You say: You're saying that having the name of the author in the title is unusual. Maybe so. But unless there is evidence that the author's name was added falsely or recklessly (which there isn't), it's still evidence of authorship. And as I've been pointing out, it's not the only evidence of authorship we have - so many of the early church fathers believed that these people wrote these texts that it appears to have been common knowledge that they did so. While we can't know for certain that the Gospels were written by M, M, L and J, the preponderance of evidence suggests that they did.
Problem: I’m not going to debate the titles of authorship any longer. All of modern Biblical scholarship, including that of the Catholic church itself, admits to these titles being later inventions. What is your excuse for that? Do you think there is a conspiracy that even the orthodox church is in on? They believe the Gospel titles are invented. I am not going to read a book on this subject in order to debate you on this particular item, so I’ll simply ask: why choose to believe in your fringe theory instead of reading about it, especially when almost every single authority on the subject disagrees with you?
You say: Even if so, is this somehow evidence that the authorship credits are incorrect? Besides, even if the titles were added by someone other than M, M, L and J, whoever did so would have had to have added them pretty quickly after they were written in order for these titles to have taken hold the way they did. The titles basically had to have been added prior to the Gospels being heavily copied and spread around, or it would have caused great confusion among those doing the copying and spreading. I find it hard to believe, if this was the case, that those who added the titles wouldn't have known who had done the writing. The people who added the titles would have had to have been quite close to the original sources. If they were many-generations removed from them, then you'd be saying that the Gospels were spread for many generations without titles, which would have caused great confusion.
Problem: Yes, the titles were likely added in the second half of the second century by someone like Ireneus, which is relatively early in the life of the orthodox church. This is corroborated by the fact that individuals like Papias, from the first half of the second century, were unconcerned with textual authorship or even texts themselves. The Catholic church itself thinks the titles were given sometime during the second century. If you want to disagree, read the books on it and figure it out. I have no interest in debating it anymore since even the orthodox church itself believes this to be the case, and I’ll take their, and every other authority’s, word for it.
You say: It's strange that he credited Mark's Gospel to Mark and not to Peter, isn't it? Irenaeus knew that Mark got his story from Peter - he said so in Against Heresies 3:1:1. He also associated Luke's Gospel with what Paul was preaching. He'd traced the Gospels back to Peter and Paul, who were apostles, yet still credited them to Mark and Luke, who were not. Why would he do that? Crediting those Gospels to Mark and Luke, instead of Peter and Paul, doesn't fit at all with your theory that he was trying to solidify their authority. I guess you could say it "cuts against the grain", and therefore must be true, right?
Problem: Irenaes’ traditions were from ORAL source, dating back to Papias. Papias claimed that a Gospel came from Mark, a close companion of a disciple and eyewitness. This is still a very strong claim for authenticity. This doesn’t cut against the grain because it’s still claiming a high level of authority: not the highest, but very high. If, on the other hand, church fathers would claim that the author was simply a collector of various traditions like Luke, then it would definitely be cutting against the grain. They couldn’t turn Luke into a close companion though, since he readily admitted up front that he was simply a collector of stories. And since you’re beginning to admit (I hope) that the titles weren’t original, we have to figure out how they became accredited, which was the point of bringing up Papias. I’ll interject that discussion here.
You say: The problem is that Papias was quite concerned over which apostle said what. He wrote, "And also if any follower of the Presbyters happened to come, I would inquire for the sayings of the Presbyters, what Andrew said, or what Peter said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples"
Problem: Sure, he was concerned. This doesn’t disprove my point: the Gospels were likely verified through oral traditions, rather than internal evidence or them being originally titled. The entire authority of the authorship tradition is based upon oral sources of the elders, and even oral stories from some random “followers of the Presbyters.” What kind of criteria is that?
You say: But you're engaging in a logical fallacy here, which amounts to "Source X says that A and B are true. A is probably false. Therefore, B is probably false." Actually, if A is probably false because it's inconsistent with the evidence, but B is consistent with the evidence, then B is probably true. At best, A being false only means that B *may* be false. And, yes, the Gospels *may* not have been written by M, M, L and J. But the preponderance of the evidence says that they were. The evidence does suggest that the "thousand branches" quote is likely bogus, but the evidence does not suggest that the credited authorships are likely bogus.
Problem: I’m not entirely sure what your X, A and B represent. I guess X is “elder stories,” “A” is the debunked parable and “B” is Gospel authorship. You say B is consistent with the evidence; that somehow the the external evidence is independently consistent with the internal evidence. This is laughable, considering that your entire interpretation of internal evidence is based around external claims for Matthian authorship. Had you gone into Matthew’s Gospel having no clue who wrote it, you certianly wouldn’t come to the conclusion that a random disciple of Jesus named Matthew had written it. You’d come to the conclusion that an anonymous compiler of stories like Luke wrote it, since Matthew does the same exact thing as Luke: uses Mark, uses Q, adds a few stories of his own. Instead, you claim that an eyewitness would compile their account in the same way that a friend-of-a-friend-of-an-eyewitness would compile their accounts. It’s ludicrous.
In any case, here is my version of XAB:
X says that A is true. A’s information is used to verify B. A is later proven to fabricate information, therefore B could very well be fabricated.
My point is that all early church fathers got their stories and traditions on authorship from Papias, and Papais got them from elders, and the elders are proven to be an unreliable source of information. Therefore, when we interpret the internal evidence of Gospel authorship for Matthew or John, we should not do so based on the external evidence of any of the church fathers. We should not going into interpretation thinking “Matthew wrote this, how can I prove it?” We should go into interpretation thinking “Who is the likeliest person to have written this?” The internal evidence should speak for itself, since the external evidence is proven to be based upon unreliable sources.
You say: The elders, no matter how old they were, couldn't have been old enough where they were in a position to know whether Jesus actually said the "thousand branches" bit. But would they have been in a position to know who had written the Gospels? Most likely, yes. The apostles were major figures in the early church. Had they written texts describing the events, this would have been a well-known fact. And had the apostles *not* written texts, it's very unlikely that people in the early church would have mistakenly thought they did, unless the written texts were a near-perfect match to what the apostles had been preaching all along. Significant differences between them would have led to the texts being rejected by anyone who knew what Matthew, John, Peter/Mark and Paul/Luke were saying.
Problem: The elders could certainly have been in a position to claim to know John, and John was certianly in a position to know Jesus, so where did the story go wrong? Apparently the only path it went was Jesus to John to elders to Papias, yet it got that distorted through only four people? This is hardly encouraging when you try to claim “well, they got Gospel authorship right, anyway!”
You say it would be a widely known fact that apostles wrote Gospels, but this is purely hypothetical. Give me evidence! There was no telephone or internet, how exactly does that become well known? Random oral tradition is how, which as we know is unreliable as proven above.
You claim people in church would be aware if these were false Gospels, since the disciples would come and preach a different message. Well most of Paul’s letters include chastising his churches for falling away from him and following “false teachers” – at least what he thinks are false teachers. Early Churches didn’t care who authored what or who could verify what: they cared about who came to visit them more often. People in churches were constantly switching their opinions and beliefs on Jesus if Paul’s accounts are true.
And we only know of the precise opinions of one of the actual disciples – Peter. Even if Matt and John’s Gospels were really written by them and represent their view of Jesus, what about the other 9 disciples? Were they preaching different messages or the same message? Were the preaching at all? Who was trying to convert Paul’s churches away from Paul’s teachings, and why? All of this is unknown, and all of this implies that confusion existed in mass quantities within the variety of early churches that existed after Jesus’ death. The only thing later proto-orthodox groups use to “prove” their Gospels and doctrine over others is their tradition dating back to that group of elders – and as we saw, there is no reason to trust the elders on their word since it’s proven they fabricated stories.
The elders claimed to get teachings directly from John according to Papais, but we know this story is a fabrication. On who’s part though? Papias, the elders, “John”? Who knows? All we know is that Papias claimed the that these elders were his direct contact with disciples and their beliefs, a claim which is doubtful considering their parable attributed to John.
You say: Interesting. First you say "All the evidence points to purely Greek sources", and then you insist on my limiting it to internal evidence only. Is that because you know that the external evidence, which I presented in my last letter, points to Matthew having written both the Hebrew and the Greek gospels? Eusebius talks about Matthew having written the Hebrew version and translated it into Greek. Origen and Irenaeus both give specific examples of Matthew using Greek wording or personally translating words into Greek.
Problem: It is preposterous to claim Hebrew sources were used when you cannot correlate it with a single bit of internal evidence. Once again you interpret the internal evidence within the context of external evidence, which has been shown to be unreliable and wholy dependent upon oral tradition.
You say: Perhaps (GR biographers didn’t use third person), but we see exactly that kind of thing for other historians. Josephus says, "While Josephus was making this exhortation to the Jews..." and "Upon this, Josephus stood in such a place where he might be heard..." Julius Caesar wrote about himself, saying "But in this Caesar acted not without design" and "Caesar resumed his intended march". If you somehow feel that your argument disproves Matthew's authorship, then you'd have to be consistent and say that it also disproves the authorships of Josephus and Caesar, right? Or are you only using this argument for the Gospels, and not for other historical writings?
Problem: I am using this argument for Greco-Roman biographers, which had a different purpose than historical literature. Josephus and Caesar are not appropriate comparisons for the Gospels: they are an appropriate comparison for Acts. If we are going to compare the Gospels to something, it should be to other biographers such as Plutarch and Tacitus. And these authors used “I” when speaking of events they were part of and never spoke in the third person.
You say: No, since when historians themselves were part of the major events, as Matthew was, *then* they resorted to third-person. The only times historians and Gospel-writers resorted to first-person was in introductions or in internal notes. There's no real difference between what Greco-Roman historians did and what the Gospel authors did.
Problem: This is an incorrect assumption, even according to the books of Acts itself, which is purely historical. When the author is part of major events he uses the words “we” and “us,” sometimes for entire chapters. Matthew and John should’ve done the same if they had been taking part in these events.
I’ve also shown that G-R biographies had introductions to verify their connection to the information they are providing and how it was gathered. Just as Tacitus and Plutarch wanted to reassure their readers that they were in a position of authority, so should have the Gospel authors as well since they were supposed eyewitnesses to the events. Unless, of course, they were anonymous Greek authors with no discernible connection to the information, just as Luke.
You say: And I assume you're also arguing that Josephus should be using "I" for something like his involvement in the events of 70 AD, and that Caesar should be using "I" for his involvement in the events he was in? Right?
Problem: Caesar and Josephus were writing general histories, not biographical accounts. Your comparison doesn’t hold water. If you want to use Caesar and Josephus for comparison, use it for Acts. Also try explaining why Acts uses “we” and “us” while Caesar and Josephus don’t. Why? Because Christian authors weren’t concerned with particularities like when to use “we” or “us,” and if any of them had been, it would’ve been Luke, not Matt or John. Luke’s Gospel and Acts is the most sophisticated attempt at a biography/history, including a introductory to describe how his account came together. Luke would’ve been the one, out of all the authors, to know these rules of when to use “we” and “us” but instead he follows no such rules and uses the terms freely. Your implications that Matt and John chose to follow these rules but Luke did not is inconsistent with internal evidence and other comparisons to G-R biographies.
You say: You're right. It makes little sense that Matthew would use Mark as his primary source of information. Which suggests that he wasn't using it primarily as a source of information, but as a guide for phrasing. Remember that Matthew and Mark were talking about the *exact same events*. Let's take, for example, the parable of the Sower of the Seeds (which appears in Matthew 13 and in Mark 4). Let's say that Matthew had already written this parable in his Hebrew Gospel, using, obviously, Hebrew wording. But now he sees Mark 4, which has the *exact same parable*, already written in Greek. Now Matthew is sitting down to write the parable in his Greek Gospel - which version do you think is going to find handier for the task? The version of the parable written in Hebrew, which he would need to translate from scratch, or the version of the parable already written in Greek, which would require him only to clean up minor grammatical errors? The Greek, obviously.
It's far more likely that "Greek Matthew" was the Greek copy of "Hebrew Matthew". And this would explain Eusebius' reference that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew and then translated it into Greek.
Problem: I don’t understand how you think this mess of explanation makes sense. So Gr. Matt used Gr. Mark out of laziness, then Gr. Mark used Gr. Q since it was his own translated notes, and then Gr Matt is also a copy of Hebrew Matt? How can Gr Matt be based on Mark, on Q, and on Hebrew Matt all at the same time?
You must think that Mark’s Gospel said exactly the same things as Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel by chance. Since you’re choosing to discard the idea that Mark used Matthew as a source, what’s your explanation for Mark’s extreme (and hypothetical) similarity to Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel stories? Since Matthew copied 97% of Mark, are you saying the vast majority of Mark just happened to end up exactly how Matthew wanted it? That almost every single story, dialogue, and order of events in Mark just happened to say the same exact things that Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel said? This is highly unlikely considering how two eyewitness accounts of the same event almost always turn out to be much different. You even admit this when looking at John: “I do agree that much is difference between the various Gospels, which is exactly what we'd expect from different sources for the same series of events.” But now that we’re talking about Matthew and Mark you change your tune completely, saying that different sources for the same event would have little to no discernable difference, hence Matthew using Mark?
Your beliefs are a mass of confusion based on your need to prove that all the external evidence is hypothetically true, even though we know it’s based on spurious sources. Also, as far as Q is concerned, it is highly unlikely these were Matthew’s notes. This is because when we compare Luke and Matthew, they use Q differently. Matthew combines stories from Q together into single events (like the sermon on the mount), while Luke keeps the stories separate in his Gospel. It’s unlikely that an author would intentionally take a single narrative and divide them into separate accounts to place them sporadically in his Gospel. This means that Luke’s form of Q was probably the original form, and the author of Matthew decided to combine these various stories from Q into larger, more cohesive accounts. Thus it is highly unlikely Q originated from the author of Matthew since the author of Matthew combined stories that originally were seperated. Q was a separate source that both Luke and Matthew choose to use in different ways.
You should also keep in mind that Christian Universities also believe there is no connection showing that Matthew is linked to this Greek Gospel. This is a widespread scholarly opinion, and I am going to stop attempting to debating it shortly, just like our argument on Gospel titles. Your ideas are on the fringe. This is a fact, and I have no interest in reading books on Gospel authorship to figure out specific arguments against you. The fact that Christian Universities themselves accept this to be true is enough proof for me, let alone secular Universities.
You say: Three big problems with that idea (on Early Christian martyrdom): Even if true (which it's not), once the first one or two Christians were killed, those who were watching would know what was going on. They'd know that continuing to believe in Jesus and the resurrection could end up getting them killed, even if they hadn't actually been arrested yet. This wasn't just a dilemma which faced only those who had already been arrested.
Second is that the evidence shows that Christians generally weren't killed the first time they were arrested. Before Paul's execution, he wrote about how he had been flogged five times and beaten with a rod three times (2 Corinthians 11: 23-25), and he'd repeatedly been imprisoned. Obviously, they didn't execute him the first time they caught him, but punished him and let him go, hoping the punishment would be enough to deter him. He could clearly have stopped worshiping Jesus at any time and not had to suffer further assaults, imprisonments, and his eventual execution, and there's no reason to suppose the same wasn't true for other Christians. This shows that, while executions were done, they were done as a means of *last resort*. Christians were given many chances to turn away from Jesus before they were killed.
And on top of that, Pliny the Younger wrote, in his letter to Emperor Trajan, about how he had let a few Christians go once they denied Jesus. So, yes, there is independent evidence showing that Christians could be let go if they denied Jesus.
Problem: There were no problems with my idea, we are just considering the terms in different ways. By “early Christians” I mean those who claimed to see the Resurrected Jesus. Pliny the Younger wrote/ruled in the second century, much later. And even though Paul gives accounts of his flogging, he had not seen the Resurrected Jesus, he just had a “vision from God.” At this point I’m not sure what we’re debating, but I think my main point was about how we can’t use martyrdom as a way to verify the truth of the Resurrection. You keep claiming that this martyrdom is evidence of it’s truth, but this is hardly a reasonable argument considering that the same could be said of Islamic extremists. Martyrdom proves nothing other than conviction, and conviction can become manifest in a multitude of ways entirely unrelated to seeing an actual resurrection. The fact that Christians who didn’t see Jesus resurrect were willing to be martyred detracts from any special heroics you’d like to ascribe to those who did claim to see Jesus and were martyred. It implies that the courage of people who didn’t see Jesus was just as strong as those who claimed they did. And there is no evidence claiming that there was specific martyrdom for Christian who claimed to see Resurrected Jesus. Your idea that martyrdom lends weight to the stories of Resurrected Jesus is unfounded.
You say: Really? Where did you get that data from? If you include only the non-Christian scholars, you may or may not be right. But once you include the Christian scholars, I seriously doubt that's true.
Problem: Yes, I only include secular scholars. Christian scholars are liable to have a fundamental bias towards their perception on evidence for/against Jesus. Secular sources need to prove it’s true if I’m going to believe it: it’s the same rule I apply to all religions. When I look at Islam or Hinduism or Greek or Roman mythology or Native American religion, I read what the secular scholars offer for their various beliefs, not what Muslim scholars or Hindu scholars or Greek/Roman/Native American apologists say. The same applies to Christianity. You yourself would appeal to secular scholarship for your beliefs on Islam and Hinduism and Greek/Roman/Native American mythology, but why not for Christianity? Because you already have faith that it’s true, so you look toward the evidence that supports your notion, which is found only in Christian scholarship.
You say: When did I say that a miracle can be proven to be true? I'm not sure *anything* from ancient times can be historically proven to be true. When it comes to historical events from ancient times, we pretty much go with the preponderance of the evidence.
Problem: You claim to strictly use evidence for justifying your belief in a Resurrection. Because you say you base your faith strictly on evidence, you are trying to claim that it was a historical event that historical evidence points towards. You are, in a roundabout way, claiming that the Resurrection is proven most likely, historically speaking. And as I said, there is no way you can claim a miracle to be historically likely. You can’t use evidence to prove the probability of a miracle, you can only use faith.
You say: You say that the hallucination/lie/delusion theories are automatically more likely due to your belief that "A miracle is an impossibility due to what we can provably say about the world." Your belief in the impossibility of miracles absolutely affects your interpretation of the evidence, just as, I must admit, it would affect mine if I also believed in the impossibility of miracles. So to say that your rejection of miracles doesn't affect your interpretation of the evidence is incorrect. If you believed in the possibility of God, and thus believed miracles were possible, you wouldn't be rejecting the possibility of Jesus' resurrection and thus wouldn't be automatically favoring these other possibilities. You'd be weighing them against each other, as I do.
Problem: Your assumption is incorrect. You are saying that I don’t believe a Resurrection could ever be historically proven to be true since I don’t believe they can happen. This assumption is incorrect. I personally believe a Resurrection could easily be proven to me to be true, and that the Bible itself could prove it if God wanted it to serve that purpose. I can imagine an ideal scenario: Disciples write/dictate their Gospels a month after Jesus resurrects, 12 Gospels, all reliable. Ok not even all twelve, how about just 3 or 4?? All their stories are highly correlated down to the detail, individualized with authorship, and written for the sake of proving Jesus’ Resurrection, they all double checked with each other about the accounts of his life. Canonization by the early church is a quick easy process, not hundreds-of-years-long process. Outside officials and historians would also see Resurrected Jesus, and wrote their own separate accounts of the Resurrected Jesus talking with them, even though they were pagans. Such a scenario would prove a Resurrection to me in a snap, despite historians claiming something else must’ve happened.
Instead, what we get are a mish-mash of purely Christian stories with varying details, disputed authorship, blatant copying and editing, and major discrepancies in what Jesus really taught. This is hardly convincing to me, and definitely not to historians. Had my ideal situation took place, or even something remotely close to it, it’d be much harder for a historian to come up with hypothetical situations for how a Resurrection story was invented. Instead, there’s a massive amount of wiggle room left in what we have, enough room to convince all of secular scholarship. Since you believe in miracles, why didn’t God make the Bible a cohesive document? Why is there so many easy ways to pick apart the Bible from a literary perspective, just like any other written document? Why is so easy for me, and many others, to see these stories as exactly that: stories? Surely God would’ve known that oral traditions would become distorted, so why did Jesus not say “Go, all of you write down these things together, so the world may know the truth of my Resurrection!”
In other words, my problem with your theory on God’s intervention is this: If God Resurrected Jesus, which did he have no hand in the multitude of events that followed afterwords. God intervened for a Resurrection, but not for the other 20 important things like written accounts, authorship verification, independent pagan sources, canonization? Things which are necessary to prove that first important thing really happened in the first place? If this is indeed the way God works, then he has only himself to blame for such mixed, contradictory interpretations of Jesus. If God’s entire plan for the entire world was to raised a man from the dead, he could easily have made the documentation of such an event a much more cohesive, reliable and authoratative. Instead, what we have is an entirely human story. So God succeeds on saving the world by sacrificing his son and Resurrecting him, but fails on being able to document it in a way that passes historical scrutiny? It’s pathetic, and contradictory, to what “God” should and would have done.
You say: What's your evidence that Jesus Himself didn't expect (the Resurrection) to happen?
Problem: My evidence is shown in my section titled “Suffering Messiah” which I had written a few emails ago. There was never a Jewish tradition of suffering Messiah. Historically, if Jesus or his followers viewed him to be a Messiah before his death (which they did), they did so because he was believed to be a traditional Jewish Messiah. He did not teach, according to the multiple early independent sources, that he was to suffer. Jesus also implies in Mark that he didn’t think the crucifixion was really supposed to happen (Mark 14:32-42) saying “Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He does this same prayer three times in a row, almost panicy, while his disciples keep falling asleep. And of course Mark ends with “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark, the earliest Gospel source, implies Jesus was never convinced that the crucifixion was the way to go. This interpretation of events fits perfectly into the already-known historical context.
You say: Because, *as you already agreed*, the disciples were filled with grief, despair and disillusionment, and their faith in Jesus was shaken. The Pharisees, as I'm sure you'll also agree, were not. And they, like the disciples, did not believe that Jesus would really come back.
Problem: My point was that the disciples should have been PREPARED for the death and Resurrection, their faith should’ve been AMPLIFIED by these events if Jesus actually prophesied them! Your explanation makes no sense, because it gives the disciples no motivation to be filled with grief and despair. Tell me, why did they have those emotions?
Jesus told them it would happen. Jesus said he’d raise from the dead in three days. The Disciples had already seen Jesus raise other dead people and walk on water. Why the heck would they ever feel grief or despair for this situation if Jesus always clearly taught his death and resurrection, and Jesus never had a failed miracle? You can give no answer for this, other then “they didn’t want to believe he’d die.” Well he said he’d resurrect in three whole days, hardly a long time to hold your breath for a miraculous resurrection! Are you telling me that if you saw a man raise dead people and walk on water, and then say he’d die in raise himself in three days, you all of a sudden wouldn’t believe him? It makes no sense. Your reasoning that they were clouded by “grief and despair” is incredibly weak, since there is absolutely no reason they should’ve felt that way in the first place. UNLESS, of course, my historical interpretation is correct, and that Jesus and his followers viewed him only as the traditional jewish Messiah. The crucifixion was a failure of his Messiahship, and makes a much stronger case for why the disciples were in “grief and despair.”
You say: How can you say that (the Gospels became elaborate), if you don't know how Mark originally ended? And, again, Hebrew Matthew as almost certainly before Mark and there's no reason to believe that the resurrection story was different between Hebrew Matthew and Greek Matthew. If you want to theorize that they were different, then you're still stuck with not knowing how Hebrew Matthew originally ended, and your point that it got "more dramatic and exaggerated" falls apart due to lack of evidence, since you don't know the ending for the first two accounts.
Problem: You keep saying that I can’t claim the Gospels elaborate the story since we don’t know if/how Mark ended, or what Hebrew Matt said. You're misinterpreting my argument in order to create straw men to attack me. My point wasn’t “according to all possible hypothetical endings for all hypothetical Gospels, it’s proven they elaborated the story.” My point is “according to all discovered and analyzed Gospels, it is proven they elaborated the story.” My point doesn’t fall apart because it was never claiming things about hypothetical Gospels and hypothetical endings: it was claiming things about what we have in front of us today. And I see you ignored the chronological inflation of who was found in Jesus tomb: a young man (Mark)? and angel w/earthquake (Matt)? or two angels (Luke)? or nobody (John)? Such obvious inflation and contradiction makes these stories unreliable.
You say: And even if Mark was first, you seem to now being admitting that there could have been more to Mark (though "could have" is a bit weak - the evidence points to it being practically a certainty), so you can't say it about Mark, either.
Problem: The evidence does not point to it being “practically a certainty.” It’s hotly debate, and the fact that you claim it’s a “certainty” once again proves your ignorance concerning today’s state of Biblical scholarship.
You say: An appearance to 500 people is a "simple mass hallucination"? I'd like to see what you consider a complex one! There's nothing like that in recorded history, where hundreds of people all see the same person, even though that person clearly wasn't there.
Problem: First of all, 500 is likely a made up number. Did Paul count each person? Make an estimate? Maybe it was 100, maybe 50, maybe 1000? Who knows. Did you ever try to guess how many piece of bubblegum are in a jar, and guess correctly? To take this number literally is to make assumptions like: Paul didn't have motivation to inflate the account; Paul was very good at estimating groups of people; the people saw Jesus himself, not just some random reflection or hallucination. Did Paul even see this event happen or was it a story transmitted to him? An oral tradition, a written tradition? Did the vision last 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 hours? It’s all unclear. All of these points are in dispute, and I’m not going to spend time debating it since I don’t feel it’s worth it. You can keep claiming “it’s true until proven otherwise” but I could care less. Your assumptions aren’t honest; they are made with clear motivation to ignore the humanity of the authors and instead picture the accounts purely as “evidence,” as if these documents were typed up by computers instead of humans with motivations and incentives.
You say: So why do you feel the need to exaggerate this, saying that multiple apostles touched the holes, when the story suggests that none of them did, and, at most, you could argue that *maybe* one did? It comes across that you're personally exaggerating the story in order to justify your claim of the stories getting more and more exaggerated.
Problem: Mark says nothing. Matt says there was a sermon on the mount but some disciples didn’t believe. Luke says there was hallucinations and conversations with Jesus but they didn’t recognize him for a while. John says Jesus offered Thomas to stick his hand through his palms and feet, and then went fishing with them. These are facts, and each account is more elaborate than the last, demonstrating more and more personal interaction with Jesus each time. I also see you ignored how I document the exaggeration of who the women found in the tomb. Was it a young man, and angel/earthquake, two angels? Take your pick.
You say: No, I'm just saying it's (hallucination/delusion) unconvincing. You say there is "plenty of evidence" for this. I'd like to see it.
Problem: So the only response you have to some disciples not believing it was Jesus in Matt, and Jesus randomly appearing/disappearing without reason in Luke, is that my argument is “unconvincing". Well, good for you. I find it convincing. You asked for proof, I gave it, and nothing has been responded to. Why ask for proof if you’re not even going to bother to debate what I say, and instead outright reject it as “unconvincing”? You don’t even bother to give reasons why the disciples would think the man preaching on the mount wasn’t him (Matt) or why Jesus chooses to keep his post-Resurrection identity hidden half the time, while disappearing the other half of the time (Luke). That’s because there are no reasonable explanations.
(due to space constraints, the rest of this letter will be posted on Page 14)