Responding to "The Thomas Factor"

The Pixie

Active member
SteveB linked to a book, The Thomas Factor by Gary Habermas, on another thread. You can read the book for yourself on Habermas' website for free:

As an aside, I respect Habermas for doing that. Some supposed Christians are clearly in it for the money, and use every opportunity to hawk their wares. It is good to see a man whose faith is bigger than his greed, and makes texts like this freely available to his fellow Christians.

The book is not about apologetics. Indeed, from chapter 5 of the book:

So is Christianity true? Do we have the basis that we need in order to build the best possible emotional base throughout the remainder of this book?
This is not an apologetics textbook. So we will not provide here any of these arguments.
It turns out that this is not about removing doubt by proving Christianity is true, but removing doubt, regardless of whether that doubt is justified or not! In fairness, he does then go on to address this to some degree, and it is to respond to these points that I am making this post.


Prophecy
Fulfilled prophecy argues that God is intricately involved in the march of human history. God even proposes prophecy as a test that He is Lord (Isa. 41:21-24; 45:20-22). Three areas that need to be investigated are those of distinctive city and nation predictions, specifications concerning Israel, and details pertaining to the coming of God’s chosen Messiah. I think the best overall case is one that is constructed of a few quality predictions in each category, rather than using larger numbers of less-verifiable instances. The choices would be those that were plainly given beforehand and clearly pertained only to the events in question, in order to rule out vagueness and manipulation. In such instances, the more specific these prophetic details are, the stronger the predictive value that results.
Sadly, he does not say what those prophesies are!

We can look at a few that I feel are representative.

Old prophecies re-purposed: The most famous of these is the virgin birth. The prophecy is that the two nations that threatened Judah would fall within a couple of years. The time scale was described thus: before the virgin's yet-to-be-conceived child had learnt to tell right from wrong. Nothing about a messiah, until the author of Matthew got his hands on it and twisted it into something else.

Narrative changed to fit: Micah 2 has the Messiah come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, so the authors of Luke and Matthew contrived stories to make that so. Obviously they did not consult each other, and the results were very different! There are also several prophecies saying the Messiah would be of the seed of David, so again Luke and Matthew contrive that to be so, but fail to consult each other. We know one of them is wrong; I suspect they both are. And, of course, both also say he was he the product of a virgin birth!

Written after the event: It is generally reckoned that Daniel was written between 165 and 163 BC because the supposed prophecies are so spot-on until that time, and then suddenly go wildly off course. I suggest the supposed prophecies in Revelation up to 20:2 are recording events that had already happened, and so are accurate. Thereafter, the guesses about the future are way out.

Failed prophecies: There are plenty of Messianic prophecies Jesus failed to fulfil. Isaiah 52 and Micah 2, for example, says the Messiah will smite the Assyrians. Jesus never did that.


Miracles
Jesus’ miracles are seldom used today in Christian apologetics, but are still a worthwhile evidence in an overall case for Christian theism. Jesus claimed several times that His miracles indicated that His message was true (for examples, Mk. 2:10-12; Lk. 7:20-22). His followers agreed (Jn. 20:30-31; Acts 2:22). These events are exceptionally well-attested, being found in every level of strata in the four Gospels, and are even admitted by Jesus’ enemies. Several of them are either attended by intriguing historical details that can be otherwise verified, or offer other marks of authenticity. Certain examples from recent medical literature reveal some fascinating, evidenced parallels that may argue that God is similarly active today. For reasons like these, contemporary critics treat very seriously these aspects of the Gospels narratives.
The idea that these miracles are "exceptionally well-attested" is, frankly, bizarre. I can only presume he means compared to other Biblical miracles, that have just one attestation. Luke and Matthew both likely drew from Mark and Q so any miracle claims in any of the three really has only a single attestation. Are there miracles that are shared between John and the synotics? If there are, that arguably gives two attestation. Is that exceptional? Not to me.


The Resurrection
Without question, the chief verification of Christian theism comes from the resurrection of Jesus. This extraordinary event can be shown to be historical even when only a bare minimum of historical facts is used, each of which is both admitted by unbelieving critical scholars today, as well as being strongly attested by the known data. Further, alternative attempts to dismiss the resurrection on natural grounds have failed to account for the same data, as even these same critics generally admit. In the New Testament, both Jesus (Matt. 12:39-40; 16:4) and His apostles (Acts 2:22-24; 17:31) pointed to the resurrection as the chief sign that He was God’s messenger.
That is not actually true, as even Habermas admits elsewhere. His "minimal facts" depends on the Empty Tomb, but as he concedes, about a quarter of scholars reject the Empty Tomb. The Empty Tomb is certainly NOT admitted by unbelieving critical scholars today, and it is NOT strongly attested by the known data.


Manuscripts
That the Bible is a trustworthy document can be shown through a variety of avenues: manuscript number, copying accuracy, archeology, geography, extrabiblical confirmation, ancient legal and other customs, as well as studies concerning the dates and authorship of the writers of the various books. The inspiration of Scripture is also a crucial truth. Fulfilled prophecy points to at least portions of the Bible being God’s words (cf. Deut. 18:17-22). Jesus’ miracles are helpful in this regard, too (Jn. 14:11). But the strongest argument for inspiration is that this was the testimony of Jesus, whose teachings were confirmed by His resurrection from the dead.
In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise. We have good reason to believe the second half of Mark 16 was added later, and likewise John 21. The Pericope Adulterae is absent from earlier manuscripts.

I think there is a good argument that the Gospel of Matthew was written as an update of the Gospel of Mark; the second edition as it were, with a whole load of extra text added. Worth noting how in Mark after seeing the empty tomb the women tell no one, but in Matthew they immediately told the disciples. We know the author of Matthew had Mark to hand; why did he change the text so completely?

Certainly after a few centuries it was transmitted faithfully, but in the first few decades it was quite a different story.

Archaeology and geography at best confirm the author was familiar with the locations mentioned in the gospels (or not).


Jesus is God
A crucial component of Christianity concerns the deity of Jesus Christ. Not only are Jesus’ claims concerning Himself (especially as indicated by His titles Son of Man and Son of God) established on very strong textual grounds. They are vindicated by the prophecy He fulfilled, the miracles that He performed, and especially by His resurrection. The latter was the chief indication that God confirmed Jesus’ teachings (Acts 2:22-24; 17:31), and His deity, in particular (Rom. 1:3-4). After all, God would not raise a heretic from the dead.
Did Jesus actually say he is the son of God? As far as I know, this is only in John - written about sixty years after Jesus died. Why does Mark not record Jesus saying that? Because it had not been invented by that point.

Note that Habermas cites the resurrection as evidence for this, as well as the manuscripts point. Once the resurrection is questioned, 60% of his argument is suspect.

No wonder he has doubts...
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
SteveB linked to a book, The Thomas Factor by Gary Habermas, on another thread. You can read the book for yourself on Habermas' website for free:

As an aside, I respect Habermas for doing that. Some supposed Christians are clearly in it for the money, and use every opportunity to hawk their wares. It is good to see a man whose faith is bigger than his greed, and makes texts like this freely available to his fellow Christians.

The book is not about apologetics. Indeed, from chapter 5 of the book:


It turns out that this is not about removing doubt by proving Christianity is true, but removing doubt, regardless of whether that doubt is justified or not! In fairness, he does then go on to address this to some degree, and it is to respond to these points that I am making this post.


Prophecy

Sadly, he does not say what those prophesies are!

We can look at a few that I feel are representative.

Old prophecies re-purposed: The most famous of these is the virgin birth. The prophecy is that the two nations that threatened Judah would fall within a couple of years. The time scale was described thus: before the virgin's yet-to-be-conceived child had learnt to tell right from wrong. Nothing about a messiah, until the author of Matthew got his hands on it and twisted it into something else.

Narrative changed to fit: Micah 2 has the Messiah come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, so the authors of Luke and Matthew contrived stories to make that so. Obviously they did not consult each other, and the results were very different! There are also several prophecies saying the Messiah would be of the seed of David, so again Luke and Matthew contrive that to be so, but fail to consult each other. We know one of them is wrong; I suspect they both are. And, of course, both also say he was he the product of a virgin birth!

Written after the event: It is generally reckoned that Daniel was written between 165 and 163 BC because the supposed prophecies are so spot-on until that time, and then suddenly go wildly off course. I suggest the supposed prophecies in Revelation up to 20:2 are recording events that had already happened, and so are accurate. Thereafter, the guesses about the future are way out.

Failed prophecies: There are plenty of Messianic prophecies Jesus failed to fulfil. Isaiah 52 and Micah 2, for example, says the Messiah will smite the Assyrians. Jesus never did that.


Miracles

The idea that these miracles are "exceptionally well-attested" is, frankly, bizarre. I can only presume he means compared to other Biblical miracles, that have just one attestation. Luke and Matthew both likely drew from Mark and Q so any miracle claims in any of the three really has only a single attestation. Are there miracles that are shared between John and the synotics? If there are, that arguably gives two attestation. Is that exceptional? Not to me.


The Resurrection

That is not actually true, as even Habermas admits elsewhere. His "minimal facts" depends on the Empty Tomb, but as he concedes, about a quarter of scholars reject the Empty Tomb. The Empty Tomb is certainly NOT admitted by unbelieving critical scholars today, and it is NOT strongly attested by the known data.


Manuscripts

In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise. We have good reason to believe the second half of Mark 16 was added later, and likewise John 21. The Pericope Adulterae is absent from earlier manuscripts.

I think there is a good argument that the Gospel of Matthew was written as an update of the Gospel of Mark; the second edition as it were, with a whole load of extra text added. Worth noting how in Mark after seeing the empty tomb the women tell no one, but in Matthew they immediately told the disciples. We know the author of Matthew had Mark to hand; why did he change the text so completely?

Certainly after a few centuries it was transmitted faithfully, but in the first few decades it was quite a different story.

Archaeology and geography at best confirm the author was familiar with the locations mentioned in the gospels (or not).


Jesus is God

Did Jesus actually say he is the son of God? As far as I know, this is only in John - written about sixty years after Jesus died. Why does Mark not record Jesus saying that? Because it had not been invented by that point.

Note that Habermas cites the resurrection as evidence for this, as well as the manuscripts point. Once the resurrection is questioned, 60% of his argument is suspect.

No wonder he has doubts...
Hi Pixie, interesting thoughts. I really want to get into the manuscript issue because I don't think you do it justice.

The great deal of source criticism that's gone into the New Testament has actually allowed scholars to be more confident with the text they're using, not less. And the points you raise, e.g. the ending of Mark, John 8, etc. are the fruits of such worthwhile scholarship.

I wouldn't exactly call Matthew the second edition of Mark. They were writing for very different purposes and completely different audiences. Matthew has a great deal of early material that is absent from Mark and though he certainly relies on Mark, his inclusion of appearance narratives doesn't point to Mark not knowing them - Mark knew them but left them out deliberately to underscore his theme of failed discipleship as a challenge to the reader.
 

The Pixie

Active member
Hi Pixie, interesting thoughts. I really want to get into the manuscript issue because I don't think you do it justice.

The great deal of source criticism that's gone into the New Testament has actually allowed scholars to be more confident with the text they're using, not less. And the points you raise, e.g. the ending of Mark, John 8, etc. are the fruits of such worthwhile scholarship.

I wouldn't exactly call Matthew the second edition of Mark. They were writing for very different purposes and completely different audiences. Matthew has a great deal of early material that is absent from Mark and though he certainly relies on Mark, his inclusion of appearance narratives doesn't point to Mark not knowing them - Mark knew them but left them out deliberately to underscore his theme of failed discipleship as a challenge to the reader.
Good to see old faces coming back.

To be fair, we do have good reason to think much of the gospels are broadly as written. But the simple fact is that there are additions, there are differences between translations (there is a whole forum on CARM for KJV only proponents!). The authorship of around half the epistles supposedly written by Paul are rejected. And Christianity adds its own spin to the text too, for example saying the genealogy in Luke is via Mary, when it clearly state it is via Joseph.

Habermas is claiming "the Bible is a trustworthy document", but the fact is that the manuscripts are not entirely trustworthy, at the very least they have to be read very carefully. And that does not even get into whether what was written down was actually true. Even if the text was preserved perfectly, that does not make it true.

I do not see how your comments about Matthew being an update of Mark argue otherwise. What do you see as the different purposes and audiences? Why does that preclude Matthew being an update; why should he not update it for a new audience? Yes, there is a lot of new material in Matthew; I would suggest that was the reason for the update.

I am sure Mark did know about the resurrection appearances of Jesus! My comment was about what the women did after finding the empty tomb. Did they tell no one? Or immediately tell the disciples? Either way, both Mark and Matthew agree tat the disciples later saw Jesus in Galilee.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
Good to see old faces coming back.

To be fair, we do have good reason to think much of the gospels are broadly as written. But the simple fact is that there are additions, there are differences between translations (there is a whole forum on CARM for KJV only proponents!). The authorship of around half the epistles supposedly written by Paul are rejected. And Christianity adds its own spin to the text too, for example saying the genealogy in Luke is via Mary, when it clearly state it is via Joseph.

Habermas is claiming "the Bible is a trustworthy document", but the fact is that the manuscripts are not entirely trustworthy, at the very least they have to be read very carefully. And that does not even get into whether what was written down was actually true. Even if the text was preserved perfectly, that does not make it true.

I do not see how your comments about Matthew being an update of Mark argue otherwise. What do you see as the different purposes and audiences? Why does that preclude Matthew being an update; why should he not update it for a new audience? Yes, there is a lot of new material in Matthew; I would suggest that was the reason for the update.

I am sure Mark did know about the resurrection appearances of Jesus! My comment was about what the women did after finding the empty tomb. Did they tell no one? Or immediately tell the disciples? Either way, both Mark and Matthew agree tat the disciples later saw Jesus in Galilee.
Most of what you've said I don't see any issue with. I think trying to argue the Lukan genealogy is from Mary's side is very difficult to sustain, since the author specifically states it's Joseph's line. However, I don't see any conflict between the two genealogies (i.e., with Matthew).

Differences between translations don't mean much since when studying the texts, we go to the Greek originals, which are fairly well accepted, even with the various manuscript traditions (which ultimately help in reconstructing some kind of original text).

I agree, that textual preservation says nothing about the truth of what is claimed with documents, but you need that as at least a first step.

Well, Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, whereas Mark is writing to a non-Jewish audience; that already explains some of the key differences between them. And whereas Matthew is attempting to persuade Jews (both within and outside his community) to accept Jesus as the Messiah, Mark is mostly focusing on bolstering the faith of believers in times of trouble. I wouldn't argue it's an update because the term "update" suggests: "It's basically the same but with some contemporary twists"; however, I don't see the two Gospels as basically the same.

I think the Gospels need to be read using the conventions of the time, when minor details could be altered to make a point without impugning the integrity of the text. I'd say when Mark says that the women went and told no one he's exaggerating to underscore the point of fearful VS faithful discipleship.
 

horsefeathers

New member
Most of what you've said I don't see any issue with. I think trying to argue the Lukan genealogy is from Mary's side is very difficult to sustain, since the author specifically states it's Joseph's line. However, I don't see any conflict between the two genealogies (i.e., with Matthew).

Basically, it's an elephant in the room that is ignored... how is there a 'lineage' when there are no blood relationships?
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
Basically, it's an elephant in the room that is ignored... how is there a 'lineage' when there are no blood relationships?
I don't see how the two genealogies don't imply blood relations? When you have skipped generations and inter-marriages in royal lines, that can cover the disparities quite sufficiently.
 
Great post - thank you. Lots to unpack here but this jumps out at me:

The Resurrection
Without question, the chief verification of Christian theism comes from the resurrection of Jesus. This extraordinary event can be shown to be historical even when only a bare minimum of historical facts is used, each of which is both admitted by unbelieving critical scholars today, as well as being strongly attested by the known data. Further, alternative attempts to dismiss the resurrection on natural grounds have failed to account for the same data, as even these same critics generally admit. In the New Testament, both Jesus (Matt. 12:39-40; 16:4) and His apostles (Acts 2:22-24; 17:31) pointed to the resurrection as the chief sign that He was God’s messenger.

What data proves the Resurrection? I'd love to see that. He does the usual dance of 'all scholars agree' to hide the lack of actual evidence. But when he specifically says 'data' does he provide anything?

I have never seen anything from before ~300 BCE that even mentions Jesus - much less data that proves the Resurrection. Does he give any?
 
PRoof is the wrong methodology - learn science and the philosophy of science please
The Resurrection was a physical event that happened in our reality. It is not philosophical. Empirical evidence, science, and proof are used to determine if something happened or not.

Almost all of the events of The Bible happened in our reality - they all can be tested with evidence. The parting of the Red Sea, manna from Heaven, the Resurrection, the healing of lepers, the birth of Christ, the Ark of the Covenant, and the empty tomb all can be proven with evidence.

For example we could test the manna for caloric content. We could test Jesus' body to confirm that he is dead before he rises. We could drive through the parted Red Sea and confirm that the path is open. We could x-ray the Ark to see what is inside. We could weigh the stone in front of the empty tomb.

Most of The Bible can and should be proven with evidence. The fact that Christians do not have any does not change that.

So again - what evidence do you have for the Resurrection? The answer is none - there is no empirical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead - it is just a story in the Codex Sinaiticus Bible written 300 years after the event by an anonymous author.

So I see no reason to believe it :)
 

ferengi

Active member
The Resurrection was a physical event that happened in our reality. It is not philosophical. Empirical evidence, science, and proof are used to determine if something happened or not.
OK- present Empirical evidence, science, and proof that god does not exist.

Almost all of the events of The Bible happened in our reality -
Prove it was not all.

they all can be tested with evidence. The parting of the Red Sea, manna from Heaven, the Resurrection, the healing of lepers, the birth of Christ, the Ark of the Covenant, and the empty tomb all can be proven with evidence.
No - thats the wrong methodology.

For example we could test the manna for caloric content.
False since the mana doesn't exist any more.

The fact that Christians do not have any does not change that.
Your evidence is?
 

ferengi

Active member
I told you I do not believe that I know God does not exist and yet you keep asking me to explain that.
It is a perfect example of a Straw Man. You are arguing with the atheist you want me to be instead of genuinely listening and debating me.
Unsupported.
If you could present some evidence for your claims I would listen and we could debate - but all you do is post unsupported assertions and thats not debate
 
Unsupported.
If you could present some evidence for your claims I would listen and we could debate - but all you do is post unsupported assertions and thats not debate
What claim do you think I have made? This will be my last effort to actually engage with you. I like talking to people with different views. But you feel like a troll.

However, if you can tell me a claim I made then I'll try to support it. But if you say 'prove there is no God' again then I'll know what you enjoy doing, smile, and move on.

I do not understand trolls or why they find it fun to just counter people. That seems like a waste of time to me. But to each his or her own.
 
"There is zero evidence from the 1st century that Jesus existed. It is not historical fact."
The first mention of Jesus that I can find is in the Codex Sinaiticus which was written in the 3rd or 4th century CE. You can read about the codex Bible here - it is an amazing and beautiful archeological and religious discovery: https://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/
Codex Sinaiticus | 4th-century biblical manuscript | Britannica


The oldest scrap of the NT we have is Unical 0189. It is a fragment of Acts 5: 3-21. Sadly it does not mention Jesus. But it is amazing - it is on display at the German State Museum in Berlin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncial_0189)

Uncial 0189 (Acts 5,12-21).JPG


Those are the oldest NT documents. I have never seen any older than those from the 1st Century. Thus the lack of 1st Century documents.

Perhaps instead of asking me to prove a lack of something you could just present 1st Century evidence? I have no idea what you goal is. Even if you prove that I cannot prove a lack of....

Ah heck. Nevermind. Just enjoy the ancient Bible and Acts fragment. They are wonderful.
 

ferengi

Active member
The first mention of Jesus that I can find is in the Codex Sinaiticus which was written in the 3rd or 4th century CE. You can read about the codex Bible here - it is an amazing and beautiful archeological and religious discovery: https://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/
View attachment 2


The oldest scrap of the NT we have is Unical 0189. It is a fragment of Acts 5: 3-21. Sadly it does not mention Jesus. But it is amazing - it is on display at the German State Museum in Berlin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncial_0189)

Uncial 0189 (Acts 5,12-21).JPG


Those are the oldest NT documents. I have never seen any older than those from the 1st Century. Thus the lack of 1st Century documents.

Perhaps instead of asking me to prove a lack of something you could just present 1st Century evidence? I have no idea what you goal is. Even if you prove that I cannot prove a lack of....

Ah heck. Nevermind. Just enjoy the ancient Bible and Acts fragment. They are wonderful.
LOL - wiki - LOL - wiki is not evidence. "The first mention of Jesus that I can find " - Again argument from ignorance. "Those are the oldest NT documents. " Are you SURE?
 
Top