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What scholarship refutes the following view of history? How do we know this alternative to the Gospel is incorrect?

  1. Jesus is executed by the Roman empire after preaching a loving humanism based on Judaism found incompatible with the Jewish and Roman authorities.
  2. He is buried in a mass common grave for criminals and decomposes such that later identification, recovery, and presentation of the Body to refute Resurrection claims is not possible.
  3. Jesus' few Disciples, fewer than the legendary Twelve Apostles (perhaps only James and Peter actually existed), hallucinate His Resurrection.
  4. Saul of Tarsus has a stroke causing him blindness and leads to his conversion to the faith he was persecuting with a gullibility to believe what they later teach him about it: His defense of Christianity is his attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance, as being afflicted with blindness from a stroke would not be just, as he doing all he could to defend the Jewish faith; consequently, the fact that he was rendered blind from a seizure must have been because God was angry with him for persecuting Christians and defending whatever parts of Judaism the Christians disagreed with. That is to say: To make rational sense of his suffering given his firm commitment to the god of Abraham, he must convert to Christianity to see his "thorn in the flesh" (his blindness) as a consequence of his former conduct (i.e. punishment for sin), thereby maintaining his worldview that God is just, etc.
  5. Christianity spreads among the gullible located elsewhere in the Roman Empire through means common to Jehovah Witness, Mormonism, and other sectarian cults and Roman associations[1] that appear to solve participants' social problems, together with the combination of monotheistic and Aristotelian philosophy.
  6. Christians write legendary accounts about Jesus inventing most of the Twelve Apostles (particularly anyone not mentioned by name by Paul), miracles, the Empty Tomb, and the Resurrection.
  7. Documents containing Jews' refutations of the Christians' claims are lost in the fire of the Library of Alexandria and persecution of the Jews throughout the centuries, as dominant Christians burned the documents of their adversaries.
  8. All the miracle claims down through the centuries are either legendary fiction or coincidental natural phenomena.

[1] See The Christians as the Romans Saw Them by Robert L. Wilken for an explanation of Roman "associations" (religious social/fraternal clubs) and their similarity to early Christianity.

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  • Could you let us know, up-front, if Robert L. Wilken (the author of the book from which you have taken these ideas) is an atheist? Do tell us his standing when it comes to matters of faith in God, and whether he belongs to any Christian, or Jewish, or Islamic school of thought. Just as a point of interest.
    – Anne
    Dec 25, 2021 at 13:11
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    Point 2 is particularly hard to believe given the textual evidence backing up when the gospels were written. If point 2 were true, the burial claims of the Gospels would have been easily refuted as never happening. Also, why would Apostles be willing to die knowing that the Gospel claims were false?
    – Perry Webb
    Dec 25, 2021 at 13:38
  • Simply put, points 2-5 are less likely than that the Gospels are accurate. The chances of a whole bunch of people all having the exact same hallucination and believing to the extent that they are willing to die for their beliefs is about as likely as... oh, humans coming into existence via random processes, rather than being Created 😃. Ah, but then, some people believe that in spite of how absurdly improbable it is, because their religion precludes the simpler explanation.
    – Matthew
    Dec 26, 2021 at 1:26
  • Are the points outlined all from a certain scholar? Otherwise, it's a very complex set of claims. Either way, it probably makes sense to break this up into more specific questions. Dec 28, 2021 at 7:54

6 Answers 6

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Robert Louis Wilken postulates from history what he thinks the Romans would have thought, as outside observers, of the events of the first century in Judaea and Galilee, a Roman-occupied province.

Thus it is an opinion regarding the supposed opinions of others, which others did not - at the time - have full access to the facts.

Later, the facts were fully published in the book we now call 'The Bible'.


This is a list of opinions which ignores the content, the tenor, the details and the conclusions contained in the extensive recorded documentation of eye witness accounts which we know as the book called 'The Holy Bible'.

The Greek scripture is compiled from over 5,500 separate fragments of evidence, which evidence is supported by 96,000 documented Patristic Citations, numerous Lectionary records, and many Versions, that is to say primary translations into other languages.

This progressive revelation unfolds over a period of one and a half millenia, in a seamless, logical and organised manner, building up over the centuries to a catalogue of irrefutable truth wherein Hebrew scripture foretells what will follow, then gives way to the superior revelation of the Greek manuscripts.

The whole, as those know who have made it the purpose of their lifetime to study these unique documents, forms one compact structure of truth that, if received in reverence and piety, forms a spiritual enlargement within the soul that is its own witness to the validity of the whole entirety of that which is communicated, by revelation, to the whole world.

As one of those, who have handed down to us this written revelation, has stated, by epistle :

... we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. [2 Peter 1:16 KJV.]

Thus we who have spent our decades in study, meditation and prayer can resoundingly testify to the words of that Apostle of Jesus Christ who, like his Master, served, then suffered, and finally was martyred for his faith.

Such are worthy to be followed.

Mere opinions do not carry such weight.

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  • Your quotation is consistent with the hallucination theory, that Peter sincerely believed his hallucination. The rest of your response is basically assuming your conclusion, assuming that the Bible is historical fact rather than legend and religious fiction. It also appears to be confirmation bias based upon some positive feeling you experience. Dec 25, 2021 at 14:37
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    @InternetUser . . . . . and the proof of all will come at the end of time.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 25, 2021 at 14:47
  • @InternetUser The hallucination theory is a clever construction that way... it is adapted (in its various versions) to the aspects that its constructors find convenient. No one at the time thought that the disciples were hallucinating. It is much more believable that the guards assigned to watch the tomb were asleep (yes, all of them!), just so when the disciples took the body and invented the story of the Resurrection, and then went on to create a huge cultural disturbance where they would suffer bodily harm and death for said invention. Some do believe this, to this day.
    – Conrado
    Nov 17, 2023 at 21:14
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Why doesn't hallucination, common burial, legend, and gullibility explain the rise of Christianity (rather than the Resurrection)? How is this wrong?

Two incidents can give a partial explication. I am limiting myself to Biblical references only as one can go one and on with this subject matter. And mere opinions do not carry no proofs here. One believes or one simply does not believe.

If this was not of God, it would have been doomed to failure. A Pharisee named Gamaliel warned the Sanhedrin that “if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. - Acts 5:25-41

Another factor that helped spread the Word was the abundance of miracles operated by the Apostles themselves and the descendants in the Early Church.

Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison

12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” - Acts 12:1-11

Certainly the miracles of physical healing won many over to the teachings of Jesus.

The Apostles Heal Many

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. - Acts 5:12-16

And finally, one last Scriptural example, as I could add many more. God can employ many means to spread his message of salvation.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. - Acts 19:11-12

Of interest may be the following article: Spread of Christianity.

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This whole thing seems to hinge on Paul, so let's look at that. Saul of Tarsus has a stroke and becomes blind due to it. OK, that could happen. It's even plausible for a man such as himself to interpret it as a religious experience. But to then spontaneously recover his sight and his health, and go on to live for several more years, a life of continuous travel and vigorous physical activity? In an age well before modern medicine? Quite impossible unless you believe in literal miracles!

These explanations sound possible-ish at first glance, but they don't hold up to even small amounts of scrutiny. It's also worth remembering that the books of the New Testament were written by contemporaries of Christ's. Not only did they see what happened, a lot of the people they were writing to did as well. If they had written a bunch of made-up nonsense about things that purportedly happened just a few years ago, no one would have believed it. There's an insurmountable gulf between points 6 and 7 of your theory: how does Christianity become dominant in the first place when its origin story is 1) contemporary, 2) local, and 3) easily refuted by the locals?

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  • In answer to your question, how does Mormonism become dominant in Utah given the same conditions? Is it not worthy of note that Christianity gained popularity outside Jerusalem, so much so that Jerusalem was the smallest patriarchate (no?) -- Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople all bigger? Why is the explanation for this not that, in fact, it WAS easily refuted in Jerusalem (thus they didn't gain many converts there)? Jan 15 at 3:04
  • @InternetUser "how does Mormonism become dominant in Utah given the same conditions?" They're not the same conditions at all. Not even remotely similar. You really ought to read up on the history of the church before asking things like that.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Jan 15 at 4:08
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I do believe that a trip to Israel is in order for you. It would help you see the historicity first hand. I think it would be a benefit to you and enrich your life. However, at first glance, this question seems front loaded with accusatory and disingenuous words. It is also ad hominus at best. Words like "gullible" are not conducive to conversation. Do feel free to ask an honest question with an open-minded discourse.

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    – agarza
    Dec 25, 2021 at 14:00
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    Up-voted and agreed : it is not an intelligent critique of the known evidence, merely, as you say, a response with a 'loaded' agenda.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 25, 2021 at 14:49
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It is difficult if not impossible to imagine a written record of fabricated stories (~66 books) written across such an immense span of time (~1500 years) by so many different authors (~40) from so many different socio-cultural perspectives that is intertwined with, on the other hand, a so overwhelmingly confirmed network of historical data such that the ever increasing set of confirmed data is acceptable while the story inseparably embedded within is unacceptable.

I humbly suggest an open-minded reading of "Evidence That Demands A Verdict", which is available as a free PDF download here, or any of the vast multiplicity of texts expounding the composition, historicity, internal consistency, and veracity of the Bible.

Also consider the large number of massive intellects across time (perhaps you are one) who have either through diligent study or in spite of diligent study come to a place of trust in the redemptive plan of God revealed in Christ within the Bible.

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  • Is it not possible that Judaism is true and Christianity is false? Thus the claim is not that everything in the Bible is false -- the claim is that the New Testament is false. The questions here do not require thinking that the Old Testament is false. Jan 15 at 3:07
  • @InternetUser Is it not possible that both are true given that Judaism currently has no temple within which to practice their faith and the NT clearly explains, from the OT, why that is? Jan 15 at 13:49
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I'm not convinced by most of those, but here you go:

One, Jesus of Nazareth was not a rando who wanted attention, he didn't preach to the Romans nor he came to change Judaism:

Matthew 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

The fact he claimed to preach a Gospel [Mark 1:14-15] is enough to make the Jews think him a heretic, this was expected to happen, and Jesus knew that:

Luke 12:51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

Two, what exactly the author wants to prove with an empty tomb?

Luke 4:43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Three, the Disciples have weak historicity around them, I might agree with that, but also bear in mind that the Gospels [and even the Apocrypha] are the oral tradition of early Christians in the 1st century [e.g. Luke intro], and those people had no motivation to fabricate the existence of Jesus or his men, in the same way Buddhists have no need to fabricate the ancient Gautama Buddha.

Four, Saul of Tarsus has bigger issues related to the non-authentic letters attributed under his name, what did he see is not the problem.

Five, Christianity spread [mostly] among Gentiles, people who didn't know Judaism or even who is Abraham, but for an early Christian to live under the tyranny of the pagan Romans for 300 years means those people were not mad, they had a reason to trust Jesus? ... Or their lost scripture hid something?

This monumental spread is not a coincidence, and I don't believe in coincidence.

Six, even if there's only one miracle in the book, there's no need to debate what we can not repeat, because you know if this miracle happened now, it is clear who is behind it.

Seven, Christians and Jews are already on dispute whether the Masoretic or the Septuagint Torah is from God, no need to jump in these feuds.

Eight, rational people do not believe in God for miracles, they believe because they accept the doctrine ordained and understand the wisdom behind it.

  1. Only One God.
  2. The Hour is approaching.
  3. Warn the disbeliever.

If you think a 19 seconds event is more important than what a religion teaches, then what was the point from sending Jesus in the first place?

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

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