles and NO evidence for widespread suffering by Christians either – until, that is, the Christian Empire turned its ferocity upon the heretics.

This argument is based on hypersimplification. As any atheist worth their salt will say, the existence of early Christians doesn’t prove that Jesus was real or that he rose from the dead. They’ll point to other religions whose members were persecuted, including Islam (initial persecution by the Quraysh tribe), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the persecution of early Mormons is part of the founding story of the religion), and even the Bahai (the persecution of Baha’ullah in Tehran was part of their history). Persecution itself proves nothing.

If you look at the historical context in which Jesus lives, the picture becomes much more complex and compelling. There were other claimants to being the Messiah of Israel, including as late as Simon bar-Kokhba, who established his kingdom in the 130s in opposition to Rome, minted coins, etc. In the Jewish revolt of 66-70 AD, the rebels sought to expel Rome, only to be crushed by the Roman general Titus. And from the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know that the Jews in the sect at Qumran, in their “War Scroll,” discussed two messiahs, one of which would be a military leader that would vindicate the true Israel.

Jesus didn’t do any of this. And his not doing it was so spectacular, such an apparent failure, that not even his followers understood what he was doing. One thing documented in the Bible (which the Church sometimes doesn’t trumpet from the rooftops) is that Jesus’ followers didn’t really get what he was doing, even after his death. When Jesus announced that he had to die and be reborn (Mark 8:31), Peter rebuked him and Jesus scolded him “Get behind me, Satan.” When the guards come to arrest Jesus in the garden, one of Jesus’ followers (Peter in John) is carrying a sword and begins to violently resist Jesus’ arrest (e.g. John 18:10). On the road to Emmaus after the resurrection (a road which incidentally lead to the battlefield of one of the greatest victories of the Maccabees’ war against the last major empire to occupy Israel, the Seleucid Greeks), Clopas and his companion (possibly his wife Mary) told the stranger they encountered, “…we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.” (Luke 24:21). Clearly, they thought Jesus was going to be a temporal ruler, and that Israel’s liberation would be through military revolt (as their presence on road to Emmaus suggests… they were visiting the site of a sentimental victory). And in Acts 1:6, even after the resurrection of Jesus, the Apostles still don’t get it. They ask the resurrected Christ, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Time and again, his followers didn’t get Jesus. They were all waiting for some big revolution, and he continually had to redirect them. He even preaches against rebelling against Rome. In the Sermon on the Mount/Plain, for example, Mark 5:40-41, Jesus cites Roman military law which allowed a soldier to press anyone into service for one mile, and says that rather than retaliating, his followers should go a second mile. But anti-Roman militarism was in the air. During Jesus’ childhood, Judas of Galilee led a revolt (around 6 AD) in Judea against Roman taxation. Right around the time of Jesus’ birth, a rebellion in Sepphoris, about 4 miles from Nazareth, broke out and Rome razed the city to the ground.

So when Jesus’ followers saw him die, they thought that all their hopes and dreams were lost. But Jesus was a messiah unlike what anyone else had expected. Of course, in the Targumin Isaiah, other Jews had expected that the messiah needed to suffer, but who said rise again? You might look at Daniel 7-8 and expect the Son of Man to lead in a new apocalyptic age (where God sets the world right – as opposed to ending the world). Jesus even referred to himself as the Son of Man, but he died a shameful, unkosher death.

When any of the other so-called messiahs died, their followers just dispersed. Their movements ended. Yet among the followers of Jesus, they became even more vocal that their movement had just begun! The Church had started, and the first Christians began proclaiming the risen Christ, first to their fellow Jews, as we see in Acts, and then to Gentiles. Paul went around proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. That’s a direct contrast with the fundamental political statement that Caesar is Lord.

So what I see is not just that the first Christians were persecuted for proclaiming the risen Lord, but that they themselves were surprised and totally caught off guard by the risen Jesus. Jesus had become king, crucified under the accusation INRI after being anointed by a nameless woman in a leper’s colony. None of this seemed royal, but what king could defeat death? No one other than God himself, and that is what we read in the New Testament, first in Paul, then in the Gospels.

What we see from historical-critical analysis is that the oldest text of the New Testaments are citations by Paul of older material in some of his letters. And those oldest of texts are filled with high Christology. Philippians 2:5-11 is nothing if not high Christology. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early resurrection account. There’s more in Romans 1. All of this old material is Christological, not biographical. The earliest Christians were trying to get their hands around what they had witnessed.

That, to me, is a much more compelling story than that of the persecuted believers.

Those are pretty good informal rebuttals to informal apologetics. I would hope that anyone who was serious about Catholic apologetics wouldn’t make such casual arguments in the first place, but its certainly not the first time I’ve seen them.

I’ve personally always found the martyrdom argument to be extremely weak. People give their lives for all sorts of erroneous beliefs and/or political causes.

His other objections seem more easily refuted.

Thanks for all the replies. These accusations may seem silly to the learned, but they should be refuted, not dismissed, as they could cost someone their faith otherwise.

You’re forgetting that the earliest martyrs gave their lives, not merely for something they erroneously believed, but for something they claimed to have seen with their own eyes!

One of the objections to torture is that the sufferer will eventually say whatever lie is necessary in order to get it to stop. If there was no ressurrection, the early martyrs would merely have had to tell the truth, admit that they had made it all up, but the Villiage Atheist claims that they held to the absurd story that they had made up even as they were being skinned alive or lowered slowly into boiling oil. Nonsense.

Yeah, 2 and 3 are bunk because we’re not talking about just believers, but the founders–the alleged eyewitnesses. These are the ones who would be accused of making up Jesus. Eyewitness testimony is evidence. Our entire judicial system is built on it–even physical evidence has to be authenticated by testimony. If you throw out witness testimony, you have to throw out pretty much all our knowledge of history and all our knowledge of facts that each individual did not personally witness. That’s absurd.

Of course, this fellow is just rattling stuff off with no citations to any testimony that contradicts Christian claims. He presents no counter-evidence at all.

In the case of Christ, there were many eyewitnesses, it wasn’t one man alone in a cave or under a tree like other religions. Even the Bible is not just one book written by one man, but many books written by many people over many centuries.

The suffering of the witnesses goes to their credibility. It shows that they had no motive to lie; they received no benefit at all from their story, other than torture and death. They didn’t gain for themselves power or many women or wealth or adulation during their lifetimes, like other founders.

If this guy claims the Apostles didn’t exist, then who invented the Jesus “myth?” Christians were being heavily persecuted since the beginning of His mention, so whoever came up with it didn’t benefit.

Also, it’s ridiculously ignorant and arrogant for this guy to claim that it is only modern people who have noticed “inconsistencies” in the Bible. Detractors of the Christian religion have raised the same objections since the beginning and they have been refuted from the beginning. These objections are not some new revelation only super-smart modern atheists have come up with just now.

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