Twelve Men and a Truck


Have you noticed how in stories, the characters can “pop in” at convenient times, and convenient places, at the will of the author? If they need Aunt Maude to appear at Sunday dinner, in order to propel the story along, she is written in. We don’t question as to how she got there, or why, as we understand that this character is necessary to the story and therefore at this moment, she will appear.

In fact, we chuckle a bit at Star Trek fans (such as myself) who argue over incongruous events in differing installments. “In Episode #27 they turned left from the Captain’s office to go to the engine room, but in Episode #83 they turned right. Which is it?” The reason we laugh, is that we know it is just a story. These aren’t factual events. These are television shows, penned by Hollywood writers who have no intention of keeping the facts congruent, as they aren’t facts—they are stories. To argue over the validity of the “facts” of these fictions would be silly.

One of the questions that continually perpetuates throughout discussions of the events of the First Century in Palestine, as recorded in the Bible, is how much is fact, and how much is fiction. Now, one may take the position that if it is recorded, it is absolutely positively, no questions asked a historical event. But is this argument convincing? If someone was coming across the events, as written, for the first time, would they be persuaded that it is a story, or that it actually happened that way?


One of the events that has all the elements of a story and not an actual happening, is the moving of all eleven disciples, and Jesus’ entire family from Galilee to Jerusalem overnight. It was done to make the story convenient, out of a desire to move the story along, rather than out of any historical basis.

First of all, it is to be noted that Jesus’ base of operations was in Galilee. (Mr. 1:28) It was here that he did miracles, preached, traveled and talked to crowds. But most importantly, it was from here that he chose his Disciples.

Every disciple (as far as what was recorded) was from Galilee. (Acts 2:7) They had wives (Mr. 1:30), jobs (Mr. 1:18), families (Mr. 1:19) and even homes (Mr. 2:15). In a word—roots. This is where, if things went wrong, they would go first.

For a year (or three,) they travel with Jesus, both in Galilee, and out, and we can fast forward to the night of the Last Supper. After eating, all but Judas (off betraying), go to the Mount of Olives. Jesus explains that he is about to die, and says that after He is resurrected, he will “Go before you to Galilee.” Mt. 26:32. This is most natural. Jesus recognizes that they are about to be scattered, and their most natural retreat would be home—Galilee.

Jesus’ mother and two of the Disciples mother still live in Galilee at this time, because it is noted they came from there to see Jesus die. Mr. 15:41. When the women go to visit the tomb, they find a young man there, who again confirms exactly what we expect, exactly what was said, “Go tell the disciples Jesus will meet you in Galilee.” (Mr. 16:8)

Exactly as they were told, exactly as suspected, Jesus meets the disciples in Galilee. Mt. 28:16. According to John, the Disciples hung around the room for eight days (John 20:26) but after that, met Jesus right where we expected—Galilee. (John 21:1)

At this point we see what we would humanly, naturally expect. Jesus and his Disciples’ base is in Galilee. The crowd is unfriendly, to say the least, in Jerusalem. The obvious point of retreat is Galilee. Or look at it this way. Assuming the Jesus movement is dead. Kaput. Jesus died and wasn’t resurrected, where do the disciples go? Back to their jobs. Back to their families and homes. Back to the lives they had before. Sure, one or two may try to drum up a resurrgence of a belief in Jesus, but not all eleven. They would go home.

Or, if they are convinced by seeing a resurrected Jesus, both in Jerusalem, but later in Galilee, what better place to start the movement than at home? These are the people that saw Jesus’ miracles, heard his preaching, know the disciples personally. Even today, when people are converted, who are the first they attempt to win over? Their friends and family! The most natural place in the world for the disciples to start this church movement is in Galilee. Home.

Up until now, everything seems fine. There is only one catch. Luke wants to be a historian. And what Luke knows about the history of the church is that it started in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:1-7) If Luke read or was familiar with Paul, he would know Paul indicated Peter was from Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18) and Jesus’ brother is from Jerusalem. (Gal. 1:19) Luke records that all of the apostles were staying in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:13)

The Church grows in Jerusalem. (Acts 6:7). Every indication Luke has before him is that the church’s earliest leaders are from Jerusalem. How in the blue blazes can he rectify the problem that the legends say these were people from Galilee, yet the church clearly began in Jerusalem?

Just like any storyteller, Luke moves the entire group to a place he wants them without necessity of providing a reason. All eleven disciples and Jesus family (Acts 1:14), move, en masse to Jerusalem, in less than a month, with nary a thought of Galilee again. But does it make sense?

To give an idea of the complete abandonment of Galilee, the word “Galilee” or “Galilean” is mentioned 60 times in the four Gospels. True, some are descriptions of persons, such as Herod being tetrarch of Galilee (Lk. 31:1), but most of these are mentions of people from Galilee, or persons active in Galilee. In the whole rest of the New Testament, “Galilee” or “Galilean” is only mentioned another 9 times. It is as if it dropped off the face of the earth!

Or, perhaps another way of looking at it. Luke has the initial preaching, and growth of the Church in Jerusalem. (Acts 6:7) One of the most obvious initial outreaches would be Galilee, for all of the reasons stated—friends, family and familiarity. So is this where they go? Nope, instead, as the persecution began they start sending Christians out to Judea and Samaria. The apostles stay in Jerusalem. Acts 8:1. Not a single apostle is concerned about his family back home in Galilee? No one says, “Hey, why don’t I go back to Galilee and ride this thing out?”

They send Christians everywhere but Galilee! In fact, when Samaria gets the Word, the disciples are more than happy to send Peter and John to them. (Acts 8:14) Peter and John have no problem preaching throughout Samaria, but somehow their own region is completely missed. (Acts 8:25)

Finally, Paul becomes a Christian, and begins contending with Hellenists. It is only after Paul is converted, and begins his missionary work, that we finally learn of churches in Galilee. (Acts 9:31) Paul is more interested in converting the disciples’ family than the disciples were!

Paul, in his writing, has no notion of a Galilee, or teaching there. He talks of meeting the church the church leaders in Jerusalem, and ministering to the saints in Jerusalem. (Romans 15). Mark, writing the first Gospel, leaves us hanging with Jesus intending to be in Galilee, but the disciples never getting the word. Matthew, following Mark, leaves the disciples in Galilee. As well as John.

Luke is conflicted by the legend that places everyone from Galilee, and the history (as he knows it) that they were from Jerusalem. Simple solution—have them move. But why? Shouldn’t there be some continuity for the move? And Luke creates one.

As John did, immediately after the death of Jesus, Luke leaves the disciples in the city of Jerusalem. (Lk. 24:33) When Jesus makes his starling appearance, he adds a phrase that isn’t found in any of the other gospels: “Stay in the city of Jerusalem until you receive the power from on high.” (Lk 24:29) There. He did it. Like a masterful weaving of tales, Luke has forced the move from Galilee to Jerusalem. Luke assumes Jesus family will only naturally follow the disciples.

In a story, this works very, very well. In reality, this raises questions. How easy would it be for Eleven men, as well as Mary and her other sons to ALL move? Not most. Not some. But every single one. First Century Palestine was primarily an agricultural society, with the farmers making only enough to live on. They were taxed/tithed at about a third. This would include wages, produce, spices, everything.

The cities lived off of these lands, the wealthy landowners being absentee landlords, had what excess was available shipped to the city. A situation where the cities were parasitically living off the country. Any disciples that were fisherman would be out of a job. At best, they could hope to find labor work, but such work was primarily in farms—back in the country. How could they manage to obtain food to eat? Or rent a room for shelter?

Did they institute offerings as payment for their services? There are subtle hints to that effect at Acts 4:37 and Acts 6:3-4. This opens Pandora’s box, though, as it could remove the motivation factor of “Did they die for a lie?” No, they died because they needed the income, and were too much competition for the temple cult.

And how does Luke’s phrase “stay in the city” work in connection with the other gospels? It was said, while they were still startled to see Jesus. So, presumably, it was done before they saw him again (and again) in Galilee. Jesus says, “I will see you in Galilee” so, according to Luke, they stay in Jerusalem. Jesus says, “Stay in the city” so they go running off to Galilee. Jesus says, “You will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria” so they stay in Jerusalem, sending everyone else to Judea and Samaria. It is like “opposite world”—whatever Jesus says, they do the exact opposite!

There is no reason for the church to begin in Jerusalem. Jesus drew crowds out to Galilee. There is no temple requirement in Jesus’ religion. (Although curiously enough, they continued to go to the temple.) It was intended to be a missionary work, and its base of operations could be anywhere. In fact, where better than Jesus’ childhood home?

Jesus’ tomb was not venerated. The location of his death not visited. There was nothing keeping the disciples in Jerusalem. Just the pesky fact that Luke had to work with—that the church started with people in Jerusalem, and Luke had to move ‘em there.

How plausible is it that the disciples and Jesus’ family moved its entire base of operations from home and kin to Jerusalem almost overnight? How did the disciples survive? Where did they derive income to the point of buying homes?

[Note. I wrote this earlier this year, but it fit so nicely after my last discussion of the disciples’ calling I figured I would revive it with a few minor alterations.]

16 comments:

Frank Walton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
modusoperandi said...

Frank Walton

That's what passes for a zinger nowadays?

Hey, that atheismsucks page has Loftus as "Most stupidest atheist", "Most excuse-making atheist", "Most ugly atheist", "Biggest low-life atheist" and a whole bunch more.

This Loftus guy is going to have to swear up the blog if he wants to be GIFS for "Most profanity used by an atheist" next year. I normally avoid swearing, as it typically adds nothing to the conversation (it's often just a comma in disguise) but, fuck, that awards thing seems kind of, oh I don't know, goddamned unchristian. I though we were supposed to be the petty ones.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

Do you honestly believe the church would have had a better start in Galilee? I think it's a pretty well established fact that the church experienced phenomenal growth in Jerusalem.

Jesus told his disciples that they would need to love him more than their families to be his followers. Being willing to leave your home was already a prerequisite for a disciple. Beside, Jerusalem was much better place for the disciples to start the church and it's obvious to me that Jesus made a wise decision commanding them to start there. Sending the disciples to Jerusalem would distance them from their old lifestyles where they might be tempted to fall back into their old fishing careers. Once they had made the commitment to move to Jerusalem, it would be more difficult for them to just "give up" when they faced difficulties. Besides, Jerusalem was the religious center. There would be a constant flow of people visiting Jerusalem who could be reached and those people could take the gospel message back to their homes. There would be a never ending flow of new converts in Jerusalem.

Ok, so the people of Galilee would be easy converts but what do you do once everyone in Galilee is converted? Where do you get more potential converts? Who comes to visit Galilee? Besides, the disciples didn't need to draw upon the miracles of Jesus when they could perform their own. Clearly, Jerusalem was the best place to start the church.

I find your suggestion that Luke was a historian who wanted to maintain historic accuracy but then contributed to this conspiracy that you seem to believe is the basis for the gospels is laughable. Why would Luke feel the need to come clean and tell the truth about the church's origins in Jerusalem but then just make up statements like Acts 2:7 where Luke records those present at Pentecost where amazed that Galileans could speak in everyone's own language? How could Luke just make up this stuff and it go unnoticed? Don't you think Luke's readers would have been just a little suspicious had they not already been familiar with Pentecost and the other miracles the apostles where performing?

Do *you* have any facts that support your belief the early church wasn't started by Galileans? Who's doing the storytelling here?

DagoodS said...

Dennis: Do you honestly believe the church would have had a better start in Galilee?

A curious notion. And curious use of the word “better.” History, when recording events, does not use the term “better,” as it is concerned with what did happen, not what should have happened.

And, looking at it from a Christian perspective, if God wanted to start his church in a hut in the Himalayas, is that not the “best” place to start a church? Why would a Christian ever ask the very human question as to where the “better” place for God to start his church?

Certainly from my perspective, I would try to give a fledgling enterprise as much possibility of thriving. All things considered, the more people, the better the chances. Hence it would be “better” to start in a larger metropolis, such as Rome, Ephesus, Corinth or Jerusalem.

However, all things are NOT being considered! (The point of the blog entry.) If I am selling lumberjack shirts, it may be better to start my business in the woods. If I am selling medical journals, I look for doctors. Even more importantly, I start with those that I have a least some basis with, either friend or family.

As I point out in my blog, Jesus preached in Galilee. Jesus performed miracles in Galilee. Jesus drew such a crowd that he had to avoid it by ships, and sailing at night, and deal with feeding problems by invoking another miracle. The disciples were from Galilee. Their friends and neighbors and relations.

I agree, Dennis, that after Galilee, Jerusalem (or another major city) would be a logical point to initiate missionary work. But not first! It is far, far more plausible that they would start there.

Is it possible that overnight 11 men, the brothers of Jesus, Jesus’ mother and the other women moved from Galilee to Jerusalem? Sure. But that introduces interesting questions, such as why, how they would eat, where they would live, etc. Why would they avoid their own home? I was interested to see a Christians response. More than just “It says it happened, so it happened.” Something thought out and with serious reflection.

Which is more plausible—that this actually happened or it is an element in a story?

More: I think it's a pretty well established fact that the church experienced phenomenal growth in Jerusalem.

Is it? Here is a short article (admittedly written by an atheist) about the growth of the Church in the first three centuries. “Phenomenal” is over-stating it a bit.

Even Acts indicates that rather quickly the word was spread to Gentiles, as the Jews were not accepting it. Acts 13:43-51. Josephus (who returned to Palestine in 64 C.E.) makes no mention of the sect of Christians. Tacitus mentions them in Rome, but nowhere else. Pliny the Younger, in 110-115 C.E. does not know who they are.

Can you provide any support for the “established fact” (NOT speculation) of “phenomenal growth” of the church?

More: Jesus told his disciples that they would need to love him more than their families to be his followers. Being willing to leave your home was already a prerequisite for a disciple.

Dennis, as the disciples and Jesus were traveling around Galilee for a year, where do you think they stayed? Do you presume that Jesus was so concerned about their becoming reattached to family that they stayed in tents outside Capernaum and Bethsaida?

And what would prevent the families from moving to Jerusalem too? Jesus’ family apparently did. According to this story, it was with relative ease that 11 men (plus Jesus’ family) could re-locate from Galilee to Jerusalem with hardly a ripple. Peter’s wife may think about doing so as well.

Further, there is a difference between “leaving your home” and desiring that others obtain the same good news as you do. Peter may have not wanted to live with his mother-in-law anymore, but wouldn’t he want to share with at least one friend or relative the gospel?

More: Sending the disciples to Jerusalem would distance them from their old lifestyles where they might be tempted to fall back into their old fishing careers. Once they had made the commitment to move to Jerusalem, it would be more difficult for them to just "give up" when they faced difficulties.

And you call my position “laughable”? Apparently you don’t buy into that “wouldn’t die for a lie” argument exactly as I do not. You think that seeing Jesus heal countless people, feed 5000, proclaim his status as Messiah, walk on water, appear with Moses and Elijah, and then come back from the Dead would just not quite be convincing enough?

That Jesus had to do a little bit more, and order them to abandon their families? Like the legend of Cortez burning the ships to give motivation?

You believe that the commitment to move to Jerusalem is what would make it “more difficult” to give up when faced with difficulties? NOT the belief in a resurrected Messiah?

The only way Jesus could keep the movement going was to not let Peter fish!

More: Besides, Jerusalem was the religious center. There would be a constant flow of people visiting Jerusalem who could be reached and those people could take the gospel message back to their homes. There would be a never ending flow of new converts in Jerusalem.

Then why the missionary work? Why spread to Samaria, Judea and the rest of the world? Why Paul’s missionary trips?

Again, I don’t argue that Jerusalem was a fine, fine place to start a movement. But initially? When everything was connected to Galilee? And why the complete abandonment of Galilee? Perhaps it is plausible that a few stayed in Jerusalem to get the movement going there, but not one goes back to Galilee?

More: Ok, so the people of Galilee would be easy converts but what do you do once everyone in Galilee is converted? Where do you get more potential converts? Who comes to visit Galilee?

Hmm. Taking your questions in order:

1) After everyone in Galilee is converted, you…I don’t know…send them out into the rest of the world?

2) You get more potential converts by networking with those in Galilee, who talk with those outside of Galilee, who talk with those outside their country and so on. Remarkably much like the disciples did with “getting” more potential converts by spreading to Samaria, Judea, Damascus, Ephesus, Rome, etc.

3) Right. Nobody outside of Galilee had ever heard of Jesus when he stepped into Jerusalem. “Who is that?” they cried at the triumphal entry. Amazingly when your shadow heals (pause to think about that) they come to you. Whether you are in Jerusalem or Capernaum.

More: Why would Luke feel the need to come clean and tell the truth about the church's origins in Jerusalem but then just make up statements like Acts 2:7 where Luke records those present at Pentecost where amazed that Galileans could speak in everyone's own language?

Because by the time Luke was writing, he had pieces of legend that placed Jesus and his crew traveling around Galilee and other pieces of legend that had the church springing forward from Jerusalem. (Of course, there is the alternative argument that Luke was providing a stamp of approval on the Jerusalem church as compared to the Johannine Galilean Church, but you are concerned enough as it is over what you perceive as some sort of “conspiracy theory” about how the gospels came into being, that I hesitate to toss this out. Perhaps some lurker is interested.)

I notice you presume the church originated in Jerusalem. I am more convinced that Luke felt the church started there, as compared to where it actually started.

More: How could Luke just make up this stuff and it go unnoticed?

Because those that read it already believed it. Who would question it? If (as I suspect) he wrote after Josephus, then to confirm or deny these facts would be very difficult to do, indeed. Even if he wrote in the time conservative scholars place his Gospel, it is post 70 C.E.

Again, though, I do not hold to Luke “making this stuff up.” Luke (in my opinion) was attempting to resolve varying conflicting stories about the early church, and inserted what he thought was possible. To him, Jesus WAS from Galilee and the Church DID legitimately start in Jerusalem. It seemed only logical, then, that Jesus ordered them to start in Jerusalem.

You are imposing a modern sense of history writing on a person that did not share your view. Luke was not “making things up.” He was inserting what he thought would make point A flow from point B. To YOU that is “making things up.” To him, it was propelling the story along.

And people still make stuff up and it goes unnoticed. How long has the moon landing and too much dust been a staple in the creation/evolution argument? Completely made up from extremely bad testing. Yet it still lingers today.

Or some e-mail that says Madelyn Murray O’Hair is taking over the Government. People pass that crap along all the time.

Because people are prone to believe what they want to be true, Dennis. That is exactly how one “makes things up” and they go unnoticed.

More: Do *you* have any facts that support your belief the early church wasn't started by Galileans?

I really don’t know. However, if I was to argue that it was NOT started by Galileans, I would point out:

1) The earliest books (Paul) were written in Greek to Hellenized Jews.
2) The earliest books make no mention of Galilee. At all.
3) The earliest books indicate Peter and James were from Jerusalem.
4) Paul attempts to distance himself from Peter, and fails to mention he was Galilean
5) The books claimed to be written by Matthew (Galilean), John (Galilean) 1 & 2 Peter (Galilean) and Jude (Galilean) were ALL in Greek and not Aramaic.
6) Josephus mentions Judas the Galilean, but fails to indicate that either Jesus (if one holds the TF is legitimate) or James is from Galilee.


To argue it WAS started by Galileans, I would point out:

1) No reason to think it was not
2) The difference of Johannine vs. the Synopics implies a geographical difference in legend development. Galilee is the best candidate to be the counter-part to Jerusalem.
3) Luke confirms that the disciples were from Galilee, in attempting to write the history of the church
4) Events in Galilee would be more difficult to confirm. (Although I doubt anyone cared to anyway.)

You pays your money, you takes your pick.

Dennis said...


A curious notion. And curious use of the word “better.” History, when recording events, does not use the term “better,” as it is concerned with what did happen, not what should have happened.


Likewise, historical records aren't accepted or rejected based on how probable the events are.

And, looking at it from a Christian perspective, if God wanted to start his church in a hut in the Himalayas, is that not the “best” place to start a church? Why would a Christian ever ask the very human question as to where the “better” place for God to start his church?

I agree with you but would you have accepted this argument (that the best place to start a church is where God wants it)? I am directing my statements to an atheist who is making the argument that Galilee made a better place than Jerusalem to start the post-resurrection ministry thus we should suspect that the gospels are not factual. By pointing out that Jerusalem made a better starting point than Galilee, I am pointing out the weakness in your argument.

Certainly from my perspective, I would try to give a fledgling enterprise as much possibility of thriving. All things considered, the more people, the better the chances. Hence it would be “better” to start in a larger metropolis, such as Rome, Ephesus, Corinth or Jerusalem.

If you agree that Jerusalem would be a better starting place for the church, than why do you find it improbable that Jesus would send his Galilean disciples there after he left?

However, all things are NOT being considered! (The point of the blog entry.) If I am selling lumberjack shirts, it may be better to start my business in the woods. If I am selling medical journals, I look for doctors. Even more importantly, I start with those that I have a least some basis with, either friend or family.

The disciples did have a basis with their converts in Jerusalem. They were all Jews who understood the significance of the Messiah!

I agree, Dennis, that after Galilee, Jerusalem (or another major city) would be a logical point to initiate missionary work. But not first! It is far, far more plausible that they would start there.

So now you are changing your original argument. You agree that it did make sense for the disciples to go to Jerusalem. It seems that you just think it makes more sense for them to start in Galilee. Just as you can make a case for Galilee being the best starting place, I could argue that Jerusalem was better. Pentecost was an important event in the beginning of the church and it wouldn't have quite had the impact it did if it didn't occur someplace where a lot of people from different regions were able to observe it first hand.

I like your analogy of what an entrepreneur would do. I agree that a typical entrepreneur would be best starting his business in a place he is more familiar with but what if that entrepreneur was omniscient like God and new his business would turn into something bigger than Microsoft. Would it be best for that entrepreneur to spend time selling computers out of his garage to his neighbors or moving to large metropolis where more business could be earned?

Is it possible that overnight 11 men, the brothers of Jesus, Jesus’ mother and the other women moved from Galilee to Jerusalem? Sure. But that introduces interesting questions, such as why, how they would eat, where they would live, etc. Why would they avoid their own home? I was interested to see a Christians response. More than just “It says it happened, so it happened.” Something thought out and with serious reflection.

Have you ever really tried to learn and understand the Bible? If so, a question like that wouldn't even need to be answered.

Jesus' disciples didn't have homes and jobs. They had already left those behind and had become used to living off the charity of other people. Read Matthew 10:5-16. Also, read Acts 2:42-47. The converts in Jerusalem pooled their resources to help each other out. I see no reason that the apostles would not have been given whatever they needed to live.

Which is more plausible—that this actually happened or it is an element in a story?

What a silly question! As if we can look at what appears to be a recorded historical event and dismiss it as a story based on the fact that people living in a different culture at a different time don't respond to circumstances the same way we would!

Can you provide any support for the “established fact” (NOT speculation) of “phenomenal growth” of the church?

No, I can't.

Dennis, as the disciples and Jesus were traveling around Galilee for a year, where do you think they stayed? Do you presume that Jesus was so concerned about their becoming reattached to family that they stayed in tents outside Capernaum and Bethsaida?

Well, they didn't stay in their own homes.

Further, there is a difference between “leaving your home” and desiring that others obtain the same good news as you do. Peter may have not wanted to live with his mother-in-law anymore, but wouldn’t he want to share with at least one friend or relative the gospel?

What biblical support do you have that the disciples left immediately for Jerusalem without a chance to speak to anyone?

And you call my position “laughable”? Apparently you don’t buy into that “wouldn’t die for a lie” argument exactly as I do not. You think that seeing Jesus heal countless people, feed 5000, proclaim his status as Messiah, walk on water, appear with Moses and Elijah, and then come back from the Dead would just not quite be convincing enough?

It wouldn't have been the first time the disciples because discouraged and "quit".

Then why the missionary work? Why spread to Samaria, Judea and the rest of the world? Why Paul’s missionary trips?

I can think of one good reason. Gentiles didn't have a need to travel to Jerusalem.

Again, I don’t argue that Jerusalem was a fine, fine place to start a movement. But initially? When everything was connected to Galilee? And why the complete abandonment of Galilee? Perhaps it is plausible that a few stayed in Jerusalem to get the movement going there, but not one goes back to Galilee?

How can you assume some disciples didn't stay in Galilee or send back representation? Just because it is not mentioned? Maybe that detail would satisfy your curiosity but how important would that detail otherwise be?

I notice you presume the church originated in Jerusalem. I am more convinced that Luke felt the church started there, as compared to where it actually started.

This statement doesn't jive with your original post where you said "Luke wants to be a historian. And what Luke knows about the history of the church is that it started in Jerusalem." Wasn't the whole basis of your original post that Luke knew the church started in Jerusalem and had to reconcile that with the tradition of Galilean disciples?

Because those that read it already believed it. Who would question it? If (as I suspect) he wrote after Josephus, then to confirm or deny these facts would be very difficult to do, indeed. Even if he wrote in the time conservative scholars place his Gospel, it is post 70 C.E.

What I struggle with is the church accepting Luke's writings and not questioning it if it contradicted their own traditions regarding the beginning of the church. If you walked into a church that was 60 years old and told them, "Here, I found these documents buried in the lot out back that explain how this church was started" I doubt they would accept them if they contradicted their own beliefs of the church's beginning.

Again, though, I do not hold to Luke “making this stuff up.” Luke (in my opinion) was attempting to resolve varying conflicting stories about the early church, and inserted what he thought was possible. To him, Jesus WAS from Galilee and the Church DID legitimately start in Jerusalem. It seemed only logical, then, that Jesus ordered them to start in Jerusalem.

This is where I am confused. The author of Luke and Acts start both books off with statements that imply what is being recorded are factual events. The author then includes specific details and events that only an eyewitness could document. If the author doesn't believe these things actually place, how is that anything other than a lie? If the author of Luke says his information comes from eyewitnesses and then proceeds to create history as he thinks it took place, how is that not a lie?

I know from a past discussion that you claim historians from that era frequently did this to record history as they believed it happened, but I have done some looking around and can not find any historians who hold this view. How have you come to the conclusion that historians from the first few centuries "make up" events as they believe they occurred?

I really don’t know. However, if I was to argue that it was NOT started by Galileans, I would point out:

1) The earliest books (Paul) were written in Greek to Hellenized Jews.


But Paul does mention the apostles in Jerusalem. Paul went there to visit them.

2) The earliest books make no mention of Galilee. At all.

And this proves what? Paul mentions the apostles which the other gospels say where from Galilee. Why is Galilee important to Paul's reference to the apostles?

3) The earliest books indicate Peter and James were from Jerusalem.

They were from Jerusalem.

4) Paul attempts to distance himself from Peter, and fails to mention he was Galilean

Paul never distanced himself from Peter. He just criticized some of his theology. Please don't try to imply that Paul tried to avoid Peter.

5) The books claimed to be written by Matthew (Galilean), John (Galilean) 1 & 2 Peter (Galilean) and Jude (Galilean) were ALL in Greek and not Aramaic.

How can anybody claim to know with certainty what the original manuscripts were written in?

6) Josephus mentions Judas the Galilean, but fails to indicate that either Jesus (if one holds the TF is legitimate) or James is from Galilee.

Ah, the argument from missing details once again. I wonder if Josephus was a part of the conspiracy pack that gave us the New Testament. Maybe Josephus knew Jesus wasn't from Galilee but was afraid of being harmed for mentioning it. One can only imagine!

Seriously, if Josephus doesn’t mention that Jesus was from Galilee, how does that make it any more or less probable that he wasn’t?

Dennis said...

Finally, Paul becomes a Christian, and begins contending with Hellenists. It is only after Paul is converted, and begins his missionary work, that we finally learn of churches in Galilee. (Acts 9:31) Paul is more interested in converting the disciples’ family than the disciples were!

Where does it say that the churches in Galilee (mentioned in the passage you refer to) were started by Paul?

Since you seem to like probabilities. What is more probable?

A) That the churches in Galilee were started by someone other than Paul.
B) That Paul didn't go directly to Jerusalem from Damascus (Acts 9). Somewhere between verses 25 and 26, he stopped somewhere in Galilee where he hung out long enough to get a church up and going.

Given there was already a disciple in Damascus when Paul arrived there after his conversion, I would guess that there were disciples in other areas than just Jerusalem.

DagoodS said...

Dennis,

No, I don’t think that Paul started any churches in Galilee. I just found it interesting that no Churches are mentioned in Galilee until after Paul enters the scene.

Obviously you understand that the area of Galilee played an important role in the Gospels. Do you know how many times “Galilee” is mentioned in Acts? Exactly 5. Three of those are identification—“Men of Galilee,” “Galileans,” and “Judas the Galilean.” It is as if Galilee drops off the face of the earth.

The area itself is not referred to until after Paul starts his missionary work.

Dennis: Somewhere between verses 25 and 26, he stopped somewhere in Galilee where he hung out long enough to get a church up and going.

Amusing. What I find funny is that in the past (not with you) I have debated the Damascus/Paul/Jerusalem difficulty and one of the most common apologetic defenses is to place a period of three (3) years between vs. 24 and 25, and then a period of fourteen (14) years between vs. 26 and 27.

I think 14 years is plenty of time for Paul to have stopped in Galilee, don’t you?

Further, how many times have you told ME that just because it is silent doesn’t mean “something” could have happened. You claim that just because Luke 5 does not mention Andrew doesn’t mean he is not there. You claim that just because Acts doesn’t record a disciple going back to Galilee doesn’t mean they didn’t.

Over and over you have criticized my claim that just because it doesn’t say it, does not mean I can say it didn’t happen.

Now I turn the tables on you. (I have pointed out before how problematic this can be.) Just because Acts does not say that Paul started a church in Galilee, doesn’t mean that he could not have done so!

Understand I don’t really believe that. I am pointing out, though, why the method of “Just because it doesn’t say it, I can insert whatever I please” is not very persuasive. You wouldn’t buy it with Paul and Galilee. Why should I be forced to accept it from you with Andrew and Luke 5?

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

I have to run but I wanted to quickly point out that I made two back to back posts. One really long one and then one short one (the one that you just replied to).

I find it amusing that you are now saying you don't believe that Paul started the church in Galilee after you used that as one of your supporting arguments in your original post! I am not impressed by arguments containing nothing more than counting references to a particular word in the Bible.

Actually, we did debate the contradiction you claim requires that we insert several years between verses 25 and 26. I presented a very easy way to reconcile the problem you raised (without inserting years) regarding Paul's travels to Jerusalem and how he met there. Maybe some day we can revisit that discussion.

Anyhow, have a good weekend. I am not sure if I will have a chance to reply until Monday.

DagoodS said...

Crap, Dennis.

I wrote out an extensive reply to your long post, and I thought I had posted it. Seems to have gone missing. Grrr. I will try and re-work it this weekend.

Oh. I never stated that Paul started a church in Galilee. Re-read it.

DagoodS said...

Dennis: Likewise, historical records aren't accepted or rejected based on how probable the events are.

That is quite true. We look at when the record is written, who wrote it, their proximity and ability to observe the events recorded, their sources, the bias and ability to observe of their sources, whether the author had a bias or was writing to a particular audience, and whether the author considered contrary information or alternatives to the record proposed.

We have none of that with Luke/Acts. We only have a date range in which it could be written (depending on the scholar over 50 years), speculation as to who wrote it, at best the author’s proximity is measured in decades, we don’t know their source, other than Mark and something that Matthew also used, don’t know the bias of the author, no contrary information is provided nor do we know the intended audience.

In other words—we don’t have much more than reading the document itself and attempting to determine how probable the events are. We don’t have other documents recording the events of 15 men and some women, and how they moved from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Again, looking at the story. In Mark, Matthew and John, the disciples are left, post-resurrection, exactly where we would anticipate them being—home. Returning after their stay in Jerusalem. There is no indication, no implication in the Gospels that Jesus intended the trip to Jerusalem to be an entire move.

We have Luke the sole gospel that starts to distance itself from Galilee. Mark, the first historian, records that the angel at the tomb says, “Go to Galilee.” Matthew, copying Mark, faithfully records the angel saying, “Go to Galilee” and, also being faithful, trots the disciples off to Galilee.

Luke wants them back in Jerusalem. Seems odd to have the angel say, “Go to Galilee” and they stay in Jerusalem. So Luke tweaks what the angel says to “Remember what Jesus said to you in Galilee?” A bit of a mumble to include the word “Galilee” but subtly change the meaning of the sentence.

What source does Luke have for this new information of what the angel said? Matthew certainly had no such source. Mark didn’t either. If you are claiming that Luke is a reliable historian—what is his source (since he wasn’t there, of course) for this modification or new quote from Jesus that everyone else missed!

In reality, we have complications, such as looking for a restroom on a deserted highway for a desperate ten-year old. Going to five stores to find shoes that fit. Sending out 100’s of resumes to find a job.

Unless it is integral to the story, we don’t see that in books, plays and Movies. How boring to watch someone send out letters. Or look for bathrooms. In T.V. we have the person go to the big city and get the funny job right away. Moves the story along. We don’t slow it down with a person going to the bathroom, or watching them drive for 15 minutes. It is why in the sitcom Friends six relatively unemployed people can live in luxurious New York Apartments. Because the story needs it—they just have them.

Here we have 15 men and some women all living in one room. How did they go to the bathroom? Who slept where? How did they eat? Who paid for food? What did they do with their day?

“40 days pass.” In a story, that statement can be readily made and then we move on to make the story progress. In reality, we have 40 days of income from—where? 40 days of sleeping—how? 40 days of doing—what?

What I am looking for is to see if a Christian can break out of the box of “It says it happened—so it happened” and to actually contemplate the reality of the situation, in comparison to the other books we have, and perhaps pause to think, “Does this sound more like history or a story?”

Your garage/computer example was excellent. In a story, the person invents a computer-thingy, takes it to a metropolis to sell, meets a romantic interest, tension is introduced by a villain attempting to steal it, but in the end the “big corporation” buys it, our hero gets love, money and fame. The end.

In reality, some guy works out of his garage, because that is the best he has to work with, and slowly develops sales through his own personal contracts. Reality is so much un-storylike.

What does Luke portray? Jesus invents a Messiah-thingy, takes it to the metropolis to sell, tension is introduced by competitive religious leaders, but in the end the people buy it, and our heroes get money and fame. Classic Hollywood formula, frankly.

Dennis: I am directing my statements to an atheist who is making the argument that Galilee made a better place than Jerusalem to start the post-resurrection ministry thus we should suspect that the gospels are not factual.

Whoops. Apparently I have not made myself clear. I am most certainly NOT arguing that Galilee makes a ”better” place to start the ministry. Not at all. Rather, that is it the more ”likely” place, given the place of Jesus’ ministry, the roots of the persons starting the ministry and most importantly—the only other records you consider history of the events—Mark, Matthew and John.

If the author of Acts recorded that a few moved to Jerusalem. Or over a period of time they all eventually moved to Jerusalem, this makes it more likely. But to have everybody move overnight stretches credibility too much. And the fact the author appears to be removing Galilee from the picture makes it even more suspect. (Generally I agree with you that number of words in a book is not “impressive” as an argument. However, when the place of Galilee is intimately woven throughout the entire tale of Jesus and his Disciples, and then dropped to almost negligible, this certainly raises suspicion.)

Let’s look at your three defenses as to Jerusalem over Galilee: Numbers, discouragement and charitable donations.

Numbers. You indicate that one of the reasons for picking Jerusalem is to provide more numbers in a growing endeavor. As I have sat through numerous pastors over the years, they have often indicated that it is not the number of people in the congregation that demonstrate the depth of a church, but the fruit of the people within.

Apparently you disagree. You seem to feel that the more numbers in the church the better. Hence, a larger gene pool to pick from.

If Jesus was SO interested in numbers, I have a suggestion--appear to more people Post-Resurrection! Shoot, Peter only got 3000 at his first sermon. Jesus was the type of fellow that drew 10,000. And that in Galilee. (A place you seem to think can’t get quite the numbers a Jerusalem can.)

Jesus was such a controversial character at that point, according to the gospels his trial and proposed execution drew such a tumultuous crowd that the Roman leader had to capitulate for fear of rioting three days before. A week before he had a crowd out side Jerusalem throwing down palm leaves.

Appearing in the Temple the next Sabbath would have drawn a crowd! That is, if Jesus was so interested in numbers.

But what do we have instead? Jesus appearing to only a very intimate few. And no persons that would be skeptical. What a curious way to act, if Jesus was so interested in numbers.

Further, as you pointed out, the disciples are alleged to be doing miracles themselves. Miracles that drew a crowd from the surrounding area. Acts 5:16 If Peter could heal people simply by walking by on a sunny day, and his shadow fell on them, do you really hold that they would go to Jerusalem for this, but not bother to travel “all the way” to Galilee for it? They did for Jesus, why not for Peter?

As for the Gentiles, this was a missionary effort. They went out and preached to the gentiles. Whether their base was in Jerusalem, Galilee or Cairo made no difference. The Christians were going to them.

If Jesus was so interested in numbers he would have appeared to more people. If Jesus was so interested in Gentile numbers, he would have told them to go to Rome.

Discouragement Frankly, I am tempted to let you have this one. It is so destructive to a major argument for Christianity that it is in my best interest to concede it! You have lost the forest for the trees.

One argument presented for the viability of Christianity is that the disciples were timid, scared, back-stabbing fisherman from a rural area. “Something” happened and they became bold, dynamic preachers that were willing to die, based upon a change in belief. Most Christians argue that “something” was the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus.

But this argument takes all the teeth away from it. No, it was NOT the post-resurrection appearance, but rather the fact that they had no jobs, no income, and had cut all ties from family, kin, and home. This claims they become emboldened by hunger. The “something” that happened was the same “something” that makes many people rise to the occasion—humanity’s intuitive sense of survival.

We read stories of people that actually resort to cannibalism to survive. That perform acts repulsive in normal society, but to live, people will do just about anything.

In order for this argument to have any persuasiveness, it must be acknowledged that seeing Jesus post-resurrection was not enough. Even then, if they are tempted by fishing, they would re-engage their old lives. If the post-Resurrection appearance was enough to change them, discouragement would not even be in the picture. If not, then how conclusive is it that they actually saw a Jesus?

Money This introduces a very dangerous concept. If the income of the disciples was dependent on charitable giving of the congregation, they would have a strong motivation to amass as large a congregation as possible.

This brings greed into play.

More: had already left those behind and had become used to living off the charity of other people.

Exactly! And if one is living off charity, one wants as large donor as possible. Meaning one needs a larger pool from which to derive funds. No sense going back to Galilee, that area has been tapped for the past year. Time for some new blood.

Again, this is an argument I am tempted to concede. This removes the disciples from changed men, to clever business men at best, con men at worst.

Changed men would have been concerned about friends/family regardless of finances. Greedy men would want to hit up as many as possible. Friend, family, foe or aquantence.

Further, it removes persecution because they were “right” but rather persecution because they were competition! How curious that not revealing how much one sold one’s land was a sin punishable by death! Acts 5:1-11. Verse 11 is especially revealing. Ananias does not provide ALL the money to Peter. Ananias is killed. What message of fear do you think that was sent through the “whole church.”?

Why was lying about money a sin punishable by death to God? Hmmm.

The most fascinating thing about these three claims (numbers, discouragement and money) is that these are the largest criticisms of the church by skeptics today. Many view Christianity as being SOLEY interested in getting the largest congregation possible, obtaining as much money as possible and disassociating itself from the world as much as possible.

What skeptics criticize as faults, this claim embraces as the very foundation of the church itself! A claim that from the inception, the church was interested in numbers, money and removing itself from those it considered “worldly.”

Has it been the same for 2000 years? Was their no difference from those who saw a post-resurrected God, as today? Is this the message you are sending in order to convince skeptics?

It seems to me you are viewing the early church through modern eyes. The problems of the first church seem to the same as today. Not as if these are people that actually walked with Jesus. Not as if these are people that could heal, raise the dead, handle snakes, and have visions of God. Nope, just ordinary people with the ordinary problems of staring a new church.

A few random points:

More: What I struggle with is the church accepting Luke's writings and not questioning it if it contradicted their own traditions regarding the beginning of the church. If you walked into a church that was 60 years old and told them, "Here, I found these documents buried in the lot out back that explain how this church was started" I doubt they would accept them if they contradicted their own beliefs of the church's beginning.

I do not understand the scenario you are proposing. I fear I have been unclear as to my position in some way, as this does not encompass what I am saying. Can you help me out by stating what YOU think I am claiming here? That may help me clarify.

More: I know from a past discussion that you claim historians from that era frequently did this to record history as they believed it happened, but I have done some looking around and can not find any historians who hold this view.

Here is as good a place as any to start. Notice the article states: “Josephus needs no apology for these inventions and embellishments since practically all the historians of antiquity did such things.”

I am a bit surprised you could not find any historians that hold that view. Where did you look when you were “looking around”?

More: How can anybody claim to know with certainty what the original manuscripts were written in?

This really bothered me. I don’t mind the give-and-take on some such thing as the names of the disciples, or how one book contradicts the other. Archeology, history and study is not going to provide much insight on who lived in Jerusalem and who lived in Galilee. So I understand why there is disagreement in this regard.

We do not have much to work with.

However, Dennis, you seem to be caught in some world of “If the skeptic says it; I MUST disagree with it.” I often encounter other people like that in my profession. They have this mental block that if I am trying to put it in evidence, it must be good for my case, therefore they must do everything they can to keep it from coming in.

A common mistake of losing the forest for the trees.

Again, I don’t mind this too much. Comes with the territory, and if I say it, I should support it or modify my position. Even to the point of supporting every word.

But this is different than inerrancy. This is not some tussle over what the Gospel of John says as compared to some other Gospel. This is not some “proposed resolution.” This is an area of study and facts.

This time you cannot toss off a “how can anybody claim with certainty…?” To even do so displays a level of non-study that is extremely discouraging.

The oldest dated papyrus are in Koine Greek. The oldest uncials are in Greek. The oldest manuscripts are in Greek. Matthew copied Mark verbatim in Greek. Not translated Aramaic. Luke copied Mark verbatim in Greek. Not translated Aramaic.

Paul’s writing follows a form and style of Greek. As does Mark and Luke. The authors quote from the Greek translation of the Tanakh as well as the Masoric Text. We tell the difference because of the Greek.

I am aware of an individual that holds to the original gospel, Matthew being written in Aramaic, but even he states that Mark and Luke were copied from the Greek translation of Matthew. (If I recall correctly, it has been some time since reading him.) I am unaware of any peer-reviewed articles, though, claiming some Aramaic origin.

2 Peter copies Jude. We can tell this because of…the Greek. 2 Peter was not written by the same person as 1 Peter. We can tell this because of…the Greek.

Understand these are the positions of conservative Biblical scholars. Not some liberal fringe group. Not (solely) the Jesus Seminar.

Dennis, if you are going to take on skeptics, I recommend some research. Read some on textual criticism. Read some on how the Bible was manufactured. It should not make an ounce of difference in your spiritual belief as to how the Bible was physically written. You agree it was—study how!

Again, I enjoy our discussions, but this toss off of “how can anybody claim...” reveals a lack of study that cuts into your credibility. This is your divine book—you should know MORE than me.

Dennis said...

I wrote out an extensive reply to your long post, and I thought I had posted it. Seems to have gone missing. Grrr. I will try and re-work it this weekend.

I understand the frustration as that has happened to me too.

Oh. I never stated that Paul started a church in Galilee. Re-read it.

I did re-read it. Several times. Please tell me what is being implied by your statement:

Finally, Paul becomes a Christian, and begins contending with Hellenists. It is only after Paul is converted, and begins his missionary work, that we finally learn of churches in Galilee. (Acts 9:31) Paul is more interested in converting the disciples’ family than the disciples were![emphasis added]

Aren't you implying that the church in Galilee was started as a result of Paul's missionary work?

That is quite true. We look at when the record is written, who wrote it, their proximity and ability to observe the events recorded, their sources, the bias and ability to observe of their sources, whether the author had a bias or was writing to a particular audience, and whether the author considered contrary information or alternatives to the record proposed.

I am surprised that you are agreeing with me that the probability of an event happening doesn't prove anything. I am surprised because you frequently use the probability argument to support your views.

If you believe Luke/Acts should be rejected as historical documents for all the other reasons listed, then just say so. Your original post implies that you are using the improbability of Jesus asking the disciples to relocate to Jerusalem as a reason to reject Luke/Acts as history. If you agree with me that history isn't decided on probabilities, then why the original post?

In reality, we have complications, such as looking for a restroom on a deserted highway for a desperate ten-year old. Going to five stores to find shoes that fit. Sending out 100’s of resumes to find a job.

So what you are saying is that the authors of the gospels should have spent less time on the theological stuff, like the encounter with Nicodemous, and spent more time on complications like how the disciples treated the calluses on their feet?

Unless it is integral to the story, we don’t see that in books, plays and Movies. How boring to watch someone send out letters. Or look for bathrooms. In T.V. we have the person go to the big city and get the funny job right away. Moves the story along. We don’t slow it down with a person going to the bathroom, or watching them drive for 15 minutes. It is why in the sitcom Friends six relatively unemployed people can live in luxurious New York Apartments. Because the story needs it—they just have them.

There's another reason we don't see that in book/plays/movies. Because unnecessary details adds length without adding a lot of value.

Even movies based on true stories will skip details and things you call "complications".

If the author of Acts recorded that a few moved to Jerusalem. Or over a period of time they all eventually moved to Jerusalem, this makes it more likely. But to have everybody move overnight stretches credibility too much. And the fact the author appears to be removing Galilee from the picture makes it even more suspect. (Generally I agree with you that number of words in a book is not “impressive” as an argument. However, when the place of Galilee is intimately woven throughout the entire tale of Jesus and his Disciples, and then dropped to almost negligible, this certainly raises suspicion.)

I'll ask one more time. Where does Acts record that every disciple moved overnight to Jerusalem? What makes you think that every disciple went? I am not arguing for these points. I am just pointing out that you appear to be constructing a straw man argument.

The lack of importance of Galilee in the book of Acts doesn't raise suspicion when you understand the purpose and theme of each book. The events of Acts didn't take place in Galilee.

Let’s look at your three defenses as to Jerusalem over Galilee: Numbers, discouragement and charitable donations.

For the sake of brevity and since your original argument isn't that Galilee made a better starting point, I will drop out of the discussion over why I consider Jerusalem to be a better starting point.

More: had already left those behind and had become used to living off the charity of other people.

Exactly! And if one is living off charity, one wants as large donor as possible. Meaning one needs a larger pool from which to derive funds. No sense going back to Galilee, that area has been tapped for the past year. Time for some new blood.


Once again, we see you flip-flopping from your original post. Your original post relied heavily on your assumption that the disciples had homes and jobs in Galilee.

This brings greed into play.

The greed argument can be used regardless of where the disciples went after the resurrection so I don't see any point in responding to your points. Just to be clear (because you are misapplying my argument), I did not say money was a reason to have the disciples move to Jerusalem. I simply pointed out that the disciples already lived a life off the charity of others and this detail negates your argument that having the disciples leave their home was a problem for where they derived income.

I will also add that I believe the disciples could have had a better life (from a materialistic standpoint) going back to their previous careers. Especially Matthew yet we see him with the disciples in Jerusalem. If Matthew was motivated by greed he would have never left his job as a tax collector.

Further, it removes persecution because they were “right” but rather persecution because they were competition! How curious that not revealing how much one sold one’s land was a sin punishable by death! Acts 5:1-11. Verse 11 is especially revealing. Ananias does not provide ALL the money to Peter. Ananias is killed. What message of fear do you think that was sent through the “whole church.”?

You do understand that pointing out these verses further erodes your argument that the disciples would have needed jobs to sustain themselves in Jerusalem?

Maybe instead of trying to veer this discussion away to something else, you could explain to me what you feel the disciples needed a source of income while they were staying in Jerusalem?

The most fascinating thing about these three claims (numbers, discouragement and money) is that these are the largest criticisms of the church by skeptics today. Many view Christianity as being SOLEY interested in getting the largest congregation possible, obtaining as much money as possible and disassociating itself from the world as much as possible.

Your argument of greed is true in a lot of areas but I can give you countless examples of people involved in full time ministry that would do much better financially if they just quit and took jobs. I can give you countless example of where making converts does not help out from a financial standpoint.

This time you cannot toss off a “how can anybody claim with certainty…?” To even do so displays a level of non-study that is extremely discouraging.

Can you answer the question?

The oldest dated papyrus are in Koine Greek. The oldest uncials are in Greek. The oldest manuscripts are in Greek. Matthew copied Mark verbatim in Greek. Not translated Aramaic. Luke copied Mark verbatim in Greek. Not translated Aramaic.

How does the fact that the oldest sources are in Greek prove anything? Could Mark have copied a Greek translation of Matthew?

I agree that most conservative scholars agree that the entire NT was originally written in Greek. This is their assumption from looking at the available evidence, not an established fact. I am simply pointing out that you made an argument based on an assumption from the best information we have (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Paul’s writing follows a form and style of Greek.

And why wouldn't it. Think about who the intended audience is.

As does Mark and Luke

Again, if you understand the intended audiences, then an original Greek Mark or Luke doesn't present a problem.

Dennis said...

How does the fact that the oldest sources are in Greek prove anything? Could Mark have copied a Greek translation of Matthew?

After rereading my last post, I can see that I am still blotching this argument.

Let me readdress your original point:

5) The books claimed to be written by Matthew (Galilean), John (Galilean) 1 & 2 Peter (Galilean) and Jude (Galilean) were ALL in Greek and not Aramaic.

Do you believe this suggests the authors of these books weren't Jews who didn't know Aramaic?

DagoodS said...

A few quick points, Dennis—hopefully to clear up the remaining stragglers.

Paul and the church in Galilee

I consider “starting a church” and “performing missionary work” differently. You seem to consider both to be the same. Sorry for the confusion.

I find it interesting that there is mention of the disciples traveling to Samaria to visit new churches, but not Galilee. That churches of locations are listed—but none in Galilee. Only after Paul comes back to Jerusalem as a Christian do we first hear mention of the church spreading to Galilee.

In the world of “It doesn’t say it so therefore we can fill in the blank with whatever we want” one could arguably fill in the blank that Paul was more concerned about converting people in Israel, including the region of Galilee, than the disciples were. Hence the problem with “fill in what we want.” It should have some support, and reason why we are filling in with that solution.

Why wasn’t Galilee mentioned prior to Paul? And one can toss that off with “it was not important, so it just wasn’t.” Again, I am always looking to see if a person can look deeper than just “it says it, so it must have happened.”

Luke as a historian

I certainly hold that Luke can be rejected as a historian for a variety of reasons. I did not include all of those reasons in this blog entry simply because I find them boring. They are well-argued elsewhere 100 times over, and 100 times over again.

Given what little information we have about the author, time, place and source, all we are left with is probability of what is claimed happened. I was focusing on one minor instance.

I do use the improbability of this story as part of the reason to further reject Luke as a historian. The rest of the reasons are easily discovered through research that is readily available. This was an area that is not touched on much.

You do raise a good point, though, that I may need to re-think my presentation. See, Dennis, I figure most people reading this blog know all about things such as the Synoptic Problem, Luke’s use of Josephus, the Luke/Tacitus/Josephus connection, Luke’s knowledge of the Pastorals (or vice versa), the issue of the Pharisees as compared to the Sadducees, Luke’s positive treatment of the Pharisees, the census issue, etc.

I am looking to write something different. Given that background, I like to add a twist that perhaps others had not contemplated before. Rather than the standard, “Let’s argue about Luke using Mark and Q as his source,” I take it for granted that people already know that debate, and the arguments for the various resolutions. They can find it elsewhere from about every position feasible.

Am I wrong? Do I need to include more information? Looking for insight here…

Disciples moving to Jerusalem overnight

Sorry ‘bout that. I had included the verses in my original reply that I lost. Here you go:

Luke 13:22. Luke 17:11. Luke 18:31. Luke 19:28. Luke 24:29. Acts 1:4. Luke 24:52. Acts 1:12. Acts 1:13-14. Acts 8:1.

What disciples are you proposing that either stopped following Jesus, or did not obey him by staying in Jerusalem, but then returned by Acts 1:13-14?

Original Greek

Hmmm. Is that where this conversation is going? Do we (you and I) drive our heels in and refuse to give ground?

“How can anybody claim to know with certainty what the original manuscripts were written in?”

Dennis, how many viable alternatives ARE there? It wasn’t written in French, English or German! At best you have Koine Greek, Hebrew, Latin or Aramaic.

You may realize that scholars determined the originals were written in Greek, but do you realize why they do? How much study in textual criticism have you done?

We know with certainty because a proposal of any other language is completely unsupported, introduces extreme difficulties, and is totally unnecessary.

Dennis said...

Why wasn’t Galilee mentioned prior to Paul? And one can toss that off with “it was not important, so it just wasn’t.” Again, I am always looking to see if a person can look deeper than just “it says it, so it must have happened.”

Are we back to square one? I thought we were both in agreement that there was nothing in the book of Acts to suggest Paul had started the church in Galilee. Yet you keep making statements that seem to infer that you think there is some significance to the fact that Galilee is not mentioned until after Paul's conversion.

Let's be clear. Just because Event A precedes Event B does not mean that there is a cause and effect between the two events. For example, if I were to tell you that last night I arrived home for work and my wife had told me that my son had done well on his math test, we could not draw the conclusion that my drive home caused my son to do well on his math test.

Likewise, just because the author of Acts records Paul's conversion and trip to Jerusalem before making the statement that the church in Galilee enjoyed a time of peace, we can not connect the two events.

This logic seems so simple that it would seem that we are just having a communication problem, but you keep making statements that tie Paul to the church in Galilee.

I am looking to write something different. Given that background, I like to add a twist that perhaps others had not contemplated before. Rather than the standard, “Let’s argue about Luke using Mark and Q as his source,” I take it for granted that people already know that debate, and the arguments for the various resolutions. They can find it elsewhere from about every position feasible.

Am I wrong? Do I need to include more information? Looking for insight here…


My point is that an argument should be able to stand on its own. If it can't, then it must be a weak argument.

Let me flip the table and see if this perspective helps…

Let's say you walk into a forum and see a post from a creationist that argues "abiogensis didn't happen because it is so improbable". You would be right in pointing out the weakness of the argument in that improbable events happen all the time. How would you respond if the creationist then bolstered his argument by saying that he had a toolbox of other arguments against abiogenesis. Would that matter to you? No! Because the creationist's argument involving probability should be analyzes to determine if it is strong enough to stand on it's own.

Likewise, I really don't care if you have a toolbox of other arguments to discredit Luke/Acts. My position is that stating "something probably didn't happen because it seems unlikely" is a weak argument. Even if you have a stronger argument that points to the same conclusion as your weaker argument, you still have nothing but a weak argument. Put a bunch of weak arguments into a pile and you still have nothing but weak arguments.

Sorry ‘bout that. I had included the verses in my original reply that I lost. Here you go:

Luke 13:22. Luke 17:11. Luke 18:31. Luke 19:28. Luke 24:29. Acts 1:4. Luke 24:52. Acts 1:12. Acts 1:13-14. Acts 8:1.


I am not satisfied that these verses implied the disciples moved to Jerusalem overnight. I understand it is unlikely that they stayed and spent time starting a church but I see no reason to insist they had to abandon their homes with their dinner meal still on the table so that they could get to Jerusalem as quickly as they could.

What disciples are you proposing that either stopped following Jesus, or did not obey him by staying in Jerusalem, but then returned by Acts 1:13-14?

You mean which disciples, by name? I don't know if any stayed behind, but there were so many disciples that were not significant enough for mention that I see nothing in the text that implies every single one went to Jerusalem.

I will again point out that Paul was going to Damascus to persecute disciples. We at least know of a disciple named Ananias that was in Damascus. I see no reason to believe there weren't other disciples scattered in other cities including Galilee.

Hmmm. Is that where this conversation is going? Do we (you and I) drive our heels in and refuse to give ground?

I'll concede that my initial "How can anybody claim to know with certainty" response was a quick knee-jerk reaction and you were correct in pointing out the weakness of my response.

This still doesn't get you off the hook.

Why did you make the original argument that a Greek New Testament is evidence against the position that the church was started by disciples from Galilee? You don't think people from Galilee spoke Greek or that writing these books in Greek makes sense?

DagoodS said...

Dennis,

I intended my last comment to be…well…my last. However, you raise a few points that perhaps I can clear up. Perhaps not.

When I was referring to disciples moving overnight, I was referring to the 11, plus Mary, plus Jesus’ brothers, plus “the women.” There are other disciples. (120) Where they came from, and where they went I have little idea.

Disciples writing

We must be certain to review the events of the first century in light of the first century. Not our present one. The literacy rate in Palestine at that time was 3%. Of those, many were scribes to read the Torah which would entail literacy in Hebrew, not necessarily Greek.

The populace spoke Aramaic amongst themselves, but would have a working knowledge of Greek as the common language among others. The Galilean dialect of Aramaic was considered of lesser class. (Analogous to people in America who want to portray someone as being unintelligent, they often assume a “hillbilly” accent.) See Mark 14:70 as well.

Using 3%, if we had twelve disciples, Jesus, 4 brothers, Mary, Joseph and one other person—only one of them would be able to read/write. The only occupations we know are fishermen or laborer. Which reduces the chance of them being able to read/write more. Levi/Matthew is probable the best shot.

If they did write, it was most likely in either Aramaic or Hebrew. Levi/Matthew, as a tax collector of Jews would be more likely to know Aramaic then Greek.

Worse, if you assign both 1 & 2 Peter to Peter, his Greek changes! 2 Peter is written in a poor Greek manner. Further, he is copying Jude from the Greek. Why would two people who know each other and speak in Aramaic, copy each other in Greek?

Weak Arguments

Your example about abiogenesis was excellent.

Assuming the statement “abiogenesis didn’t happen because it is so improbable” is a weak argument. (I presume you meant “natural abiogenesis” as we ALL agree that abiogenesis happened. “How?” is the issue.)

But what is the counter-argument? That a super-natural entity did it? Is that more “probable”? The argument is based upon statistical odds. Given the scientific parameters we are familiar with—what are the chances the necessary steps occur to derive life from non-life? Say 1 in 10 to the billionth millionth power. Some astronomical number.

Now—what are the statistical odds that a supernatural entity did it? Incalculable. We have no statistical information by which we can develop a model to create the odds! Think about it—we can give the statistical odds, based upon research as to what the chances are you will eat cornflakes tomorrow.

Since God is removed from observation, we have no basis to determine what the odds are that God will eat cornflakes tomorrow. For all we know, God’s nature demands cornflakes every day, and therefore the odds are 1:1. For all we know, God cannot eat cornflakes, so the odds are “No Chance.”

No matter what statistical odds one wants to put on natural abiogenesis, it is impossible to compare to supernatural abiogenesis, because statistical odds require observation--an item that is deliberately removed from supernatural abiogenesis. The odds are always incalculable.

Question: What is a “weak argument” in which the response is an even weaker argument?
Answer: The better argument.

Dennis My position is that stating "something probably didn't happen because it seems unlikely" is a weak argument.

Sure. But here we are presented with a set of claimed facts. In light of the reality we know of the First Century Palestine, the accounts stated in the other Gospels—the question is whether it is more plausible this is a story, or actual history.

I laid out the factors as to why, on the scale of “more plausible” this would be treated as a story, rather than history. You replied with certain factors as to why it is possible this was history.

Even if it is a “weak” argument, that is not the question. The question is whether it is a “better” argument than what you presented in response.

Dennis said...

Since you are wanting to wrap up this discussion, I will make my last post too.

For my last post I will summarize the weaknesses of DagoodS original blog post with mentions of areas that he failed to adequately addresses.

So let's beat this dead horse one last time…

Weakness #1: Strawman argument. All disciples moved to Jerusalem together in one group and within one month of the post resurrection appearance.

Many times DagoodS talked about how the disciples moved "overnight" to Jerusalem in one large group. I asked several times for references to the passages where he was deriving this information. The best he could provide were verses that did nothing more than make reference to the disciples going to Jerusalem. The Bible makes no reference to how long it took the disciples to congregate in Jerusalem or how they traveled there.

Weakness #2: Claim: The disciples had homes, jobs, roots in one location and this would make a more likely base for them to start the church

It's true the most of the disciples were likely from Galilee, but this doesn't mean they were all neighbors. Galilee is 2000 square miles in size. "Home" for the disciples wasn't in one area. Even if Jesus would have asked the disciples to use one city in Galilee as their base, many disciples would still have had to move away from "home".

DagoodS also ignores that the Bible clearly shows the disciples had already abandoned their homes and careers to follow Jesus around Palestine. Yes, they had homes. Yes they had jobs they could go to, but during Jesus' ministry they were unemployed and living off the charity of others.

Weakness #3: Strawman argument: Peter was responsible for the church(es) in Galilee mentioned in Acts 9:31. It is more likely the disciples would have been responsible for the church in Galilee, where there homes were.

Anybody can read Acts chapter 9 and see that there is nothing to tie Paul to the church in Galilee. In fact, a straight reading of Acts 9 suggests Paul had yet to begin his missionary journeys before the church in Galilee is mentioned. Acts 9 records Paul being converted on the road to Damascus where he was planning to persecute disciples there. After his conversion, it is recorded that he spent some time in Damascus before fleeing and going to Jerusalem to meet the apostles. At that point, the author of Acts mentions how the church in Galilee then experienced a time of peace. More than likely, the church in Galilee was started by disciples. There were disciples in the city of Damascus so there is no reason to believe there weren't other disciples in other areas of Palestine.

Weakness #4: Strawman argument: The disciples were used to living off an income and having homes, thus they were not prepared or able to move to Jerusalem where they would have neither.

The disciples had already left their jobs and had been instructed by Jesus to leave everything behind and live off the charity of others while they traveled around Palestine with Jesus and then later on their own. Moving to Jerusalem would hardly present a challenge to them. Acts clearly shows that the early church pooled their resources and the disciples would have easily lived off this charity.

Another strawman argument made was the statement that disciples bought homes in Jerusalem. No where do I see a record that the disciples purchased their own homes.

Weakness #5: Resorting to making arguments from counting references to "Galilee" in Gospels and Acts and pointing out the disparity between the two.

We shouldn't be surprised that Galilee is mentioned a lot in the Gospels and then hardly in the book of Acts. If we accept church tradition of Luke being the author of Acts, then this should be expected. Luke was a Syrian. His "home" wasn't Galilee. He had no emotional attachment to Galilee and no reason to keep bringing it up. Also, the theme of Acts appears to be the beginning of the church in Jerusalem, the conversion of Paul, and the spread of the church to the Gentiles. Constant references to Galilee don't fit these themes.

Weakness #6: Claim: The Gospels were written in Greek and this is evidence against the traditionally viewed authors of those books.

Although DagoodS' knowledge of textual criticism is superior to mine, having knowledge doesn't always help you reach logical conclusions. Palestine was a part of the Roman Empire whose common language was Greek. The Bible records Jesus and the disciples having conversations with people who probably would not have know Aramaic. For example, when Jesus conversed with the Roman centurion, it is likely they spoke in Greek. Most of the intended audience of the Gospels spoke Greek. It's not unreasonable to assume the authors of the gospels knew Greek and had a good reason to write their books in Greek.

DagoodS argues that almost all the disciples were illiterate. We don't know this, but any illiterate person knows to get help when they need something written down.