Alter on The Resurrection: Take Two

I’m struggling to think of example of any domain wherein the participants are passionate about their work and the previous would not be true. Certainly evolution is one topic that could be substituted as per below:

An obvious obstacle is that most of the published texts about evolution are/were written by believers. In effect, the literature is stacked…

The problem, I believe, is that you are viewing this from the wrong perspective. It is not the credal statements or statements of faith for employment that are responsible for the literature that has stacked the deck. It is the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that has done so.


Thank you for contributing your insight to the discussion.

You wrote:

“I’m struggling to think of example of any domain wherein the participants are passionate about their work and the previous would not be true.”

Response: I definitely agree!

Thanks again for writing.

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So, if the literature is stacked in all cases, then does that mean that we should devalue the literature relative to one’s passion for the subject matter? So that only that which comes from the disassociated and unaffected should prevail? From your guest post linked above:

I’ve been talking about problems with how faith-based universities distort critical biblical scholarship for years now, due to doctrinal statements that their faculty are required to sign, which force them to adhere to predetermined conclusions that are friendly to Christian dogma.

Thanks for your participation here, as well. This is a very interesting discussion.

In volume 2 (currently being edited), I discuss this critical topic. As you stated [hitting the nail on the head]: “faith-based universities distort critical biblical scholarship for years now, due to doctrinal statements that their faculty are required to sign, which force them to adhere to predetermined conclusions that are friendly to Christian dogma.”

So what options are available to staff members of faith-based universities?

  1. Quit teaching at the institution?

  2. Remain a “closet”…professor?

Probably, other options do exist. But, this reality faces those who teach at faith-based universities. The required doctrinal statements that I pointed out [Liberty University, Biola, Houston University, etc are potential real detriments to “real” scholarly discussions, interaction, and advancement of our knowledge. However, occasionally some professors make that courageous stand and do, in effect, make the transition. Then too, one must be intellectually honest and admit that some atheists or skeptics have also changed their views and became “believers”… The important point is that people should be free to express their views without fear or intimidation. As Fox Mulder in X-Files would say, “The Truth Is Out There”… And, there is nothing wrong being an “HONEST SKEPTIC”…

In closing, thanking you for your kind words.

Hi Mike,
I read your linked article and I can sympathize with your concerns if I were in your shoes. That being said, I think it is unfair to paint the work of conservative Christian scholars as biased because of the doctrinal statements they have to sign, while Bart Ehrman’s is more “authoritative” because of his position teaching in a secular university. From what I know, Ehrman is a fine, highly respected and knowledgeable scholar, but he also has his own personal bias against Christianity due to his fundamentalist upbringing. This is why he has been accused by some Christians of, for example, exaggerating the extent of textual variants of the NT in his popular books.

Because of how highly consequential the subject matter is, I believe most scholars, no matter how knowledgeable or critical, bring some tangible bias onto the table. But this is not necessarily hopeless. Mike Licona, as you surely know, devotes an entire section on his personal biases (including the fact that he has to sign a doctrinal statement) in his doctoral thesis The Resurrection of Jesus (“Confessions”, section 1.3.7). He lays down the personal risks involved with him, including to his personal faith. Even if he is still hopelessly biased, he is transparent about it. More importantly, he lays out a clear methodology for how to judge hypotheses based on what other historians (not just conservative Christian ones) have used. This is something that Vincent has not done, and I’m not sure if you’ve done this in your full-length book.

Thank you for this recommendation. Indeed, I would say that the Sinfonia Concertante is my favorite cello concerto, even more than the Dvorak. It combines Prokofiev’s percussive and melodic sides so wonderfully. The lyrical melody in the second movement is (in my subjective opinion) one of the most beautiful of all time - so expressive and melancholic, yet so distinctively modern!


Great to hear from you!

In the preface to my text, and also, in the acknowledgment section, I attempted (hopefully I was successful) to explain how and why I researched and wrote the book The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry. In addition, there is my bio located on my homepage. So, hopefully, I too, have been transparent.

Insofar as his [Licona’s] methodology is concerned, he definitely carries on a healthy conversation [Ch. 6 Weighing the Evidence] with Gerza Vermes, Michael Goulder, Gerd Ludemann, John Dominic Crossan, and Pieter Craffert. But, let me mention:

  1. On page 468ff he discusses the Minimal Facts Approach = historical bed-core. Respectfully, in Volume 2, I demonstrate that this strategy is fallacious, and it is refuted.

  2. Licona pens: "Our approach will be to weigh hypotheses using only the historical bed-rock. This will serve to eliminate the weaker hypotheses.

  3. If the historical bed-rock is fallacious, so too, will be his conclusion.

  4. One weakness with Mike’s methodology is that he does NOT conjoin the strongest aspects of the five naturalistic hypotheses that he examines.

  5. By conjoining the strongest aspects of the five naturalistic hypotheses that he examines [employing McCullagh’s Best Evidences strategy = Scope, Power, Plausibility, Less Ad Hoc, and Illumination], it “could” be found superior to the "Resurrection Hypothesis [RO]. This topic is addressed in an issue in my Volume 2.

  6. The RH (p. 583]: “Following a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, Jesus appeared to a number of people, in individual and group settings and to friends and foes, in no less than an objective vision and perhaps within ordinary vision in his bodily raised corpse.”

  7. The entire foundation of this definition is based on the Gospel resurrection narratives, Acts 1, and 1 Cor 15: 1-19. If those accounts are false [as solid as quick-sand], so too is the RO. Of course, entire books, dissertation, journal articles, etc. have been written on this topic.

And, yes, Prokofiev is awesome. In my opinion, he does not receive the recognition that he deserves: lyrical violin concert #1 and his incredible 3rd piano concert, and I could go on. We were blessed with his musical output.

Take care


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I should also clarify @MJAlter, I’m not saying you should be ignored because you are an apologist with an agenda. I’m just objecting to you being portrayed as anything other than this. The issue is not how you present yourself, but how others have presented you.

Now that we have separated @vjtorley’s contributions from this thread, it will be a bit easier to engage with you on your own terms.

Could you explain something to me? Christianity began as a Jewish sect. Why is following the rabbi Jesus, now, the one thing that would make someone non-Jewish? I know it is considered offensive to even use the term “Messianic Jew,” because this term itself asserts that a Jewish person can follow Jesus. At the same time, there are atheist Jews, and reformed Jews, and many many more. Why does rejecting appear to be the fundamental sociological tenet of the full range of Judaism?

This is puzzling, and bears repeating. Why exactly is an atheist Jew to be included and tolerated, but not a “messianic Jew”?

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Thanks very much @MJAlter. I do appreciate your continuing the dialog, as there have been many questions and comments to address. I have, as you suggested, been thinking honestly and skeptically about what you have said. I’ve concluded that your issue is really an argument against the policy statements at Christian universities. You are suggesting that they cause harm by hampering the scope of the studies performed, research made and publications written by those who agree to and abide by them.

Organizational policies exist nearly everywhere, and they are in place for a reason. Nearly every organization has them and makes their employees sign them. They are made up of core values and practices that are highly valued by the organization, such that hiring and employing a person who stands against them would be detrimental to the organization. Prospective employees are free to sign them or to look for work elsewhere if they disagree with the policies presented by the organization (this is why you have been able to find these policies online and post them here; they are not hidden from view.) Once a person signs, it is assumed that they will abide by them, or that they will voluntarily end their employment if their philosophy changes such that it stands against these principles.

Operationally speaking, these policies are very important. They, in many cases, are a philosophical stance on a technical position. For example:

  1. A physicist on the space program interprets physics in some rogue way. The results of her calculations are used to help determine the direction and speed of a mission to Mars, but she rejects the understanding of certain physical laws and, instead, does things her own way. Many lives and billions of dollars are at risk, because, unbeknownst to the rest of the team, she’s not on the same page as they are.

  2. An engineer on a new construction project is building a bridge across a body of water. He secretly rejects the historical understanding regarding the tensile strength of reinforcing steel, considering the standards to be too conservative. While everyone else on the project expects him to follow them, he, instead, instructs the crews to use less rebar than is the norm. The bridge is built, but it is weaker and less flexible, and, potentially, a disaster involving the loss of life could occur.

If any employee is not in agreement with policy statements put into place by the employer, the employee is free to leave and that is what they should do. They should not be encouraged to violate the policies, nor should the policies themselves be attacked after the fact… The organization is situated for a purpose and the policies support that purpose. There is nothing wrong with the policies or this situation.

But further, you go on to suggest that the employees who abide by the standards to which they agreed are somehow less capable than those who are not operating under similar agreements. While it is technically true that the scope of conclusions has been somewhat limited by the agreement to the terms of the policy statements, this is only true for those who lack personal integrity. The reason is that everyone who agrees to the policy is stating that a) they agree now, and, b) if they decide that they disagree in the future, they will voluntarily end their employment and go work elsewhere. In either a or b, the person is not aligned with the organization and should not work there.

This, in reality, is no conundrum at all. Consider a similar case for the physicist or the engineer mentioned above. If their personal opinions about the standards to which they have agreed change, they, too, are obligated to disclose this to their employer. If the proposed standards are found to vary such that the organization and employee are not aligned, there may be no choice but to end their employment.

So, to a certain extent, it seems to me that you have taken up an issue that, in reality, is no issue at all. Unless you are lobbying for a lack of integrity to become an integral part in the employer / employee relationship, but I do not believe that was your intention. I think, however, that Mulder was wrong… the truth was right here all along! :slight_smile: Apologies for the long reply!


Hello Michael:

Thank you for writing your well articulated comment.

Obviously, there are some people who take very serious the policy statements required by some Christian universities. And, ultimately, they made the decision to work elsewhere. Without meaning to go too far afield, this issue has real implications as demonstrated by a recent Supreme Court ruling. A baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple that were getting married. The baker asserted that making the cake would, in effect, give his approval to the marriage; something that he opposed, based on religious grounds…The Court ruled in favor of the baker.

Returning to our topic, one possible solution, although perhaps extreme, is to have the writer of a paper/text state that he/she has no conflict in interest because of the institution’s doctrinal policy that he or she works at. Conflict of Interest (COI) release declarations/forms are often seen in medical/scientific journals. For example a lengthy article in JAMA (May 2, 2017) discussed this issue. One relevant paragraph from the article states:

Journal Policies on COI

Effective evaluation and transparent management of COI are essential to ensure the integrity and credibility of published articles and to promote public confidence and trust in the scientific process and the credibility of published articles. Accordingly, all authors of all manuscripts submitted for consideration for publication in JAMA and the JAMA Network specialty journals (including research reports, reviews, opinion articles, and letters to the editor) are expected to provide detailed information about all relevant financial interests, activities, relationships, and affiliations including, but not limited to, employment, affiliation, funding and grants received or pending, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speakers’ bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment; or patents planned, pending, or issued.] As stipulated in the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) disclosure form, these disclosures should include “Any potential conflicts of interest involving the work under consideration for publication” (during the time involving the work, from initial conception and planning to present), any “relevant financial activities outside the submitted work” (over the 3 years prior to submission), and any “other relationships or activities that readers could perceive to have influenced, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing” what is written in the submitted work (based on all relationships that were present during the 3 years prior to submission).

Readers are encouraged to examine the entire article.

So, at times, just identifying the institution that one teaches at, may not be sufficient COI information…

Take care



May 2, 2017

Conflict of Interest and Medical Journals

Phil Fontanarosa, MD, MBA1; Howard Bauchner, MD2

Author Affiliations Article Information

JAMA. 2017;317(17):1768-1771. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.4563

And the link can be found here:

Take care


Hello Joshua:

Sorry for not responding to your comment earlier!

My concern has nothing to do with “crimes” or “supposed crimes” committed by Jesus. The issue is one of testimony, and not necessarily in a court of law. Supposing one person, Paul claimed that he saw Jesus, actually a bright light, and heard a voice claiming to be Jesus - should a person accept the sole testimony of Paul, and convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing one person, Paul repeated an unsubstantiated creed the James saw Jesus - should Paul’s unsubstantiated testimony accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing one person, Paul repeated an unsubstantiated creed that 500 plus brethren saw Jesus at one time - should Paul’s unsubstantiated testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing one person, Paul repeated an unsubstantiated creed that Cephas [which Cephas???] saw Jesus - should Paul’s unsubstantiated testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing the author Mark reported that no person saw a post mortem Jesus, should Mark’s unsubstantiated report = testimony be accepted?

Supposing the author Matthew reported an unsubstantiated report that two women grasped hold of the resurrected Jesus and worshiped/paid homage to him, should Matthew’s unsubstantiated report = testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing the author Matthew reported an unsubstantiated report about a guard at the tomb encouraged by the Jewish leadership, that the guard be unconscious because of an angel appearing like lightning, the Jewish leadership bribed the guard to remain silent, should Matthew’s unsubstantiated report = testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing the author Luke reported an unsubstantiated DETAILED report about a two travelers on the road to Emmaus and their DETAILED dialogue with Jesus, should Luke’s unsubstantiated [“DETAILS” ’ 'FACTOIDS"] report = testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing the author John reported an unsubstantiated DETAILED report about Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb early Sunday morning and her later encounter with two angels and then with Jesus, should John’s unsubstantiated report = testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing the author John reported an unsubstantiated DETAILED report about Jesus’s appearance to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, should John’s unsubstantiated report = testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing the author John reported an unsubstantiated DETAILED report about the Doubting Thomas, should John’s unsubstantiated report = testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]?

Supposing the author of Acts reported an unsubstantiated DETAILED report of Jesus’s ascension, the death of Judas, the promised parousia, should the author of Acts unsubstantiated report = testimony be accepted to convert to Christianity [accept Jesus as the Messiah]??

The issue is NOT about any crime Jesus may have committed! The issue is should ANYONE accept the reported testimonies of Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, that was not substantiated by another witness, nor another witness who could be questioned to confirm the first report.

If two witnesses are required in a “court”, how many witnesses should one require to change his/her faith? I assume that the burden of the proof from be far greater… According to Jewish tradition [Exodus], God’s revelation was to the entire nation, ALL of the people. In the conflicting records [NT], the continuing embellished narratives, and the often lack of multi-attestation, WE HAVE NO VALID TESTIMONY TO CONVINCE ANYONE THAT JESUS WAS RAISED BODILY, FROM THE DEAD. What we have are reports that perhaps 520 plus people (believers or followers of Jesus) saw Jesus.

Take care


@MJAlter it is not clear you understand @dga471 and my critique of your arguments. A few requests and questions…

  1. What is a Gish Gallop? Why are we calling your book a Gish Gallop?

  2. What is your historical methodology? Have you rigorously applied this to other events from the same period? Why is this important to us?

  3. Can you enumerate the critiques of the historians you have relied upon? Can you enumerate the evidence behind these critiques? Why is this important to us?

  4. Can you identify any historians who are willing to put their reputations behind your book? Who are they? Why is this important to us?

Though not part of your argument, I find your embrace of apologetics amusing. Why is a Jewish man emulating the “apologia” he disagrees with by becoming an apologist? Even among Christians, apologetics has a low reputation.

I’d like to start with those number questions yet. I’m hoping you can at least cogently explain our critique. Don’t worry about rebutting yet, because that will take longer time. As soon as you can articulate at least one of these critiques cogently, we can then address whether it is valid. Until we get on the same intellectual page here, further conversation is only valuable so as to clarify how @dga471, @Freakazoid and I would answer for you.

Once again you do not need to agree with us, but it will help immensely if you can show you’ve actually heard the substance our critique.

You have been bringing up COI. For the record @dga471 is at Harvard and I am at WUSTL. It is professionally far riskier for us to publicly affirm the Ressurection than dispute it. You in the otherhand are financially incentivized to push your book. If we are going to take COI into account, this places a large asterisk over what you say in relation to us. As you say, follow the money. This, however, is an absurd ad hominem in this context. So we will not make this the centerpoint of any argument here.


In a free and open market, such a foolish person (as this baker) has the right (the court has decided) to make cakes how he or she chooses… the same way that an architect has the right to build the kind of building she chooses. The free market, not the courts, are the final arbiter as to whether or not such a decision was a wise one.

As you well know, medical research leads to big pharma dollars… this is the reason why conflict of interest forms are used in this venue. There are no similar implications when it comes to the authority of Christian scholars (or any scholars, for that matter) in regards to their publications.

That Christians should be expected by you to identify themselves and declare their potential conflict of interest is very strange to me. In the free market of ideas, there is also a court of opinion to review what is being published. Peer review, online articles, discussion boards, and literature featuring ideas in opposition are sufficient to counter any information that is incorrect. As with the baker, the market will determine what was the wise and correct course of action.

That employers will have policy statements that employees must abide by is no reason to either institute new processes nor to suspect that the work is not top notch. There are sufficient checks and balances in place to ensure that all opinions are heard. Your presence here and elsewhere is evidence of that.

Hello Joshua:

Response: I do not! I attempt to read their literature, listen to their pod casts (Youtube) and listen to them on TV (The Bible Network, TBN (e.g. The Jewish Voice).

Take care


@MJAlter, I want to make sure you understand you. Am I correct in reading this as you affirming that Messianic Jews are still Jews, in your opinion? If this is the case, I am encouraged. But with all the “no” and “not” in that exchange, I’m not sure precisely what you mean. Can you clarify?

Hello Joshua:

A great [difficult] question!

Traditional Judaism [remember that I am not frum] would respond: Once a Jew, always a Jew. However, one’s actions have real implications. On one level, there is Herem. Wikipedia states:

Herem (Hebrew: חֵרֶם‬, also Romanized chērem, ḥērem) is the highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. It is a form of shunning and is similar to vitandus " excommunication " in the Catholic Church.

According to Traditional Judaism a Messianic Jew is an apostate. This is definitely a loaded term.

There are numerous articles on the internet that deal with this extremely technical and controversial topic. For example, see The Jerusalem Post

Also see
or R. Tovia Singer at

Back to your question: Yes, Messianics are definitely Jews but they are apostates and their decision makes them “outside the pale”… However, this too, is technical and loaded. Numerous sources can be found via a search engine.

A significant response can be read from Chabad [hardcore Orthodox]

Is a Jew Who Converts Still Jewish?

To be precise, I accept the last paragraph of the link cited above:

“Apparently, Jewishness is about neither religion nor race. Unlike a race, you can get in, but unlike religion, once you’re in you can’t get out. As with Achan, once you are a part of this people, you are the entire people. As Israel is eternal, so your bond with them is irreversible, unbreakable and eternal.”

Take care.


Hello Joshua:

Response: “True” Messianics want to convince all Jews to accept Jesus as their saviour, believe that God exists as a Trinity, vicarious atonement, the incarnation, etc… Atheists do no such thing. In my opinion [I could be wrong], Messianics are committed to Evangelism and Witnessing their beliefs; in general, atheists are not.

For all intent, Messianics are Jews who are now Christians [hyphenated Jews = Jewish Christian or in older terminology, Hebrew Christians], primarily Protestant in their outlook. Of course, there are some Messianics who do not fall into this “broad” and sweeping characterization.

Take care


Do some critics posting here lately claim that as a Jew, Jesus would not have established a “blood drinking and flesh eating” ritual at the Last Supper, because such a practice would be against Jewish tradition and rules?

Did I understand their argument well?

Isn’t that a gross misinterpretation of the NT and even the OT?

At the Last Supper they were drinking wine and eating bread, not blood and flesh.

The references to blood and flesh seem tightly associated to the Passover lamb’s blood and flesh that are mentioned in the OT Exodus narrative. It’s the connection between the OT deliverance from slavery and the new covenant based on the death of Christ and His resurrection.

The disciples were not biting Jesus’ arms to suck His blood like vampires or chewing His flesh like cannibals. Where did they get that from?

Any comments on this?

PS. Here’s an interesting commentary on this topic.

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Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all 4 gospels. It’s said that he was a wealthy Jew.
It’s said that he asked the Roman Governor for the body of Jesus and got his request.
Wouldn’t it be possible in those days that such an influential businessman could have direct access to the governor? Why not? We don’t know the details of their conversation. The wealthy man could have even paid for the favor. We don’t know. The governor’s wife could have influenced the deal too. The wealthy businessman could have bought an empty tomb at any location if he could afford it. Why not? He could have even asked for special permits for Jesus’ relatives to be near the cross and for them to visit the tomb. The governor could have disliked the religious leaders of the time, but perhaps had good personal relations with Joseph of Arimathea. Why not? Perhaps Joseph of Arimathea’s successful business in the area gave him valuable contacts with the local Roman leaders. Why not?
Many details are not provided, but that possibility is not excluded.
Any comments on this?
PS. Here’s an interesting commentary on this topic.


Money makes the world go round, huh?