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Old 2009-04-11, 04:24   #1
jasong
 
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Default legal/historical Jesus?

I did not write this thread to be preachy or to make any claims about Christianity or morality, if anyone wishes to do that, please start your own thread.


There are 2(3?) ways of proving something is true, the scientific method and the legal/historical method. Obviously, the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a hypothesis isn't provable scientifically, but I read in a pro-Christian paperback that there are "thousands of documents" that legally/historically verify that Christ rose from the dead. They go on to claim that historians have claimed only a few documents(less than 10, say) are considered as proof for major historical events. Now, I'm not saying anything in that paperback is true, I'm not even saying I believe the paperback is true. But if the methodology that causes people to believe things about people like Socrates and Aristotle can also be used to prove or disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ, than I want to explore it, wherever this particular "road" leads.

The Bible states that the wicked condemn themselves, so I shall wait with bated breath to see where this road takes me, and whether or not the Bible condemns itself with it's own words.
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Old 2009-04-11, 05:02   #2
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Originally Posted by jasong View Post
... there are "thousands of documents" that legally/historically verify that Christ rose from the dead. They go on to claim that historians have claimed only a few documents(less than 10, say) are considered as proof for major historical events. ... But if the methodology that causes people to believe things about people like Socrates and Aristotle can also be used to prove or disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ, ...
The difference is in the level of the claim. I'm sure everyone has heard this before: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". You can't just claim something fanciful and then say "here is proof, see, someone 2000 years ago also wrote the same thing".
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Old 2009-04-11, 05:39   #3
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The difference is in the level of the claim. I'm sure everyone has heard this before: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". You can't just claim something fanciful and then say "here is proof, see, someone 2000 years ago also wrote the same thing".
Yes, but if x number of documents prove that something happened in 100 A.D. wouldn't it make sense to allow the same type of proof that Jesus rose from the dead? It was an extremely significant occurrence if it happened. So, if it did happen, there should be documented proof. And that proof, if it exists, should be subjected to the same types of rules as the other documents. I'm not talking about taking a sheet of paper, writing "jesus is lord" on it, scuffing it under your foot and calling it proof. I'm asking if there are actual documents that mention Jesus from that time period.

Last fiddled with by jasong on 2009-04-11 at 05:41 Reason: didn't like the last sentence, so I changed it
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Old 2009-04-11, 05:47   #4
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Yes, but if x number of documents prove that something happened in 100 A.D. wouldn't it make sense to allow the same type of proof that Jesus rose from the dead? It was an extremely significant occurrence if it happened. So, if it did happen, there should be documented proof. And that proof, if it exists, should be subjected to the same types of rules as the other documents. I'm not talking about taking a sheet of paper, writing "jesus is lord" on it, scuffing it under your foot and calling it proof. I'm asking if there are actual documents that mention Jesus from that time period.
You still need to apply the idea of "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". Who is to say that a whole group of people didn't get together 2000 years ago and decide to play a practical joke and tell a long story about someone? Just because something was written many years ago does not automatically make it more reliable. There must be cross references from other sources and better still accounts from eye-witnesses, not just stories passed down over many generations and then eventually written down by people 400 years later after the event.
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Old 2009-04-11, 06:05   #5
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There are 2(3?) ways of proving something is true, the scientific method and the legal/historical method.
Science is not excluded from historical study. There are numerous ways in which the scientific method can be, and is, used in connection with drawing conclusions from many types of historical evidence.

Quote:
Obviously, the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a hypothesis isn't provable scientifically,
The evidence for that hypothesis can be examined scientifically. The means by which resurrection is hypothesized to occur can be scientifically examined, experimented with, and compared to known scientific findings.

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but I read in a pro-Christian paperback that there are "thousands of documents" that legally/historically verify that Christ rose from the dead.
Do they actually list what the thousands of documents are, or otherwise provide evidence for that claim?

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They go on to claim that historians have claimed only a few documents(less than 10, say) are considered as proof for major historical events.
That could be interpreted in different ways.

If they're claiming that that is an accepted guideline for historical research and that it means that certain numbers of documents constitute proof that historical events occurred as claimed -- that's dubious. For one thing, it makes no mention of the quality of evidence. But I'm just guessing at what is actually written in the book that you summarize in your sentence. So I really can't go farther without more specific details from the book.

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But if the methodology that causes people to believe things about people like Socrates and Aristotle can also be used to prove or disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
No one claims that Socrates and Aristotle were resurrected, do they?

It's one thing to claim, and prove, that there was an actual certain person who lived. There's plenty of evidence for that in the cases of Socrates and Aristotle (e.g., their own writings, plus accounts of them that others wrote independently and contemporaneously), and AFAIK there is substantial evidence that Jesus was an actual person who lived.

It's an altogether different, and extremely extraordinary, claim to say that someone was resurrected. The sorts of proof that are valid for proving that Socrates and Aristotle, or Jesus, lived as an actual person may not be applicable to a resurrection claim.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-04-11 at 06:12
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Old 2009-04-11, 06:41   #6
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It's an altogether different, and extremely extraordinary, claim to say that someone was resurrected. The sorts of proof that are valid for proving that Socrates and Aristotle, or Jesus, lived as an actual person may not be applicable to a resurrection claim.
You don't find it hypocritical to say that we should require more proof that someone has been resurrected than we require to allow other things to be claimed as true?

Not to be a judge or anything, but why is it that we're supposed to accept the stuff in the history books with almost no proof except the constant assertions of books and media that it's true, and yet the resurrection of Jesus somehow requires more proof than most of us have attained through books and teachers for all the stuff that's generally accepted as true.

1+1=2, but how many people can rigorously prove it? It's one thing to require proof, it's quite another to require more proof for one example than another, similar example. We are examining a possible event in history, not whether or not we think the event makes sense. It either happened or it didn't, whatever our opinion of the possibility of bringing people back from the dead.

It's already been established, ad infinitum, that a good chunk of the population doesn't believe it's possible to revive a body that's been dead for 3 days. My question is how does the methodology of most historians hold up to the idea of Jesus and his supposed miracles?
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Old 2009-04-11, 06:55   #7
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You don't find it hypocritical to say that we should require more proof that someone has been resurrected than we require to allow other things to be claimed as true?
No.

Okay, here is my evil claim. There are orange oompah loompahs living on Gliese 581 d and they control everything in your life, if you upset them they will get angry and make you unhappy. I found a piece of paper written "a long time ago" that says it is true so that is my proof. Now you have to believe me, right?

Instead, here is my ordinary boring claim. There are no socks currently in my sock drawer. Now you don't care whether it is true or not, right? So you won't bother to ask for evidence because it is not important and won't change your life whether it is true or not.

The difference is that one claim, if you believe it, will change your life forever and the other claim won't affect you at all. If you decide to accept my first claim then you should demand some very good evidence from me before you go and change your life forever. If you decide to accept my second claim then who cares, go ahead and accept it, it matters not a jot.

Last fiddled with by retina on 2009-04-11 at 06:56
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Old 2009-04-11, 17:25   #8
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You don't find it hypocritical to say that we should require more proof that someone has been resurrected than we require to allow other things to be claimed as true?
No, I find it essential to the process of sorting out claims. It's exactly what is meant by "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." My favorite example of this principle in the difference in evidence you would want to believe me when I say "There is a dog in my backyard" and "There is a unicorn in my back yard."

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Not to be a judge or anything, but why is it that we're supposed to accept the stuff in the history books with almost no proof except the constant assertions of books and media that it's true
Good Lord! Where did you ever get that notion? Just like I don't butcher my own meat, but could, I don't do my own historical research, but could. I expect the real historians, like the real butchers, to know their work and to be able to explain it when questioned. While I don't know and haven't personally examined the historical documents, in the rare instances I've cared I've been able to find what the documentary material is and, in many instances, where it is currently archived.

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1+1=2, but how many people can rigorously prove it?
Actually, nobody can prove this. It's the definition of "2." It is possible to prove that 2+2=4 - but first you need the definitions of 2 and 4.

Last fiddled with by wblipp on 2009-04-11 at 17:49
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Old 2009-04-11, 19:13   #9
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Originally Posted by jasong View Post
You don't find it hypocritical to say that we should require more proof that someone has been resurrected than we require to allow other things to be claimed as true?
retina and wblipp have answered what I would. I'll just add that "hypocritical" is not the right word there. "Odd" or "curious", or "apparently inconsistent" would be more fitting.

Quote:
Not to be a judge or anything, but why is it that we're supposed to accept the stuff in the history books with almost no proof except the constant assertions of books and media that it's true,
When we're growing up as children, we're not yet capable of understanding many adult proofs. Later, when we're capable and have learned about the concept and techniques of proof, we apply it, but no one can possibly prove (or re-prove) any significant fraction of all the things we've been taught. It's just not practical. But along the way, however, we've also learned to evaluate the reliability of authorities and information sources, so that we can decide to accept whole categories of assertions by trusted sources without having to independently investigate their proofs. (It may turn out that some of those sources don't deserve our trust.) We select a few areas in which to dig deeper and acquire expertise in independently and deeply proving claims in those particular specialities.

It is not practical to replace "the constant assertions of books and media" with proofs of every assertion presented, so we selectively choose certain assertions to question and investigate. Part of our schooling was to teach us how to do that.

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1+1=2, but how many people can rigorously prove it?
A few, who have selected that part of mathematics in which to dig deeper and acquire expertise in independently and deeply proving claims.
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Old 2009-04-11, 22:44   #10
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No.

Okay, here is my evil claim. There are orange oompah loompahs living on Gliese 581 d and they control everything in your life, if you upset them they will get angry and make you unhappy. I found a piece of paper written "a long time ago" that says it is true so that is my proof. Now you have to believe me, right?

Instead, here is my ordinary boring claim. There are no socks currently in my sock drawer. Now you don't care whether it is true or not, right? So you won't bother to ask for evidence because it is not important and won't change your life whether it is true or not.
It's not just the importance of the claim, but its a priori plausibility.

If my mum telephoned me to say that my dad had just had a heart-attack and died - a life-changing experience, then I should probably believe her. If she rang me up to tell me that he had been abducted by aliens, then I wouldn't.
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Old 2009-04-12, 01:07   #11
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Which brings us full circle. What sorts of people can we trust, and when can we trust them? If my mom told me she was abducted by aliens (and it wasn't April 1) I wouldn't dismiss her out of hand, even given the extraordinary claim she is making, because I know what sort of person she is. But, as others have said, if she wanted to convince me fully, I'd need more proof. If my best friend's mother made the same claim, I would dismiss it out of hand, because of my impressions of her reliability (even though she is a nice person).

And so it is with God and Jesus' resurrection. We have lots of witnesses, some reliable, some not. We have many historical records for which there is little reason to doubt that they were written by sincere people. They tell us there is a God, and His Son died and was brought back to life. The question isn't so much whether they were sincere (although that question can be asked too, and may be important for some people), but whether they were accurate, and the writers were not deceived.

My witness is that God does live, and that we can know for ourselves by asking God Himself. While historical witnesses serve an important role, only God Himself can completely answer the question of what is true.
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