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I love when people make sweeping generalizations like, “… the epistles of Paul … mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.” Richard Dawkins should stick to biology, as my good buddy Eric Chabot points out in this fine post.

THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM

File:Richard dawkins.jpg

Well, hopefully we all know that Richard Dawkins is not an expert in New Testament studies. His speciality is biology. So he stepped way out of his arena when he made these comments about sources for the life of Jesus:

“[T]he gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.” “Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally.”-Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006)

At this point, I am not going to spend a ton of time going over the dating of the four Gospels again. There are enough posts/article on this site that cover the topic. See here and here for a couple of places to look at some sources that deal with…

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on August 6, 2012, in Apologetics. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I agree with relying upon experts in their field.

    I use that reliance to determine what to believe.

    Which is why I can only say the following with any confidence about jesus:

    he was a Jewish preacher from Galilee in Roman Judaea, who was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of Pontius Pilate.

  2. I think Dawkins already took those statements back, Cory…the below video shows him doing that in a debate…I personally think Jesus existed because most historians seem to think so, and like a blind man would do with folks who can see, I follow their opinion, consider it more valid than mine, lacking their expertise…:

    • The issue is with reliability of the sources of Jesus’ life, NOT with existence. The video has Dawkins saying Jesus existed, but no comment on the quality of the Gospels as sourcebooks for Christ’s life. That was the crux of Eric’s post.

      • My bad…but I guess that by saying that Jesus existed he’s admitting that at least some of the arguments he presented (I’m guessing that excerpt is from “The God Delusion” or something, and was aiming to show that we don’t know if Jesus existed or not) are invalid…I don’t know exactly to what extent the Gospels’ testimonies are accepted by historians, though…

      • The Gospels are the best source for Jesus’ life, and I believe that most historians agree with that. However, given the Gospels have supernatural events in them, secular historians disregard those events as tall tales, exaggerations, or whole-cloth fiction.

        So, I believe the actions, parables, and sermons are regarded as accurate, but the miracles are dismissed as ahistorical. Also, secular historians use the non-canonical Gospels, like Thomas or Mary Magdalene, and assume the sayings and parables (but again, not the miracles) are accurate representations of Christ. With, I believe, some favorable weight on the earlier canonical Gospels where there is contradiction of character.

      • Oh, ok, I see…in that case I guess Dawkins was wrong there…as scientists, I’d add, even Christian scientists have to reject the miraculous parts (they can’t use them as facts, they can’t show them to be true by scientific means), though they can very well accept them in their private lives, which is what I guess they do…

      • What I mean is that a historian isn’t going to publish about Jesus’ miracles, establishing them as historical facts, even if the historian is a Christian…I’m not saying all historians are nonbelievers, I’m just saying that even those who aren’t will have to treat the miracles as tall tales…

  3. Only a commitment to scientism would be the reason you “couldn’t use [miracles] as facts.”

    Scientism is the epistemological position that only the methods of science produce correct knowledge. However, it is essentially subset of logical positivism and is philosophically naive because it fails its own test of truth — you can’t scientifically prove that the only correct truth is truth arrived at by the scientific method.

    For example, logical tautologies are true by definition. You could look at them as a priori propositions, requiring no reason or explanation. They are true by mere observation. And positivists typically make exceptions for tautologies.

    However, miracles of Christ are historical claims rather than metaphysical. So even a firm commitment to scientism isn’t an excuse to say that I have to accept them only in my personal life rather than in other spheres of my life (as though there were some meaningful separation). A historian could certainly publish on the miracles of Jesus, arguing for or against.

    Historian Mike Licona has, with Gary Habermas, has published a defense of the Resurrection, and on his own published a far more academically robust defense which has caused a serious rift in the apologetics community (similar to the “Freethought Bullies” incident at Freethought Blogs).

    Those are only the most recent. Others exist. Therefore, your statement is not correct — a historical defense of Jesus’ miracles can (and has) been mounted.

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