Logic and Fundies, not friends.
From Answers 4 Atheists (only 4? That’s aiming pretty low, even for Christian fundamentalists! Badoom Tsk! Ithangyoo!) comes an article claiming to explain why the Gospel records can be treated as reliable eye witness sources, despite flatly contradicting each other in several places.
It starts badly…
While there are ancient non-Christian sources that describe the existence of Jesus and the life of those who came to follow him (Josephus, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion, and Phlegon, to name a few),…
Woah there, Jesus Johnny!! Let’s not go telling lies right off the bat! As we’ve seen, there are practically NO ‘ancient non-Christian sources’, so claiming there are as your opening gambit does not bode well for the remainder of your article.
Ok, let’s see how they continue…
…the best and most thorough eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus are the New Testament Gospel accounts of Matthew, John and Peter (written through his scribe, Mark)….
Screeech! On come the brakes again!! Where are you getting the information that these are the people who wrote those gospels? It’s certainly not from the texts themselves, which at no point say who their authors are, and they weren’t even named until the 2nd century CE. Modern theology thinks that the authors real identities are lost in the mists of time.
The testimonies of these eyewitnesses are often disregarded, however, on the basis that they were written by “biased” Christians. But the Gospel authors are reliable according to the current standards we use to determine the validity of eyewitnesses:
Yes, they’re often disregarded because there is no evidence whatsoever that they were eye witnesses, in fact it’s likely that the earliest Gospels were written between 30 and 40 years after the supposed death of Christ…that’s a lot of time for word of mouth to have completely changed the origins of the story.
Let’s look at the ‘evidence’ the site then presents
The Eyewitnesses Didn’t Start Off With a Bias
None of the three authors started off as disciples of Jesus. While John and Peter were disciples of John the Baptist, they clearly expressed doubt about the identity of Jesus and this doubt is recorded in the Gospels. In addition, Matthew was a tax collector and knew nothing about John the Baptist’s teaching. The eyewitnesses didn’t start off with a bias.
But if they weren’t eyewitnesses at all (something which you’ve not shown any convincing contradictory evidence for), then all your left with is a literary device, designed to show that any one can come to Jesus.
The Eyewitnesses Only Became Christians In Response to What They Saw
While it is true that the Gospel writers eventually became believers, it is illogical and irresponsible to disregard their testimony. Imagine that two witnesses observe a liquor store robbery. They recognize the robber (from their neighborhood) and later tell police that it was John Smith. Both started off without a bias when they entered the liquor store. But as a result of what they saw, they now hold the position that John Smith is a robber. One could say that they are now biased; after all, they now hold a distinct view. But it would be illogical to disregard their testimony and demand a new set of witnesses who don’t hold a belief that John Smith is the robber! The belief of the witnesses was shaped by what they saw, NOT by what they believed BEFORE the robbery occurred. In a similar manner, the eyewitness Gospel writers formed a conclusion based on what they observed.
Why is it ‘illogical and irresponsible’ to state that the Gospel writers aren’t reliable witnesses? You say that the ‘belief of the witnesses was shape by what they saw, NOT by what they believed’ but you have absolutely no evidence that this is true. In fact the likelihood is that the beliefs of the anonymous writers absolutely influenced what they wrote! Building an entire argument for reliability on such weak, logically false, foundations, is not a good way to go.
The Eyewitnesses Are Reliable In Other Areas
The Gospel writers record more than the life of Jesus. Their account of First Century life in Palestine is geographically and historically accurate in areas that have nothing to do with Jesus. The Gospel of Luke (and Book of Acts), for example, have been tested by many skeptics, only to survive as remarkably accurate historical records.
Only they’re not, the New Testament is riddled with geographical errors. And why are you now bringing Luke into the story, when you ignored it earlier in your article? Is it because you know that the Gospels have lots of mistakes and you can’t bring yourself to go that far and outright lie?
The Eyewitnesses Had Little to Gain By Lying
One thing is for sure, the eyewitnesses all went to their graves (most in a dreadfully painful way) without recanting their eyewitness testimony about Jesus. The witnesses never gained anything in the way of money, sex or power from their testimony, and there is NO ancient record that records anything other than hardship and martyrdom for these eyewitnesses. They clearly stood by their observations in spite of the liabilities.
But how do you know that? How do you know ‘for sure’? You don’t even know who the writers were, or when they wrote! To claim that the writers had little to gain is untrue as well, as the early Christian texts were designed to bolster up the faith of the nascent church. You’ve built your entire argument on the assumption that the Gospel writers were who the texts were named after, when there is no evidence at all to support this view.
And that’s it, apart from another short claim of reliability, that’s the whole argument. That’s meant to be an ‘answer to atheists’? The simplicity of the argument is insulting, and the faulty logic it’s built on is obvious to anyone with half a brain. In fact the logic is entirely circular, claiming they were eye witnesses and then using that as evidence for them being eye witnesses!
Answers for Atheists, you have failed.