Written Debate Between Dr. Andrew Loke and Paulogia
- Dr Loke’s Opening Statement (quoted below in orange)
- Paulogia’s Opening Statement
- Dr Loke’s First Rebuttal (quoted below in green)
- Paulogia’s First Rebuttal
- Dr Loke’s Second Rebuttal (quoted below in purple)
Welcome to the sixth entry in the written series between myself and Dr Andrew Loke debating the topic, “Is there good evidence for group appearances of resurrected Jesus?”
Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge that this rebuttal is in violation of the debate rules initially agreed upon by Dr Loke and myself. Each new posting is to appear within a month of the prior posting, and this is over that allotted time. My July was overwhelmed with the logistics of a cross-country move, property purchase and sale, household merge and child-related life-event concerns. I scripted no new content for my YouTube channel in that time, and as this debate is a side-hobby to that hobby, family obligations obviously took priority. All that said, none of those excuses are material to the topic of the debate, nor of any import to Dr Loke or the reader. I acknowledge that this entry is outside the agreed parameters, and assuming Dr Loke is willing to continue… that is entirely because of generosity and forgiveness on his part.
The Paulogia-Hypothesis Distractions Continue
For the learned professor’s three entries thus far, we have watched as Dr Loke has valiantly attempted the unenviable task of trying to transform a few hearsay accounts into good evidence with nothing more than wishful conjecture misapplied. His efforts have been commendable in the same way one might commend the optimistic fortitude of a hungry man convinced he can open a tin can with a soggy napkin.
Fortunately for audience amusement, Dr Loke once again opened his continuing exercise in futility with a slightly-more-entertaining non-sequitur. Unfortunately, his rabid salivation pursuing a perceived “gotcha” once again demonstrated Dr Loke’s lack of understanding of both the specific points being made, and also the nature of the general proposition he is attempting to defend.
Throughout this debate, Dr Loke has avoided his task of making the positive case for the quality of the evidence of group appearances of resurrected Jesus by wasting time besmirching a specific observation that I have pointed out in video-form on my YouTube channel.
Successfully defeating this alternative appearance interpretation would do nothing to support the affirmative position in this debate, which perhaps Dr Loke understands since rather than attempt to do so, he instead repeatedly made the trivial observation that few scholars explicitly affirm this particular, incredibly specific interpretation. At least a dozen times in this debate, he has merely labelled my observation “fringe” as if this was all that need be said. In hindsight, this tactic appears to be less about idea refutation than an opportunity to poison the well against me personally… what we would call an ad hominem attack.
In my first rebuttal, I suggested that Dr Loke should borrow some tact, decorum and argumentation strategy from better-known resurrection scholar Dr Gary Habermas in dealing with my hypothesis. Specifically, when asked about me during a particular interview, Dr Habermas first acknowledged an academic tradition in my view, then took the time to directly address the relevant points, and finally respectfully compare it to his perception of modern scholarship.
My point was to compare and contrast the presentation styles of two men who both strongly disagree with me on this issue. Dr Habermas at least attempted to handle it academically (despite Gary’s equally-strong disdain for my presentations), and Dr Loke – in my opinion – has not.
But rather than take on board my critique that “you two disagree with me in different styles”, Dr Loke fixated only on “you two disagree with me”, as if this was news. As if this were a cover-up. As if Loke was part of the Scooby-Doo gang pulling the mask off of the mystery villain. Indeed, there would be little point in me comparing Gary and Andrew’s opposition tactics if both men weren’t already acknowledged to share specific opposition.
Dr Loke proceeded to complain about the editing of a video I did not make and had nothing to do with, before taking a premature victory lap. “Paulogia’s preference for Habermas turns out to be a Fatal Attraction.”
On the surface it may seem so, for Habermas ends his critique of me by saying, “Only one of the guys is still alive – as far as I know – of the four guys I listed. The theory’s not popular any more. And the theory’s not popular any more because it’s been blown out of the water by critics.” Ouch. Burn on me. (Not really. My most recent video addressed Dr Habermas’ misleading and factually-inaccurate critique of my work and the scholars’ work in detail.)
Earlier in the same presentation, Dr Habermas elaborated on leading critic Bart Ehrman’s attitude when it comes to endorsing a particular naturalistic alternative. “He says I’m no longer going to take naturalistic theories. I’m not going to pick one because, he said, I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. You’re going to get me in a corner and I’m not going to be able to explain my way out, but since I picked that theory I’m going to look stupid if I change my mind. So, I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut and say miracles don’t happen, a la David Hume.”
Gary presents this as a paraphrase from Ehrman’s book, “How Jesus Became God”. While I could not find it there, it is broadly consistent with what I know of Ehrman’s attitude that literally any naturalistic explanation will do. “I suggest that he plug in other historical options —for example, the one that I’ve already laid out that he’s ignored, that possibly two of Jesus’ family members stole the body and that they were killed and thrown into a common tomb. It probably didn’t happen, but it’s more plausible than the explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead.”
Or perhaps Jesus had a twin brother, Ehrman postulates. “That’s an alternative explanation. It’s highly unlikely. I don’t buy it for a second, but it’s more likely than the idea that God raised Jesus from the dead because it doesn’t appeal to the supernatural, which historians have no access to.”
Why don’t modern-day scholarly critics of the resurrection endorse my hypothesis? Because of specific holes or deficiency? No. Because they consider it to be a waste of time to invest in or endorse any particular hypothesis at all – mine or any other. To Ehrman and his colleagues, the relevant discussion is supernatural vs natural, not supernatural vs one natural scenario.
Which finally leads us to the point of this tangent… Dr Loke’s misunderstanding or mischaracterization of the nature of our debate. “‘Which conclusion is more reasonable?’ can be one of the considerations for answering the question ‘Is the proposed conclusion justified?’” he pleads.
To the limited extent this is applicable (the phrase “one of the considerations” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, because being “more reasonable” alone cannot elevate an unjustified conclusion to a justified one), it would depend on a true dichotomy.
We are not here to discuss if “group appearances of resurrected Jesus” is more reasonable than “Paulogia’s appearance hypothesis”. We’re here to discuss if “group appearances of resurrected Jesus” is more reasonable than “no group appearances of resurrected Jesus”. That’s the dichotomy. It’s Dr Loke’s position versus every possible alternate explanation currently postulated or that might be postulated in the future.
Every time Loke brings up a specific alternate hypothesis, he’s attempting to reframe the debate and water down his own burden of proof obligations. Don’t let him do this.
The Good, The Bad and the Evidence
As a reminder, the topic of the debate is “Is there Good Evidence for Group Appearances of Risen Jesus?” As such, the main consideration is the evaluation of good evidence vs bad evidence. Fortunately, modern courts around the world have spent hundreds of years refining best-practices for doing just that. Adaptations and vocabulary variations come into play in other fields, like history. But generally, there’s a universal cross-discipline spectrum on what’s better or worse. See my opening statement for examples.
Meanwhile, Dr Loke offered up a handful of ancient documents containing only hearsay claims (of a kind inadmissible in court), and some imaginative character evidence attempts (also inadmissible in court) based on speculative inferences leading to ambiguous, contradictory inconclusions.
Dr Loke expresses a curious concern. “Those who only read what he wrote would therefore form the (false) impression that Paulogia has rebutted my argument.” I would imagine that anyone reading (or listening to) only one side of any debate would think that person is doing well. How bad would a debater have to be to not win against an absent opponent? If for some reason you are engaged only with my side of this debate, Dr Loke wants you to know that I’m doing a poor job.
Now as I’m already past deadline before beginning, it’s fortunate for me that three rounds into the debate Dr Loke put forth very little new, so the broad strokes of my rebuttal are already in place. To save time, I think I will just go through Dr Loke’s entry top-to-bottom and pick up any stragglers to address Dr Loke’s comprehensiveness concerns.
I will still keep things thematically grouped and ignore Dr Loke’s condescending “error counter”, however. Dr Loke’s definition of error ranges from alleged mistake, to interpretational difference, to straight-forward disagreement, to refusal to acquiesce, to simply being unconvinced by whatever convinces Dr Loke. It’s a versatile word in his hands.
Dr Loke boasts, “Paulogia claims that legal epistemological principles and best-practices apply to historical evaluation, but his statement that legal practice regards hearsay as inadmissible but historians regards them as admissible (even if less valuable) actually contradicts his claim (Fallacy of self-contradiction)”
But one wonders if Dr Loke actually reads his sentences before he posts them.
The principle / best-practice being discussed here is that primary (direct) evidence is better than secondary (hearsay) evidence. This is true in the legal field… to the extent that hearsay is inadmissible. This is also true in the historical field, where primary evidence is simply preferred.
Because the principle of primary-is-better applies equally in both situations, I am making no contradiction. Hearsay evidence is considered to be of lower quality in all realms.
Luxury of Hindsight
Scrambling for any way to paint the watered-down epistemology of the historian as having some advantage over the more rigorous evidential evaluation of the law, Loke pitched the idea that “the judge who is required by the law to make a final irrevocable decision within a limited timeframe cannot afford to wait and see how the eyewitnesses spend the rest of their lives.”
As support, Loke pulled a seemingly affirming quote from an obscure French-language essay by Martin. In my rebuttal, I brought to attention that Martin’s essay was in fact setting aside this notion and affirmed that “historical truth stems from the same processes as legal truth, with the same weaknesses but also the same strengths.”
Undeterred by this new information, Loke pressed the strained point, citing E. P. Sanders (via Dale Allison). “‘I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation’ of Easter faith, for some of those in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 and the canonical resurrection narratives ‘were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause.”
As we are debating the evidence for group appearances of risen Jesus, and not whether early Christian proponents were deliberate frauds, for this to be a remotely relevant observation Dr Loke would need to demonstrate that members of the alleged groups were proclaiming the group appearances their whole lives, and that one or more of them died specifically for their proclamation of a group appearance.
Dr Loke and I have had considerable back-and-forth before the start of this written debate regarding the historical evidence for martyrs and the evidential usefulness of any conclusions from said evidence. Suffice to say we do not see eye-to-eye.
Here I will merely point out the undisputed fact that we do not have a single first-hand appearance account from any member of the alleged groups (even granting that Peter wrote I and II Peter, which I don’t), or even reliable, contemporary second-hand reports of how the alleged group-members spent their lives. (Save Peter, whom I grant, but whom is an individual, not a group.) When it comes to group-members, Dr Loke simply has no historical hindsight upon which to draw.
It is possible Dr Loke recognizes this situational irrelevance, as he stopped short of making any such fallacious assertions about the alleged group members. If this “luxury of hindsight” is a legitimate advantage of the historian, it is not one that comes into play for this debate.
Hearsay – Inadmissible or just Undesirable?
As all the documentary evidence Dr Loke puts forth is clearly and undeniably “hearsay” (second-hand, third-hand, nth-hand claims), it is not surprising that he objects to my continued reminder that hearsay evidence is so poor that the entire category is generally disallowed in modern courts.
“The reason for inadmissibility might not necessarily be due to ‘poor’ quality of evidence but due to procedural reasons,” he quarrels, as if we’re talking about arbitrary filing dates or regional wardrobe requirements for court appearances. No, the procedures barring hearsay are in place precisely because of the poor quality of that category of argumentation, and their propensity to lead to wrong conclusions and inability to withstand scrutiny.
“Ancient historians do admit and consider secondary source as evidence,” he protests. “This observation contradicts Paulogia’s point that legal standards provide us with the ‘best-practices that are advisable to follow in our evaluation of group appearances.’”
Sure. And some agencies will accept a faceless-nameless library card as identification when a government-issued photo id is really the best practice. The province I just moved away from is now allowing people who have recently tested positive for COVID to wander around without a mask at senior-citizen bingo night. That’s not best practice either, but someone is allowing it.
“No detective would ignore second-hand testimony by saying that it is inadmissible,” Loke protests, as if another example will help him. It is specifically the job of an investigating officer to follow every lead. But all things being equal, which lead will the detective follow first, an eye-witness report or a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend rumor? No detective is going to make an arrest based on hearsay. They’re going to wait for direct evidence. The spectrum of evidential quality and all the legal best-practices still apply in all of Dr Loke’s appeals.
This debate is about whether there is “good” evidence, not if there is evidence of the lowest possible standard that someone, somewhere might accept. Loke even repeats my words without denial, “historians and lawyers agree ‘that there is a spectrum of evidential quality and that secondary sources (hearsay) are of lower quality.’” Historians may accept them in certain context, but it is uncontested that hearsay is never the best quality in any context.
When Dr Loke observed that “there are numerous exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay” while failing to cite an exception that would be relevant to his case, I invited him to present one. To his credit, he made an attempt from the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence.
(16) Statements in Ancient Documents. A statement in a document that was prepared before January 1, 1998, and whose authenticity is established.
Excellent, now all Dr Loke has to do is what no scholar has ever been able to do… conclusively establish the authenticity the New Testament documents he puts forth. (See “Authorship of the Gospels” below.) Meanwhile, some of us will lick our wounds from the news that something from 1998 is legally considered to be ancient.
Misunderstanding Character Evidence
Anticipating the type of defences Dr Loke would try to mount, my opening statement pre-empted another legally-inadmissible category of evidence…
Evidence of a person’s character or character trait (Character Evidence) is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.
“Rational people absolutely take character into consideration; didn’t Paulogia himself recognize this when he emphasized his intellectual honesty in response to accusation of dishonesty?” questioned Dr Loke, in failure to recognize the point.
No one is saying that character or honor isn’t important in how one lives one’s life or interacts in society, or a debate. Because I feel betrayed and misled by my religious mentors (with or without malice), I have a personal commitment to integrity and intellectual honesty. This also drives my willingness to make time, in the midst of an oppressive schedule, to write this rebuttal.
However, it would be obviously fallacious to say that “because Paulogia can be shown to be honorable in general, Paulogia must have acted honorably last Tuesday.” Or, since Dr Loke may not agree with the premise, “because Paulogia can be shown to be dishonorable in general, Paulogia must have acted dishonorably last Tuesday.”
People are inconsistent. People are capable of presenting a false image of themselves. Circumstances cause people to act against their nature all the time. Worse yet, people can be painted with a false impression by others.
Now extrapolate this principle back thousands of years. Dr Loke wants us to draw conclusions about the specific actions of individuals based on vague, biased inferences of possible, inconclusive, speculative character traits of groups of people who lived in a vastly different context.
With strong reason, courts don’t allow this argument in modern times even with the benefit of careful cross examination. Yet Dr Loke wants to argue for it in ancient times with nothing but ambiguous speculation.
Should we consider this good evidence? You decide.
If a sixth installment of a written debate isn’t the place for chasing an irrelevant tangent, where is?
In passing, I observed that the heavy literary dependence of the synoptic gospels is obvious collusion. Loke objected, “‘collusion’ is a loaded word. It implies ‘secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy in order to deceive others.’ However, the fact that other Gospel writers used parts of Mark as a historical source does not imply that they were conspiring to deceive others… It is better to use the word ‘collaboration’.”
I pre-emptively addressed this challenge in my opening when citing the evidential standards for collusion. “Collusion may be deliberate or inadvertent. For example, unintentional collusion may occur through a witness viewing media reports or merely hearing other people’s stories.” As this debate is about evidence evaluation, I’m using the correct word. Loke’s preferred euphemism would be deceptive.
“In any case, the accusation of collusion doesn’t apply to the group appearances, therefore Paulogia’s assertion is irrelevant for this debate.” On this we can agree. I mentioned it only in context that despite obvious collusion, the gospel group appearances still couldn’t get their stories straight.
The Appeal to Cumulative Case
Dr Loke repeatedly complains about my “failure to fully grasp the nature of cumulative case arguments” and “how Paulogia misrepresented my argument by taking the reasons apart instead of considering them together.”
I grasp the nature of the cumulative case. Perhaps Dr Loke fails to grasp that each piece needs to be evaluated on its own to determine its weight in accumulation.
The debate is “is there good evidence for group appearances?”, not “if you add up all the bad evidence for group appearances, does that eventually total to something good?” Or maybe that’s what Dr Loke thinks the debate is?
Don’t Drag Science into This
“Paulogia fails to note that even the strongest scientific evidential standards are also based on probabilistic argument, and possibly wrong.”
It is true that science does not operate on the level of “proofs” or “certainty”, and is always provisional… allowing for new data or new analysis to topple current paradigms. But science isn’t graded on “best inference”. We don’t send humans to space on probabilities.
To be useful, scientific claims must necessarily be falsifiable. If falsification criteria are met, the hypothesis is abandoned. This has nothing to do with probabilistic argumentation. The notion that groups saw risen Jesus has no falsifiability criteria, making it not remotely a science-like question.
Scientific hypotheses and models are judged solely on their ability to predict future data. Newton’s law of universal gravitation observes that objects with mass feel an attractive force that is proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance. There is nothing probabilistic about it. The model that best predicts data is the winner… until a better model comes along that is better at predicting data.
Let me know what the falsification criteria is for group appearances of risen Jesus and then we can talk science.
Authorship of the Gospels
Even though the gospel authorship expert, Richard Bauckham, cited in Dr Loke’s own opening admits that “the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus — runs counter to almost all recent New Testament scholarship,” my interlocutor has chosen to argue against his own witness in that “Bauckham does not cite any survey to substantiate his point”. Nor does Loke point to a survey. Loke wants you to take Bauckham at his word on affirming traditional gospel authorship, but also doubt Bauckham’s self-awareness of his academic positioning. Quite selective.
Loke trots out the standard apologetic excuses for the undeniable utter lack of extant attribution to gospel authors (why they are anonymous) until the late second century. Speculation about title pages, arguments from silence, authorship consensus on unrelated works, and sheer credulity about affirming religious epistemology. No wonder the Bauckham-characterized vast majority (or mere majority, or large minority, precise numbers don’t matter) of New Testament scholars remain unconvinced. Make any excuses you want, the bare fact is that extant author labels begin in the late second century.
Loke speculates that early Christians “would have known who the authors were (even if we don’t)”.
(He also objects to me calling this entirely non-evidenced claim “wishful speculation”. “Paulogia once again fails to distinguish between speculation and inference.” Speculation is literally when you posit unevidenced details. Dr Loke’s personal intuition about the likelihood about unevidenced details cannot elevate them beyond speculation. No documents exist telling us that the identities of the gospel authors were widely known.)
Because people knew Loke’s grandfather, somehow we can conclude that “we can rightly infer that the Gospels were written by Christians who attended churches and were therefore known by Christian communities in the churches.”
It should be evident to all that this does not logically follow, but the significant counter-examples should drive the error home further. An early church-attending individual wrote the canonical book of Hebrews, but even in the earliest church writings there is much debate about who wrote it. There were pseudepigraphal (forged) gospels, acts and letters of Peter, Nicodemus, James, Thomas, Pilate, Philip, Andrew and so many more that were readily accepted by the early church despite the true (false) authors being among them.
In fact, 2 Thessalonians 2:2 warns the church “not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us.” Either there were convincing forgeries being circulated, or 2 Thessalonians itself was a forgery… or both.
In any case, the argument that “these communities would have known who the authors were” is untenable. Wishful thinking.
In a full debate about the authorship of the gospels, I’d bring up the first-century contempt for Papias, how Papias’ descriptions don’t match the books we have, the second-century non-attribution of gospel quotes, disconnects with historical Luke and many other topics demonstrating the late and inaccurate author attribution. But what we’ve presented here sufficiently counters Loke’s specific last-minute defence.
No, Gospel Appearance Reports Don’t Corroborate
If you’ve been following along for the full, you know the problem for Dr Loke’s position… the handful of group appearance stories in the gospels simply do not corroborate each other. They take place in different locations, with entirely different events, different timing, different conversations, and variations in the attendees. Dr Loke’s response to the obvious failure for these tales to corroborate each other is two-fold.
First, he says I fail “to consider and reply to the harmonization I defended in Chapter 2 of my book.” While I certainly did consider, it is true that I didn’t bother to reply as his book’s harmonization attempt in no way addresses arguments I’m making, and is therefore irrelevant to this debate. I assume he is referring to section 2.3.6, which puts forth what I would say is an entirely plausible scenario for how the details of the various gospel empty tomb narratives and appearances can be made to fit despite some seemingly contradictory claims. Dr Loke may be surprised to learn that I generally agree with him on this.
The trouble is that I’m not arguing that the group appearance pericopes fail to corroborate because they feature contradictions. I’m arguing that the group appearance pericopes fail to corroborate because the accounts don’t describe the same events. Dr Loke’s book’s harmonization seems to agree with this conclusion by arranging each in a particular non-overlapping sequence that could reduce points of narrative friction. If anything, his harmonization choices back me up on these as discrete, independent offerings.
Loke’s second defence is that overlapping narrative motifs can provide some level of corroboration. Loke’s opening quotes Dr Dale Allison’s 2005 book to establish patterns of “sequential similarities…death, burial, resurrection on third day, appearance to individuals, appearance to 11 or 12 disciples.” This is yet another point of agreement, I agree that such superficial thematic similarities exist.
Where we disagree is Dr Loke’s unwarranted leap that because “there is repetition of the outline and the ‘appearance to group’ motif which is multiply independently attested” that the stories themselves have therefore inherited attestation of facts. I provided the example of alien abduction testimonies which feature significant motif overlap, but those tropes fail to create corroboration between a New Hampshire couple’s 1961 ordeal and that of a Mississippi fisherman ten years later.
(That’s an analogy, so of course Dr Loke swept in with a flimsy special pleading appeal. “The similar details concerns the [imaginary] environment, appearance, and behavior of aliens, which might be explained by social phenomenon of common imaginations of aliens,” which is particularly delicious because my precise point is that social phenomenon and common imagination fully accounts for resurrection appearance tales. Dr Loke imagines a disanalogy because resurrection accounts “concern (1) specific group of real people (i.e. the Twelve) who were well-known to the earliest Christian communities.” Apparently, Dr Loke is unaware that the alien abduction stories are first-hand accounts of real people (e.g. Betty and Barney Hill, Calvin Parker, Travis Walton, Thomas Reed, Whitley Strieber, Antônio Villas Boas and many others, many of whom are still alive… though some have fallen asleep) who were repeatedly photographed, interviewed, recorded, appeared on television and were part of communities. Their tales include group abduction claims involving other named members of the community. So where is the dissimilarity? At this point, crying “false analogy” for insufficient reason is a Dr Loke motif that is multiply attested.)
Since Dr Loke cited Dr Allison to establish the observation (that there are literary patterns), I thought it pertinent to note that Christian scholar Dr Allison does not share Dr Loke’s optimistic self-affirmation. “I don’t know what to do with what you call multiple attestation of a motif here,” Allison repented in a January 2021 interview.
Allison’s newest book on the resurrection was released just a few weeks ago, and he opines further on the inconclusive nature of motifs. “Because those narratives have influenced the stories of Jesus’ appearances, one could maintain that the motifs referred to were secondary additions. Convincingly coaxing historical details out of the stories of Jesus appearing to twelve is no easy task.”
It is possible I was unclear on my point when I suggested that the historical data is more consistent with a family of competing (or complimenting) group appearance legends that arose to flesh out the 1 Corinthians creed. Dr Loke quoted the opinions of Allison and Keener that the first resurrection traditions could be earlier and not necessarily “merely later divergences in an originally single tradition”. I was not meaning to assert that the 1 Corinthians creed was necessarily created whole cloth, rather than deriving from even earlier appearance beliefs. While ultimately this is conjecture all around, and a bit of a nuanced difference to begin with, I feel like all these scholar opinions actually serve to further validate my point here… that the group appearances in the gospels are independent, and thereby non-corroborative.
Again, Yes, the 1 Corinthians 15 Creed is Hearsay
“The fact that Paul “received and passed” the creedal summary in 1 Cor 15 and telling us what other people told him is consistent with Paul telling us what the groups told him.”
It is also consistent with Paul reporting third-hand, fourth-hand, or twentieth-hand. You’ll have to do better than that.
When asked about this creed dating early or coming directly to Paul from the eyewitnesses, Dr Bart Ehrman replies, “Among scholars I personally know, except for evangelicals, I don’t know anyone who thinks this at all. And for a good reason: Paul never says he got this creed from Peter and James three years after his conversion. Doesn’t even suggest it. People just make this stuff up!”
So Dr Loke presses the lesser claim that Paul and some of the Corinthians may have known some of the people in the creed. “Paulogia replies ‘That makes no difference at all. If I tell you that Sally told me that my mother said that she saw a leopard… does that somehow stop becoming hearsay just because I know my mother? No. No it does not.”
Good point, Paulogia.
“Well, if Sally gave you a summary of what your mother said which you passed to others because you thought it was a well-formulated, convenient and authoritative summary, and you had also personally heard your mother claimed that she saw a leopard, then it is no longer hearsay; you are firsthand witness that your mother claimed to have seen the leopard, and what you passed on is what you know as a firsthand witness.”
This might be relevant if we had evidence that any of the alleged group-appearance members said anything to Paul about it. We do not. We have Dr Loke’s speculation about what may or may not have gone on.
If this was a debate about whether Dr Loke could speculate about group appearances, he would definitely have won. But the debate is about good evidence, which this is not.
In his letter, church father Clement asserts that people were “being fully assured because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Anointed-One.”
Of course, this is hearsay. Dr Loke prefers other euphemisms, but that’s still undeniably what it is. Hearsay. If this debate had more rounds, I’m sure he would futilely repeat this again.
Likely with a dash of renewed credulity. “How could this be unless the apostles who (whether anonymous or not) were by definition the first generation Christians had seen the resurrected Jesus?” Yes, how could anyone possibly believe something false? This would be the first and last time in history that anyone, anywhere was assured by something false.
“Paulogia replies ‘They were mistaken,’ but failed to reply to my arguments against them being mistaken.” Can someone help me out? Where does Dr Loke argue that the anonymous people Clement vaguely refers to cannot be mistaken? “See my reply to Paulogia’s citation of Loftus in my Opening Statement, Section V; see also chapters 3 to 7 of my book.” I saw them. Re-read them. That’s not helping me. I see in Loke’s words no defence as to why unnamed people from a hearsay report categorically cannot be mistaken.
Then again, I could be mistaken. If anyone finds it, let me know.
In my opening, I said “Ignatius is clearly quoting Luke 24:39.”
Dr Loke aptly quotes Dr Bart Ehrman’s observation that “there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that Ignatius is basing his views on the books that later became part of the New Testament.” Where “conclusive” is the operative word.
The debate on Ignatius seems to be whether he uses written sources with liberal paraphrasing, or if he is instead simply repeating things he’s heard to the best of his recollection. As such, yes… it’s difficult to be definitive about whether he’s using the books we have, or perhaps instead might be privy to the earlier sources that our books used. Despite the universe of speculative possibilities, Dr Robert M Grant wrote, “it seems just as likely that he was using Luke in the way in which, as we have seen, he used other written sources.”
“It is clear to me that Ignatius is quoting Luke 24:39” would have been more precise, but in hindsight I think I would change my opening to say “Smyrneans 3:2 bears uncanny similarity to Luke 24:39” and let the rest stand.
Humpty Dumpty and False Analogies
Whenever Dr Loke uses the phrase “false analogy”, you can be almost certain that it will be followed by some form of special pleading.
“Paulogia’s analogy of his recitation of Humpty Dumpty is a False Analogy, for there is no indication that he knew the king’s horses nor any indication that those listening to his recitation knew them too. Moreover, there is no context of persecution in this analogy.”
To be analogous is to be “comparable in certain respects, typically in a way which makes clearer the nature of the things compared.” While even the best analogies will invariably diverge in tangential details when pressed, they are useful when the relevant points are shared. Are Loke’s objections consequential or inconsequential disanalogies?
When it comes to the hearsay status of the 1 Corinthians 15 creed, is it relevant that Paul knew some people named in the creed? No. Is it relevant to the hearsay status that the creed was believed to the point of risking harm? No. All that is relevant to the hearsay status is whether the report is first-hand or not.
What if I could demonstrate that I regularly socialize with the king’s horses and men? And what if the endorsement of Humpty Dumpty became the latest cancel culture target? Would my recitation of the rhyme suddenly become first-hand instead of second-hand hearsay? Of course not. No circumstance can elevate it.
Loke’s special pleading excuses are irrelevant, which was the point of the analogy. (He similarly misses the point with my bagged witness and alien abduction analogies. It’s a pattern.)
When Can Inference be Evidence?
One need only have experienced an honest misunderstanding, or have watched an episode of practically any sitcom, to understand how an inference from ambiguous data can lead to incorrect conclusions. (Often hilariously so, in the later context.) In all these cases, someone thought they were justified, but were not. They made at least one too many avoidable assumptions.
In my opening, I noted that truth and justification are separate concepts. For some reason, Dr Loke took this to mean that it is acceptable to knowingly make fallacious leaps. “Why is he now complaining in Section IV about the use of argument (concerning Jennifer Lawrence) with true premises that can produce false conclusion?”
My complaint is that throughout the entire debate, Dr Loke has been under the mistaken impression that ambiguous inference qualifies as good evidence. It does not, as explicitly sourced in the paragraphs preceding my opening’s Jennifer Lawrence example. To review…
Inference is “a rule of logic applied to evidence in a trial, in which a fact is ‘proved’ by presenting other ‘facts’ which lead to only one reasonable conclusion – that if A and B are true, then C is.”
To be plain, when an inference supports multiple, contradictory conclusions, such an inference has not been raised to evidence in any rigorous epistemological sense. Ambiguous inference remains mere inference.
Loke’s Character “Arguments”
“Paulogia has tried but failed to rebut even one of these arguments. Thus all the five arguments stand.”
I don’t see how, as four of the five are constructed from subjective, ambiguous inference… an evidence non-starter.
- First argument (skeptical people are careful about important, costly, reputation-affecting topics)
- Second argument (Paul wouldn’t be mistaken about people that he and his audience knew)
- Third argument (early Christians would check out the claims)
- Fifth argument (belief in bodily resurrection requires a resurrected body)
I’ve hashed out the gaping holes and counter-examples to these already, so return to my opening and first rebuttal if you’d like a refresher on the details. I’m sure you can think some off the top of your head.
Dress them up however he will, these four arguments are meager attempts at using legally inadmissiblecharacter evidence (see “Misunderstanding Character Evidence” above) about ancient people, combined with inconclusive ambiguous inference which again fails to meet the basic evidential standard of definitive conclusions.
“All of my 5 arguments lead to a singular conclusion: it is probable (i.e. there is good evidence) that there were group appearances of the risen Jesus,” Loke asserts.
For a fleeting moment, Dr Loke almost understands, “Character evidence is inadmissible when it is used in court to argue that a person acted in conformity with their character.” But proceeds in the same paragraph to do exactly that. “My argument is not saying Paul had an honest character therefore he acted in conformity with his honest character in this incident. Rather, my argument is based on the circumstances surrounding this incident… all of which (taken together) implyit is probable that Paul was careful in stating the group appearances.”
But “circumstantially careful” is a character trait. Dr Loke is arguing that Paul acted in conformity with that character trait. He is clearly arguing “that a person acted in conformity with their character”, which is epistemologically poor and Loke admits is “inadmissible when it is used in court”. Simple as that.
Beyond the categorical unsoundness of his entire epistemology which makes it a non-starter for consideration, a fair reader of the debate thus far should recognize the massively subjective nature of one’s perspective on the probability of Loke’s speculations. Perhaps I am biased by my constant observations of humanity’s trend toward failure to research, lack of reasoning skill, laziness in opinion making, acceptance of authority, falling prey to confirmation bias and bowing to pressures of social compliance to put confidence in the undemonstrated epistemological soundness of the unknown religious citizens of a first-century port town. If this lack of faith in humanity means I am being un-evidential in my thinking, as Dr Loke contends, that only strengthens my point about the prevalence of poor epistemology.
Dr Loke’s seemingly limitless credulity on such matters would be baffling to me, were I not previously similarly ideologically committed. Christian me of a few years ago would have nodded along in agreement.
(Lest anyone think I’m ignoring one of Dr Loke’s arguments, his fourth is “motif” affirmation, covered in “Gospel Appearance Reports” above.)
Rumor Psychology is Character Evidence
As an exercise to demonstrate how character evidence fails as a category, I took the same psychology book Dr Loke relies upon and the same epistles Dr Loke uses to somehow psychoanalyze the early church of Corinth, and showed how one can use Loke’s flawed epistemology to arrive at precisely the opposite conclusion… that the church was likely inaccurate in their information transmission.
As I expected, Dr Loke missed the broader point and instead spent paragraphs attempting to quibble with the nuances of argumentation that I already put forth as not sound. I mean, it’s parallel argumentation, which is similar to an analogy, so we should be expecting a display of special pleading in response from the professor.
“In each case he either misrepresented the authors, misrepresented the historical evidence, or made unsubstantiated claims,” said Loke.
For the record, in each case where Dr Loke cites an example of me allegedly misrepresenting the authors, he’s actually just objecting to my interpretation of the Bible and questioning whether there is a parallel to the research. This is also what he means by misrepresenting historical evidence.
While I stand by the soundness of my scriptural application, I won’t be counter-quibbling here. It’s generally my policy, as a non-believer, to stay out of scripture interpretation debates. Two-thousand years of denominational splits tells me that agreement is unlikely. It can be fun, but it is ultimately no more fruitful than debating whether comic-accurate Superman is stronger than comic-accurate Hulk.
The point is that with reasonable scripture interpretations (a subjective qualification that I will leave to the reader to judge) and a willingness to apply psychoanalysis where it is categorically ineffective and evidentiarily unsound, one arrives at the same kind of conclusions that Dr Loke does. The best hermeneutics in the world doesn’t magically save the flawed underlying methodology.
Meanwhile, this response is already late, so I don’t have time to enumerate the unsubstantiated claims of Dr Loke. But here’s a big one, “if there were no group appearances, there would not have been widespread and persistent agreement (i.e. consensus) among the earliest Christians that Jesus resurrected.” Loke has categorically declared Christianity immune from error. Convenient.
The Holy Spirit Isn’t Good Enough, says Loke
It is trivially true that virtually every Christian in history came to this faith without having seen physical, risen Jesus. We’re talking billions of Christians compared to less than a thousand-or-so?
And yet, Dr Loke continues to assert that “in order to generate widespread and persistent belief in BODILY resurrection among Jesus’ followers in the context of persecution, it is probable that “solid” evidence involving group(s) of people would have been required.”
Generously, 99.9999% of Christians (even if we limit it to those in the context of persecution) don’t need this “solid” evidence, but 0.0001% needed it? Why?
Among the homework reading assigned to me by Gary Habermas, Dr Willi Marxsen notes that “anyone who maintains that Jesus had to appear to the other disciples before they were able to believe must be consistent. He must then be prepared to agree that nobody can find faith, even at the present day, unless he has experienced an appearance of Jesus. But this is a proposition which hardly anyone would maintain.”
“In reply, the difference is that the first generation of Corinthians were in a position to verify with the eyewitnesses and it would be a reasonable expectation to do this, indeed they were invited to check out the eyewitnesses.”
Being in a position to check somehow makes what’s convincing for 99.9999% of Christians somehow not be compelling enough? The Holy Spirit isn’t strong enough to overcome opportunity?
And what of all the Biblical counter-examples of converts in the book of Acts? The Ethiopian Eunuch came to faith because of a Bible study with a missionary. As this was decades closer to the resurrection and he was already proximate between Jerusalem and Gaza, this Eunuch had far more opportunity and position to verify with witnesses than the Corinthians had. And yet it seems he had no need. By Dr Loke’s logic, no such converts were possible in that time and place.
This “if they could check, they probably checked” line of thinking is conjecture and assertion. It isn’t evidence. It certainly isn’t GOOD evidence. It doesn’t even ring true. It’s baseless speculation and undermines the integrity of every Christian in history and the power of the witness of the Holy Spirit.
James G Crossley – Sloppy Scholarship about a Scholar
When Dr Loke asserted that “almost all historians (whether Christians or non-Christians) accept this conclusion”, I asked if he knew of any non-Christian scholars who specifically affirm good evidence for group appearances of the risen Jesus.
I appreciate that Dr Loke took the time to locate someone to put forth: James G Crossley. Unfortunately, it was somewhat difficult to verify the claim, since rather than quoting Crossley directly (as his footnotes lead me to believe), Loke instead quoted the book “Debating Christian Theism” (and borrowed the footnotes) where Gary Habermas is summarizing his interpretation of Crossley. Even more confusing, Crossley himself contributed an essay to that book. However, if there’s one thing this debate has taught us is that Dr Loke really likes secondary hearsay reports, to the extent he will eschew readily available primary reports in his own work.
Here’s the Habermas quote Loke used (this time with accurate attribution)…
Even more striking are some of Crossley’s individual comments. Jesus probably expected and predicted his own death. He states often that the early tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 is crucial since it is actually a report of the “eyewitnesses” who thought they saw appearances of the risen Jesus, and thus “must be taken very seriously.”
Habermas’ footnote (uncritically copy-and-pasted by Dr Loke) is “9. Crossley, ‘Against the Historical Plausibility,’ 171, 174, 176, 178, 186.” Naturally, being a source methodology guy, I went to read the actual original article by Crossley.
Habermas plucked the single word “eyewitnesses” from this sentence by Crossley: “The list of eyewitnesses in 1 Cor. 15.5-8 gives no evidence pointing in the direction of the bodily resurrection as an historical event, except in the sense of a visionary experience.”
And Habermas cherry-picked the phrase “must be taken very seriously” from Crossley’s paragraph critiquing someone else’s work, not putting forth his own values.
“Wright again makes some important points. The appearances recorded in 1 Cor. 15.5-8 must be taken very seriously. Wright may well be correct in arguing that the appearances were thought to be of the bodily transformed Christ. This may indeed be the way Paul understood his vision and the other experiences. But does it actually correspond to the acceptability of the bodily resurrection in the sense of something more than a ‘hallucination’?”
Looking at the parts cobbled together for Habermas’ Frankenstein representation, does this sound like the work of a secular scholar who specifically affirms good evidence for group appearances of the risen Jesus? No. (Perhaps other non-referenced Crossley scholarship elucidates? Homework for another day.)
This is particularly damning methodology for a Ph.D.-holding interlocutor who throws around accusations like “Paulogia has repeatedly misrepresented my defence and replied to them with erroneous reasonings” and “his original cut-and-paste clip has misrepresented Christian experts.”
Now, I don’t blame Dr Loke for trusting and regurgitating the sketchy scholarship of Dr Habermas, but this should serve as an excellent example of why hearsay evidence is terrible… and legally inadmissible.
Why this is a Written Debate
Thank you to Dr Loke for sharing the email-exchange messages I requested which vindicate my prior complaints. As a result, I’m dropping the matter other than to provide a link to my half of the exchange, in the spirit of fairness.
Dr Loke is a fan of saying that I “insist on a particular epistemological standard as the only acceptable standard.” He even included it in his conclusion. When challenged to demonstrate where I ever insisted upon any such thing, he tossed out some red herring excuses about legal standards being too high for him… but he never did show where I drew this alleged line in the sand for all to adhere to.
The reason is, of course, that he can’t. At no time in this debate have I told anyone what standard to hold. That would be pointless as the debate isn’t about whether someone should or shouldn’t be convinced.
The debate is about good evidence. What is good evidence? And do we have any?
As far as I can tell, Dr Loke hasn’t even challenged the established hierarchy about what makes one piece of evidence superior or inferior to another. Instead, he tacitly concedes the hierarchy and retreats to pleading to you — the reader — to accept undeniably inferior types of evidence as if they were good. It is Dr Loke who is trying to tell you what your standard should be, not I.
If you are convinced by hearsay, by ambiguous and contradictory inferences, and appeals to character… that’s fine with me. I’ve not told you to think otherwise. Be convinced, but be intellectually honest enough to admit that this isn’t anywhere close to the best evidence the Christian God could have provided. It’s not good.
 Ibid 32:09
 Martin, Jean-Clément. “La démarche historique face à la vérité judiciaire. Juges et historiens.” Droit et société 38.1 (1998): 13-20.
 Richard Bauckham. “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (2nd Edition).” Apple Books.
 Matthew 28, Luke 24, John 20 and John 21
 Allison, Dale C. Resurrecting Jesus: The earliest Christian tradition and its interpreters. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2005.
 Allison Jr, Dale C. The Resurrection of Jesus: Apologetics, Polemics, History. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021. p62
 Keener, Craig S. “The Gospel of John. 2 vols.” Peabody: Hendrickson (2003).
 In the comment section for “Why Are Their Differences in the Gospels? Does it Affect Their Inspiration? Guest Post by Mike Licona”
 Bart D. Ehrman. “Did Jesus Exist? – The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.” Apple Books.
 Grant, Robert M. “Scripture and Tradition in St. Ignatius of Antioch.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly (1963): 322-335.
 Per my opening statement, “At face value, Paul’s quotation is no more attestation to the veracity of the information in this creed than my recitation of Humpty Dumpty is attestation of the egg-repair skills of the king’s horses.”
 Oxford Languages, analogous (adjective)
 “Inference.” The People’s Law Dictionary. 1981-2005. Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill 23
 DiFonzo, Nicholas, and Prashant Bordia. Rumor psychology: Social and organizational approaches. American Psychological Association, 2007. p 165 – 175
 Marxsen, Willi, and Margaret Kohl. The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. SCM Press, 1970. p89
 Moreland, J. P., Sweis, K. A., & Meister, C. V. (Eds.). (2013). Debating Christian Theism. Oxford University Press. p471 Chapter 35 “Jesus Did Rise from the Dead” by Gary H Habermas
 Ibid p480
 Crossley, J. (2005). Against the historical plausibility of the empty tomb story and the bodily resurrection of Jesus: A response to NT Wright. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, 3(2), p186.
 Ibid p174