CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Today, I decided to focus on a certain atheist that seems to take issue with the writings of several Christians on the internet. He has been banned from several sites (like Feser’s and Reppert’s, for example) for excessive trolling. You know him as Im Skeptical (also known as Skep, also known as IMS).

First up, I would like to focus on these posts:

The Skeptic Zone: Religionist Frothing at Mouth

Skeppo is responding to an article that Mikey (from Shadow to Light) did recently:

Shadow to Light: More on the Authoritarian Nature of New Atheism

Mikey is talking about a You Tube video that was made by a 17-year old atheist named Cosmic Skeptic, who had this to say:

I think the most important thing a parent can be in terms of religion and the upbringing of a child is secular. I don’t really care what you believe, as long as you let the children come to their own conclusions when they’re old enough.

Mikey brought up another “Gnu” (a term that atheists coined to call themselves, I think) named Travis (a previous commenter on his site) that believes the same thing. Then, he had this to say:

Look, I don’t share these authoritarian tendencies. For the record, I think atheist parents should be able to raise their children however they think best. If they want to teach their children atheism, send them to Camp Quest, and have them read Dawkins and Harris. It’s none of my business to tell them otherwise (even though the children will receive plenty of misinformation). I’m more of a live and let live type.

But this younger generation of Gnus, indoctrinated by Richard Dawkins’ ideology on these matters, have more of an authoritarian nature. They insist that religious people behave and talk as secular parents around their children. They insist that religious parents raise children by acting as if atheism was true.

In response, IMS basically claimed in his article that Secularism is religiously neutral, and that the USSR wasn’t secular (in the comments section of Mike’s entry, people took issue to that).

Next, there is this:

The Skeptic Zone: Children of a Lack of Objectivity

IMS took issue with this article:

Christian CADRE: Children of a Lack of God

Skep: Joe Hinman raises an issue that is worth considering. It is the question of how we can relate to something for which we have no familiarity and no experience. It may not be easy to understand something that you’ve never seen or never experienced. He (Joe Hinman asks this question):

Joe:How could someone born blind understand the difference in blue and green or yellow?

Skep: After calling atheists’ theorizing about religious belief “simplistic and totally wrong headed” and “shallow and senseless”, He sums it up this way:

Joe: Religion doesn’t exist because people tried to explain why it rains. It exists because people sense the numinous. They sense this aspect of something, the sublime, the spiritual, the nether regions but something that is special and beyond our understanding.

Skep: What Hinman wants us to think is that atheists have no understanding of Christians’ belief in God because they haven’t experienced it for themselves. Of course, this is the same old trope that we hear over and over again. And it’s just not true.

 Yesterday, Joe made a response to IMS on his site:

Metacrock's Blog: Children of a Lack of Reading Material

Here is Joe’s response to what Skep said above:

He assumes that there is nothing there to explain so therefore any human feeling is as good as another therefore he knows all about it. That is manifest nonsense. One of the major things that body of research I used in writing my book proves is that religious experience is not had by all humans and there is a huge difference in any old religious feeling and the kind we call “mystical”. That is the point of having an M scale in the first place because all experiences are not the same. Some atheists (small group) do have mystical experiences and the studies show that these atheists react to the experiences the same way that religious people do but they use different terminology, but they are the same experiences. I did write about this in my book. Some atheists do wind up converting to religious belief as did I.
Of course, in the comments section (of a site that he should be banned from), IMS still seems to dismiss it as pseudo-scientific hucksterism, but that’s what he does to anything that goes against his  hardcore materialist-atheist views.

 photo church_of_nativity_zps7syqbgzu.jpg
Church of nativity Bethlehem

Non Canonical Gospels (Lost Gospels)

Non canonical Gospels includes those we have in full such as G Peter and G Thomas and "lost Gospels" which tend to be theoretical such as Q or fragmentary such as Egerton 2. Of course a lot of what is found imn non canonical gospels is latter material from second an d third centuries and has less historical value for our purposes. But even in some late material there are traces of early readings, Of this early material we can't really know what reflects truth and what reflects drift from the truth of the events. One thing is certain when this kind of material agrees with the canonical gospels it increases the odds that the canonical gospels represent historical reality at leas in those matters of agreement,

Following I reproduce excerpts from a newspaper story about these lost gospels and non canonical gospels,

Story by Kay Albright, (785) 864-8858

University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Copyright 1997

LAWRENCE - Fragments of a fourth-century Egyptian manuscript contain a lost gospel dating from the first or second century, according to Paul Mirecki, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas.

Mirecki discovered the manuscript in the vast holdings of Berlin's Egyptian Museums in 1991. The book contains a rare "dialogue gospel" with conversations between Jesus and his disciples, shedding light on the origins of early Judaisms and Christianities.

The lost gospel, whose original title has not survived, has similarities to the Gospel of John and the most famous lost gospel, the gospel of Thomas, which was discovered in Egypt in 1945.

The newly discovered gospel is written in Coptic, the ancient Egyptian language using Greek letters. Mirecki said the gospel was probably the product of a Christian minority group called Gnostics, or "knowers."

Mirecki said the discussion between Jesus and his disciples probably takes place after the resurrection, since the text is in the same literary genre as other post-resurrection dialogues, though the condition of the manuscript makes the time element difficult to determine.

"This lost gospel presents us with more primary evidence that the origins of early Christianity were far more diverse than medieval church historians would tell us," Mirecki said. "Early orthodox histories denigrated and then banished from political memory the existence of these peaceful people and their sacred texts, of which this gospel is one."

Mirecki is editing the manuscript with Charles Hedrick, professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield. Both men independently studied the manuscript while working on similar projects in Berlin.

A chance encounter at a professional convention in 1995 in Philadelphia made both men realize that they were working on the same project. They decided to collaborate, and their book will be published this summer by Brill Publishers in the Netherlands.

The calfskin manuscript is damaged, and only 15 pages remain. Mirecki said it was probably the victim of an orthodox book burning in about the fifth century.[1]

The 34 Gospels

Charles W. Hendrick, professor who discovered the lost Gospel of the Savior tells us

Mirecki and I are not the first scholars to find a new ancient gospel. In fact scholars now have copies of 19 gospels (either complete, in fragments or in quotations), written in the first and second centuries A.D— nine of which were discovered in the 20th century. Two more are preserved, in part, in other andent writings, and we know the names of several others, but do not have copies of them. Clearly, Luke was not exaggerating when he wrote in his opening verse: "Many undertook to compile narratives [aboutJesus]" (Luke 1:1). Every one of these gospels was deemed true and sacred by at least some early Christians. [2]

These Gospels demonstrate a great diversity among the early Church, they  diminish the claims of an orthodox purity. On the other hand, they tell us more about the historical Jesus as well. One thing they all have in common is to that they show Jesus as a historical figure, working in public and conducting his teachings before people, not as a spirit being devoid of human life.Hendrick says,"Gospels-whether canonical or not- are collections of anecdotes from Jesus' public career."

Many of these lost Gospels pre date the canonical gospels, which puts them prior to AD 60 for Mark:


The Gospel of the Saviour, too. fits this description. Contrary' to popular opinion, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not included m the canon simply because they were the earliest gospels or because they were eyewitness accounts. Some non canonical gospels are dated roughly to the same period, and the canonical gospels and other early Christian accounts appear to rely on earlier reports.Thus, as far as the physical evidence is concerned, the canonical gospels do not take precedence over the noncanonical gospels. The fragments of John, Thomas and theEgerton Gospel share the distinction of being the earliest extant pieces of Christian writing known. And although the existing manuscript evidence for Thomas dates to the mid-second century, the scholars who first published the Greek fragments held open the possibility that it was actually composed in the first century, which would put it around the time John was composed.[3]

The unknown Gospel of Papyrus Egerton 2

The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 was discovered in Egypt in 1935 exiting in two different manuscripts. The original editors found that the handwriting was that of a type from the late first early second century. In 1946 Goro Mayeda published a dissertation which argues for the independence of the readings from the canonical tradition. This has been debated since then and continues to be debated. Recently John B. Daniels in his Clairmont Dissertation argued for the independence of the readings from canonical sources.[4] Daniels states "Egerton's Account of Jesus healing the leaper Plausibly represents a separate tradition which did not undergo Markan redaction...Compositional choices suggest that...[the author] did not make use of the Gospel of John in canonical form." (Daniels, abstract).[5]  The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 is remarkable still further in that it mixes Johannie language with Synoptic contexts and vice vers.[6]The Unknown Gospel preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

This is very significant because it indicates a reading independent of and therefore prior to Mark;s redaction,

Comparison of readings Egerton 2 and Mark

Egerton 2: "And behold a leper came to him and said "Master Jesus, wandering with lepers and eating with them in the inn, I therefore became a leper. If you will I shall be clean. Accordingly the Lord said to him "I will, be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.Mark 1:40: And the leper came to him and beseeching him said '[master?] if you will you can make me clean. And he stretched out his hands and touched him and said "I will be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.
Egerton 2: "tell us is it permitted to give to Kings what pertains to their rule? Tell us, should we give it? But Jesus knowing their intentions got angry and said "why do you call me teacher with your mouth and do not what I say"?Mark 12:13-15: Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or not? But knowing their hypocrisy he said to them "why do you put me to the test, show me the coin?"

This reading is from Koseter's book Ancient Christian Gospels [7]


"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....(Koester , 3.2 p.215)[8]

Gospel of Peter

Fragments of the Gospel of Peter were found in 1886 /87 in Akhimim, upper Egypt. These framents were from the 8th or 9th century. No other fragment was found for a long time until one turned up at Oxyrahynchus, which were written in 200 AD. Bishop Serapion of Antioch made the statement prior to 200 that a Gospel had been put forward in the name of Peter. This statement is preserved by Eusebius who places Serapion around 180. But the Akhimim fragment contains three periciopes. The Resurrection, to which the guards at the tomb are witnesses, the empty tomb, or which the women are witnesses, and an epiphany of Jesus appearing to Peter and the 12, which end the book abruptly.

Many features of the Gospel of Peter are clearly from secondary sources, that is reworked versions of the canonical story. These mainly consist of 1) exaggerated miracles; 2) anti-Jewish polemic.The cross follows Jesus out of the tomb, a voice from heaven says "did you preach the gospel to all?" The cross says "Yea." And Pilate is totally exonerated, the Jews are blamed for the crucifixion.[9] However, "there are other traces in the Gospel of Peter which demonstrate an old and independent tradition." The way the suffering of Jesus is described by the use of passages from the old Testament without quotation formulae is, in terms of the tradition, older than the explicit scriptural proof; it represents the oldest form of the passion of Jesus.[10] Jurgen Denker argues that the Gospel of Peter shares this tradition of OT quotation with the Canonicals but is not dependent upon them.[11] Koester writes, "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century![12]

Corosson's Cross Gospel is this material in the Gospel of Peter through which, with the canonical and other non-canonical Gospels Crosson constructs a whole text. According to the theory, the earliest of all written passion narratives is given in this material, is used by Mark, Luke, Matthew, and by John, and also Peter. Peter becomes a very important 5th witness.Koester may not be as famous as Crosson but he is just as expert and just as liberal. He takes issue with Crosson on three counts:

1) no extant text,its all coming form a late copy of Peter,

2) it assumes the literary composition of latter Gospels can be understood to relate to the compositions of earlier ones;

3) Koester believes that the account ends with the empty tomb and has independent sources for the epihanal material.


"A third problem regarding Crossan's hypotheses is related specifically to the formation of reports about Jesus' trial, suffering death, burial, and resurrection. The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite eary because it is one and the same account that was used by Mark (and subsequently Matthew and Luke) and John and as will be argued below by the Gospel of Peter. However except for the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from a single source, they are independent of one another. Each of the authors of the extant gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories from their own particular tradition, not form a common source....Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb. With respect to the stories of Jesus' appearances, each of the extant gospels of the canon used different traditions of epiphany stories which they appended to the one canon passion account. This also applies to the Gospel of Peter. There is no reason to assume that any of the epiphany stories at the end of the gospel derive from the same source on which the account of the passion is based."[13] 

So Koester differs from Crosson mainly in that he divides the epiphanies up into different sources. Another major distinction between the two is that Crosson finds the story of Jesus burial to be an interpolation from Mark to John. Koester argues that there is no evidence to understand this story as dependent upon Mark.[14]  Unfortunately we don't' have space to go through all of the fascinating analysis which leads Koester to his conclusions. Essentially he is comparing the placement of the pericopes and the dependence of one source upon another. What he finds is mutual use made by the canonical and Peter of a an older source that all of the barrow from, but Peter does not come by that material through the canonical, it is independent of them. That source is the Pre Mark Passion Narrative (PMPN)
"The Gospel of Peter, as a whole, is not dependent upon any of the canonical gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospel of Mark and John. All three writings, independently of each other, use older passion narrative which is based upon an exegetical tradition that was still alive when these gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access. All five gospels under consideration, Mark, John, and Peter, as well as Matthew and Luke, concluded their gospels with narratives of the appearances of Jesus on the basis of different epiphany stories that were told in different contexts. However, fragments of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised form the tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different literary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew." [15]

Also see my essay Have Gaurds, Will Aruge in which Jurgen Denker and Raymond Brown also agree about the indpeendent nature of GPete. Brown made his reputation proving the case, and pubulshes a huge chart in Death of the Messiah which shows the idendepnt nature and traces it line for line. Unfortunately I can't reproduce the chart.

What all of this means is, that there were independent traditions of the same stories, the same documents, used by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which were still alive and circulating even when these canonical gospels were written. They represent much older sources and the basic work which all of these others use, goes back to the middle of the first century. It definitely posited Jesus as a flesh and blood man, living in historical context with other humans, and dying on the cross in historical context with other humans, and raising from the dead in historical context, not in some ethereal realm or in outer space. He was not the airy fairy Gnostic redeemer of Doherty, but the living flesh and blood "Son of Man."

Moreover, since the breakdown of Ur gospel and epiphany sources (independent of each other) demands the logical necessity of still other sources, and since the other material described above amounts to the same thing, we can push the envelope even further and say that at the very latest there were independent gospel source circulating in the 40s, well within the life span of eye witnesses, which were based upon the assumption that Jesus was a flesh and blood man, that he had an historical existence. Note: all these "other Gospels" are not merely oriented around the same stories, events, or ideas, but basically they are oriented around the same sentences. There is very little actual new material in any of them, and no new stories. They all essentially assume the same sayings. There is some new material in Thomas, and others, but essentially they are all about the same things. Even the Gospel of Mary which creates a new setting, Mary discussing with the Apostles after Jesus has returned to heaven, but the words are basically patterned after the canonical. It is as though there is an original repository of the words and events and all other versions follow that repository. This repository is most logically explained as the original events! Jesus actual teachings!


[1]  Kay Albright,"KU PROFESSOR DISCOVERS LOST GOSPEL," (March 10, 1997
Research), on line This site is maintained by University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Copyright 1997, the University of Kansas Office of University Relations, Lawrence, KS, U.S.A. Images may be reused with notice of copyright, but not altered. KU news releases may be reprinted without permission. URL:  (accessed 10/23/16)

phone number listed for QA.bright (785) 864-8858

[2] Charles W. Hendrick, quoted in Bible Review, (June 2002), 20-31; 46-47

 professor who discovered the lost Gospel of the Savior tells us

[3] Ibid,
[4] John B. Daniels, The Egerton Gospel: It's place in Early Christianity, Dissertation Clairmont, CA 1990. Cited in  Helmutt Koester, History and Literature of Early Christianity,second Edition, New York, Berlin: Walter D. Gruyter, 186.

This is from a dissertation cited by major scholar Helmutt KIoester., so apparently Daniels did good work as a graduate student, Koester is New Testamemt Studies at Harvard.

[5] Ibid.
[6] Joachim Jeremias, "Unknown Sayings,An Unknown Gospel with Johannine Elements" in Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha vol 1. Westminster John Knox Press; Rev Sub edition (December 1, 1990,96.
[7] Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, London. Oxford, New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 2nd prt. edition, 1992, 
[8] Ibid .215
[9] Koester, 218).
[10] Philipp Vielhauer, Geschichte,Geschichte der Urchristlichen Literatur

einleitung in das Neue Testament, die Apokryphen und die Apostolischen Väter

 (1975) 646
Philip Vielhauer, History of The original Christian Literature: Introduction to thev New Testment, the Apocrypha, and the Apostolic Fathers. (cited by Koester)
[11] In Koester, 218
[12] Ibid, 218-220
[13] Ibid. 220
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid, 240
[16] William L. Petersen Titian's Diatessaron in Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, p. 424

The law of supply and demand is the bedrock principle of economics. Most often the idea is expressed as a simple function of price: When price decreases, supply decreases while demand increases. When price increases, supply increases while demand decreases. Common experience confirms what economists teach. Every worker wants a job that pays more, for example, so that supply of labor increases as wages increase; just as every consumer wants to pay less for tennis shoes, so that consumers buy more tennis shoes marked down than at regular price. One consequence of the law of supply and demand is that of shortage and surplus: When the price of a good exceeds the market-clearing price, a surplus results, and when the price is below the market-clearing price, a shortage results. Everyone wants the most bang for the buck.
The truth of all this holds not just for tangible goods, but for most anything imaginable that could potentially enhance human well-being. As economist Roger Arnold has noted,
[A] good is anything from which individuals receive utility or satisfaction. In everyday conversations, the word good usually applies to something tangible that is bought or sold in a market. But there are more goods in the world than just the tangible items sold in markets. Friendship and love are both goods, although neither is tangible and neither is bought and sold in a market...[1]
What about the Christian life, or as some have called it, "the good life"? Clearly a majority of people, in America at least, consider being a Christian somewhat valuable. With various levels of zeal we support Christian causes, read Christian books, attend Christian churches, defend Christian causes. Professing Christians are everywhere you look. At the same time, skeptics and critics point out that in behavioral terms Christians are scarcely distinguishable from anyone else: Indeed, statistically we are no less likely than anyone else to divorce, have children out of wedlock, get caught in a financial scandal, or commit a violent crime.
Why the inconsistency? Perhaps economics can provide further insight. If the church is experiencing non-stop numerical growth with little spiritual growth to show for it, the problem may have to do with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to contemptuously as "cheap grace." That is, the advertised price for following Christ is simply too low and consequently everyone wants in on the deal. But the Christian life is not cheap. It cost Jesus an agonizing death to provide us access to eternal life and communion with himself, the same Jesus who directed that each of his disciples would have to "take up his cross" in order to follow him. It should not surprise us, then, that Jesus compared the life of discipleship to a costly all-out war or an expensive long-term building project, and then urged us to "count the cost" before presuming to be his disciples: "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
On this point I believe the skepticism of our atheist friends may prove illustrative. Atheists are quite unwilling, after all, to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord, let alone as God incarnate. Now most often this aversion to faith is passed off as a strictly intellectual matter – Christian theism is incoherent, there is no evidence for it, and so forth – so that atheism is said to be more rational than Christianity. But the argument could be made that atheism is not so much intellectually but rather economically rational. That is, if genuine faith costs a person everything, atheism (often defined as simple "lack of belief") would be the rational outcome of simply refusing to pay such a high price for faith. From that perspective casual Christianity is no more, or less, rational than atheism. Supposing that there is no God makes as much sense as supposing that Christ places no demands upon us.

[1] Roger Arnold, Microeconomics, South-Western, 2001. At the moment I don't have access to my old college text from which I originally took this quotation, so I don't know the page number. But Arnold has made similar statements elsewhere.



Skeptics of the New Testament usually assume a long gap exists between the events in the gospels and the recording of the events in writing, They further tend to assume that the first source of writing about these events was the gospel of Mark. Thus they assume events were exaggerated and miracles were made up and so on during this gap period. In this essay I am going to dispel this myth by demonstrating that there were written records of the gospel events that existed before the writing of Marks gospel. I will further demonstrate that there were multiple sources transmitting the information. Mark's was not the first gospel written but merely the first of the canonical gospels to be written. None of the early works survive in MS form but we find traces of them in copies of latter works.

Traces of Gospel Material in Gap

The circulation of Gospel material can be shown in four areas: 

(1) Oral tradition 

(2) saying source Material 

(3) Non canonical Gospels 

(4) traces of pre Markan redaction (PMR) 

(canonical material that pre-date Mark, assumed the to be the first Gospel, also called Pre Mark Passion narrative PMPN). 

(1) Oral Tradition (in Two Major Sources)

Scholars have always recognized that the telling of the gospel stories began with the transmission of oral tradition. Of course the problem with oral tradition is that it'snot written, Once written it becomes written tradition. Yet the form of the oral transmission can cling to the writing, It is possible to identify sources of oral tradition even when written down. We see oral tradition reflected in the New Testament in two major sources:

(A) Pauline references to sayings 

The great scholar Edgar Goodspeed held that oral tradition was not haphazard rumor but tightly controlled process,and that all new converts were required to learn certain oral traditions and spit them back from memory: 

Our earliest Christian literature, the letters of Paul, gives us glimpses of the form in which the story of Jesus and his teaching first circulated. That form was evidently an oral tradition, not fluid but fixed, and evidently learned by all Christians when they entered the church. This is why Paul can say, "I myself received from the Lord the account that I passed on to you," I Cor. 11:23. The words "received, passed on" [1] reflect the practice of tradition—the handing-down from one to another of a fixed form of words. How congenial this would be to the Jewish mind a moment's reflection on the Tradition of the Elders will show. The Jews at this very time possessed in Hebrew, unwritten, the scribal interpretation of the Law and in Aramaic a Targum or translation of most or all of their Scriptures. It was a point of pride with them not to commit these to writing but to preserve them.[1]
In my essay :Community as author" I will deal with the validity of oral tradition At this point I give examples of the traces of oral tradition in Paul's writings: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 has long been understood as a formula saying like a creedal statement. 
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

1Cr 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

1Cr 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

1Cr 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

1Cr 15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

1Cr 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Two problems: (1) Doesn't conform to a canonical reading; (2) seems to contradict the order of appearances of the epiphanies (the post resurrection sightings in Gospels--in fact doesn't even mention the women, ). Nevertheless it is in general agreement with the resurrection story, and seems to indicate an oral tradition already in circulation by the AD 50s, and probably some time before that since it has had tome to be formed into a formulation statement. This is because Paul was writing in the 50s. These are clear references to events mentioned in the Gospels written decades before the Gospels were written,

Second major source o oral tradition: 

(B)The nature of pericopes 

Pericopes are little story units we find imn the Gospels like the good Samaritan. The nature of the pericopes themselves shows us that the synoptic gospels are made up of units of oral tradition. Many skpetics seem to think that Mark indented the story in the Gospel and that's the first time they came to exist. But no, Mark wrote down stories that the church had told for decades. Each unit or story is called a "pericope" (per-ic-o-pee). T?his is "A term used in Latin by Jerome for sections of scripture and taken over by Form Critics to designate a unit, or paragraph, of material, especially in the gospels, such as a single parable, or a single story of a miracle."[2] Terence C. Mournet tells us, "Dunn Suggests, during the course of his investigations, that the variation within the pericopes under examination is reflective of is reflective of their indebtedness to the oral transitioning process described by Bailey where traditions are changed (flexible) during their retelling but remain within the boundaries established by the communities." [3] There is room in oral form or a minor variations but along an agreed upon range, the rage is no doubt set by the first telling of the eye witnesses and what the community certain it originally heard. That range of agreement constitutes a control om the dissemination of information
On this basis Baultmann developed "form criticism" because the important aspect was the form the oral tradition too, weather parable, narration, or other oral form. 

(2) Saying Source Material

The saying source was the forerunner of the narrative Gospel. Church father Papias who studied with Apostle John said that Matthew first wrote his gospel as a list of Jesus' teachings in Hebrew,called The Loggia. There's hypothetical Q source, Gospel of Thomas,k Egerton 2 and others. Here I will focus just On Thomas, and deal with others in part II. We see traces of pre Mark redaction imn all of those I just mentioned (except Loggia we don't have a copy)..

A. Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas which was found in a Coptic version at Nag Hammadi, but also exists in another form in several Greek fragments, is a prime example of a saying source. The narratival elements are very minimal, amounting to things like "Jesus said" or "Mary asked him about this,and he said..." The Gospel is apt to be dismissed by conservatives and Evangelicals due to its Gnostic elements and lack of canonicity. While it is true that Thomas contains heavily Gnostic elements of the second century or latter, it also contains a core of sayings which are so close to Q sayings from the synoptics that some have proposed that it may be Q (see Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels).[4] There are 46 sayings that parallel Q sayings in Thomas. This is what I call the orthodox core of the book.[5]

Be that as it may, there is good evidence that the material in Thomas comes from an independent tradition,t hat it is not merely copied out of the synoptics but represents a PMR.  Through Statistical Correlation Analysis of Thomas and the Synoptic, Steven Davies argues that the Gospel of Thomas is independent of the canonical gospels on account of differences in order of the sayings. [6] Lisa Haygood of Fullerton states "serious probability exists that Thomas preserves an older tradition of the historical Jesus than that of the synoptic Gospels." [7]  Stephen J. Patterson compares the wording of each saying in Thomas to its synoptic counterpart with the conclusion that Thomas represents an autonomous stream of tradition:

If Thomas were dependent upon the synoptic gospels, it would be possible to detect in the case of every Thomas-synoptic parallel the same tradition-historical development behind both the Thomas version of the saying and one or more of the synoptic versions. That is, Thomas' author/editor, in taking up the synoptic version, would have inherited all of the accumulated tradition-historical baggage owned by the synoptic text, and then added to it his or her own redactional twist. In the following texts this is not the case. Rather than reflecting the same tradition-historical development that stands behind their synoptic counterparts, these Thomas sayings seem to be the product of a tradition-history which, though exhibiting the same tendencies operative within the synoptic tradition, is in its own specific details quite unique. This means, of course, that these sayings are not dependent upon their synoptic counterparts, but rather derive from a parallel and separate tradition.[8]

There are several other non canonical Gospels perhaps the most important for apologetic is Gospel of Peter and I will deal with thyiat and others in part II.

B. evidence of saying source in Pauline references 

Koster theorizes that Paul probably had a saying source like that of Q available to him. Paul's use of Jesus' teachings indicates that he probably worked from his own saying source which contained at least aspects of Q. That indicates wide connection with the Jerusalem chruch and the proto "Orthodox" faith. 

Parable of Sower1 Corinthians 3:6Matt.
Stumbling StoneRomans 9: 33Jer 8:14/Synoptics
Ruling against divorce1 cor 7:10Mark 10:11
Support for Apostles1 Cor 9:14Q /Luke 10:7
Institution of Lord's Supper1 Cor 11:23-26Mark 14
command concerning prophets1Cor 14:37Synoptic
Apocalyptic saying1 Thes. 4:1521
Blessing of the PersecutedRomans 12:14Q/Luke 6:27
Not repaying evil with evilRomans 12:17 and I Thes 5:15Mark 12:12-17
Paying Taxes to authoritiesRomans 13:7Mark 9:42
No Stumbling BlockRomans 14:13Mark 9:42
Nothing is uncleanRomans 14:14Mark 7:15
Thief in the Night1 Thes 5:2Q/ Luke 12:39
Peace among yourselves1 ThesMark 9:50
Have peace with EveryoneRomans 12:18Mar 9:50
Do not judgeRomans 13: 10Q /Luke 6:37

These passages indicate that Paul knew versions off Jesus' teaching and Gospel stories two decades before Mark was written, What this means is the Gospel material was being transmitted in an era decades before the writing of Mark. This material also indicates oral tradition (as with the pericopes) we can assume this material goes back to era of the events themselves since we only abouit about 18 years between Crucifixion and Paul's early epistles


[1] Edgar J. GoodspeedAn Introduction to the New Testament, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937 

[2] "Pericope," Oxford Biblical Studies Online, Oxford University Press, 2016 online resource  (accessed 10/14/16)

[3] Terence C. Mournet, Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q..Tubingen,Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005, 98.
[4] Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: their /History and Development, Edinburgh:
 Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 2nd prt. edition, March 1, 1992.

[5] Mahlon H. Smith, "Gospel of Thomas," Synoptic Gospels Pro,er 1997, online resource  (accessed 10/14/16)

[6] Stevan L. Davies, The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated and Explained (Skylight Paths Pub 2002)

[7] Lisa Haygood,  "The Battle To Authenticate 'The Gospel of Thomas'," LUX: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research from Claremont Graduate University: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 6. Available at:

PDF  (accessed 10'/12/16)

[8]  Stephen J. Patterson ,The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, p. 18

Atheists can't relate to the reasons people have belief because they have not experienced God.* How could someone born blind understand the difference in blue and green or yellow? There are parts of the brain that seem to be hard wired to the God concept. Belief in God is part of even our biology, it's part who we are as a species, but atheists seem to be those who either don't have this sense developed, or who have found a way to "sublemate" so to speak, this sense and turn it off or direct it into something else. I think for many atheists science functions as religion in their lives.

It is probably impossible for me to explain to you how the power of God that I have experienced fits into the overall framework of my life and forms a coherent world view that for me makes sense of the world and blows away other alternatives. I can only give an inadequate thumbnail of the real picture.

(1) Atheists are always theorizing about why people are religious and in my view, it's always simplistic an totally wrong headed. For the most part they seem to think all belief is epistemological and believers are seeking "explanations of things." Not exactly the case, not in terms of physical phenomena.

(2) The experiences of presence and love and miracles combine with the intellectual aspects of the ground of understanding to form a coherent intellectual world view that is satisfying and interactive.

(3) The dimension of realization is like a sixth sense in that it supplies something that can't be communicated, either you see it or you don't. At that rate it seems pointless to mock something just because you can't understand it.

(4) Christian existentialist would say that the arguments are just hypothetical. The experiences pertain to life and really relate to meaning and mean something.

What all of this amounts to is that the atheist critique is shallow and senseless. Atheists can tell us just find why they don't belief. They can say the evidence is inadequate for them, and it is, because maybe they just don't have "it." But their attempts to locate everything in this shallow "religion is primitive failed science mentality just belies a lack of understanding.

Religion doesn't exist because people tried to explain why it rains. It exits because people sense the numinous. They sense this aspect of something, the sublime, the spiritual, the nether regions but something that is special and beyond our understanding.

So where does that leave us? Atheists are just stuck right? But it's not about demonstrating some truth through logic. It's about setting up a decision making paradigm that enables us to handle such questions. You are not going to do that with such a snide attitude, poisoning the well, and trying to explain things away. The privative failed science thing is an attempt to expansion religion away, in a dismissive fashion, rather than seeking to understand why it matters to people. They only seek that when they can use it as a pejorative.

The thing to do is to enter the inner logic of a belief system and try to understand their decision making paradigm.

*Some atheists a very small number have mystical experiences, I write about this in my book .The studies show that those who do relate to those experiences the same way believers do they use different terms,

In my personal You Tube inbox, a user by the name of TheDreamVista (a regular commenter on TektonTV) said that there was a response (on this atheist website aptly named The Church of Truth) to the article I left (from Metacrock’s DOXA) about gospel authorship. First, here is that link:

At the bottom of this page, there are comments. A person with the username Atheos wrote a long, rambling diatribe about Joe's article. One mistake he made stands out:

After the apostles, evangelists, and first few generations of Christians had died, there was a dialectic shift of seismic proportions as surviving Christians realized that the second coming of Jesus was not going to happen ‘suddenly’ during their lifetimes as they were taught to believe.

I have seen atheists do similar things before. Next, he challenges Joe’s belief about the gospels being written by eye-witnesses:

However, I have to challenge the basic assumption of the Doxa site that the gospels were written by a community of eye witnesses. How did a community in Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, Ephesus say, first learn about Jesus of Nazareth from a Jewish Jesus cult in Galilee? Evangelists preaching, like Paul or Apollos say? So the Antiochenes, Romans, Alexandrians, Ephesians and other communities heard the stories about Jesus from the evangelists, and retold them to others. Sometimes, not always, parts of the story would be changed to suit the occasion or emphasize a point. So were any of the eye witnesses from Jerusalem present to oversee each person telling the story of Jesus? No! They were in Jerusalem. So who of the eye witnesses was overseeing the oral tradition of transmission of the gospel story to ensure that the facts were correct in Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, Ephesus, Macedonia, etc? No one was.
He does make an interesting point, but he makes an absolute statement at the end that he really can’t make because he doesn’t have any evidence for it.

I also wanted to share what Glenn Miller of the Christian Think Tank had to say about this. Here is one of his articles that deal with apostolic authorship. It is a response to James Still, past president of the Internet Infidels (a very prestigious honor :)

At the top, Mr. President assumed that Miller believes that the apostles were the gospel authors, but Glenn doesn’t hold to that position.

Staying with the Christian Think Tank, another gospel controversy he dealt with had to do with the miracles of Jesus being invented by the disciples: 

In part of the article, Glenn wrote about Joseph Campbell (a guy that Metacrock has wrote about before). He wrote the book called The Hero With a Thousand Faces:

Campbell’s heroes (more mythic than epic, though) were so in the second half of their lives, and his suggested patterns (called ‘overgeneralized’ by Dean Miller in [WR:TEH]) are not confirmed by the data, either:

“Like Rank’s theory, Campbell’s can be faulted on various grounds. As with Rank’s theory, one might gran the pattern by deny the meaning. Or one might question the pattern itself. Since it obviously applies only to myths about heroes in the second half of life, it excludes all of Rank’s hero myths, or at least all of Rank’s portions of them. And, as noted, it partly excludes female heroes. Whether the pattern even fits Campbell’s own examples it is not easy to tell, for Campbell, unlike either Rank or Raglan, provides no set of hero myths to accompany the whole of his pattern"

It's not always easy to admit that you made a mistake, when you see it copied by others you can't let it go on. At this location on Doxa: [1] I quoted a news paper story that claims that the great Rabbi  Gamaliel (with whom Paul studied) wrote a parody of Matthew's Gospel that winds up in the Talmud. The story dated the work to 72 AD [2]which would have proven an early date for Matthew, (traditional date is 80 according to modern scholars for more a century now). The story doesn't parody the whole Gospels just a couple of passages. It's taking of on the phrase I have come not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. The Story about this Talmudic writing was by Neil Altman and published in the Kansas city star. I quoted it out of a publication called southcoast today,[3]

The problem is I knew better than to trust a non scholarly source, Altmann[4] works the religious beat and I still think there are good reporters who are worthy reporting but I knew I should have gotten the scholarly sources too, most of the time I never take such short cuts, I have a couple of times this is one of them and it did not pay off. Years went buy I finally got around to checking it out. Scholar sources tell me the problem is a mistake i can easily see a reporter making either purposely or not, There was a Parody of Matthew in the Talmiud and it was by Gamaliel, but Gamaliel II grandson of the great Gamaliel, also called Gamaliel of  Yavne[6] He lived in the 90s and the early part of the second century. He absolutely did do this parody and it is in the Talmud but it can't be used as proof of early Matthew because it was done at least as early as 95.[7]

Here is how the parody works. The Rabbi and his sister went before a Christian magistrate. The sister, Imma Shalom, brought a golden lamp. It doesn't say but my sense is the lamp was a bribe because it does say they bribed the judge, The reason they did this was to expose the judge as a taker or bribes because he was a Christian, The sister claimed she wanted to divide her father's estate the brother charged that Torah says where there is a son  the daughter has no inheritance. The judge said the law has been set aside it's no longer in vogue, The next day Gamaliel II brings a donkey and same thing the judge quotes Mathew I have not come to destroy the law but to "add to it." He says ad to, not fulfill.That is as the Rabbi writes it. He also said (Rabbi writes) "the bushel bearer knocks over the lamp." So quoting Matthew light under bushel  but rather than lighting the lamp he knocks it over destroying the law, This is what Gamaliel writes about situation with teh Judge which apparently was a real case,[8] The passage we see in this parody is Matt 5:14-17 starts with light of the world and ends with come not to destroy the law but to filfill. Between the golden lamp and the allusions to scripture this is the passage in question,

No more being content with second rate evidence, I usually don't do that and from now on I will only obtain best evidence or not make the argument. BTW there is a scholar who is used as evidence by Altman kin the original report: An essay written for the book Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times, Israel J. Yuval of Jerusalem's Hebrew University. That offered the promise of a scholarly source but I cannot get hold of it and there is every possibility that Yuval, who is a professor, meant Gamaliel II and Altman either assumed or just turned him into Gamaliel I. But eve so all is not lost. The passage is still useful evidence, 

The date would be most likely before 120 AD. That is about the time Doherty and other mythers assign to the roots of historical Jesus,Some even seeing composition of Gospels as latter, This puts the writing of the Gospels no latter than 80. This is because m Matthew would have to be well known and traveled  for Gamaliel II to be so familiar with it, and he could have written this as early as 90. It also increases the likelihood of Jesus imn the Talmud as him followers and the literature supporting life is alluded to in the Talmud.


[1] Metacrock, "Gospels: Matthew," Doxa Christian thought in the 21st century no date (8/7/16)

I will eventually have this taken out of the article.

[2] Gamaliel I 


Gamaliel the Elder (/ɡəˈmljəl/;[1] also spelled GamlielHebrew: רבן גמליאל הזקן; Greek: Γαμαλιὴλ ὁ Πρεσβύτερος) or Rabban Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the early 1st century AD. He was the son of Simeon ben Hillel, and grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder, and died twenty years before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 AD). He fathered a son, whom he called Simeon, after his father,[2] and a daughter, who married a priest named Simon ben Nathanael.[3] In some Christian traditions, he is said to have converted to Christianity and is venerated as a Saint along with his second son, Abibo (also Abibas, Abibus).

[3] This story appeared on Page A6 of The Standard-Times on April 19, 2003.

[4] Neil Altman
Neil Altman is a Philadelphia-based writer who specializes in the Dead Sea Scrolls and religion. He has done graduate work at Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, Conwell School of Theology, and Temple University. He has a master's degree in Old Testament from Wheaton Graduate School in Wheaton, Ill., and was an American Studies Fellow at Eastern College. David Crowder is an investigative reporter for the El Paso Times in Texas.

[6] Gamaliel II

Rabban Gamaliel II (also spelled GamlielHebrewרבן גמליאל דיבנה‎‎) was the first person to lead the Sanhedrin as Nasi after the fall of the second temple, which occurred in 70 CE. Gamliel was appointed nasi approximately 10 years later. Gamaliel II was the son of Shimon ben Gamaliel, one of Jerusalem's foremost men in the war against the Romans,[2] and grandson of Gamaliel I. To distinguish him from the latter he is also called Gamliel of Yavne

[7] Burton L. Visotzky, Fathers of The World: Rabbinic and Patristric Literatures. Tubingen: JCB Mohr, 1995, 81-82.

[8] Ibid. 82

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