Michael Alter: The Man and His Argument Against the Resurrection

You wrote: If I understand you correctly, you abandoned this approach?

Response: My original intent was to pen a response to the arguments in support of the resurrection, preferably but not exclusively from strongest to weakest. This original approach did not workout. Believe it not, if that tactic was followed, my text would have been even longer… In addition, it created a problem with trying to go chronologically through the seven significant chapters. If my recollection is correct [SEVERAL YEARS AGO], Rabbi Moshe Shulman suggested the format that I eventually adopted. However, here too, there were problems: should I attempt to grade/scale the contradictions and speculations, what then about the chronology, should the contradictions and speculations be separated [different parts of the text or kept together], etc. The easiest and most logical manner to refute Christian apologists was the format adopted for Volume 1.

You wrote: If so do you disagree then with Dr. Torley’s characterization of your book as demolishing the Christian apologist’s case for the resurrection? Rather, you did not deal with the Christian apologist’s case in this book, and we await that in your followup book?

Response: No! In my opinion, the 120 contradictions and 217 speculations UNEQUIVOCALLY demolishes the Christian apologists’ case for the resurrection. In Volume 1, I took a large number of issues that do, in effect, refute the case of Christian apologists. However, Volume 1 dealt with the Christian apologists and theologians’ treatment of the resurrection narratives and analyzing the texts in a horizontal manner. Please, carefully explore my text. You will see that I extensively interact with Christian theologians and apologists and demolish their arguments [In my humble opinion.].

To clear up this matter, Volume 2 (and hopefully 3) will deal with specific apologetic arguments/strategies/tactics. For example Issues 1-8 will deal specifically with the Minimal Facts approach [Habermas and Licona]. Of course, it must interact with some material that appears in Volume 1. Issue 9 will confront the Best Evidence apologetic. Later, Issue 11 will deal with Sean McDowell and the purported martyrdom of the apostles, etc. These, and other NARROW apologetics strategies/tactics are specifically addressed in Volume 2. In no way, could they be incorporated in Volume 1. That text was already 912 pages in length (and for only $10 in its e-book format! - Pretty fair, in my opinion.)

In closing, Vincent is 100 percent correct! Volume 1 does exactly what he opined: “demolishing the Christian apologist’s case for the resurrection” - But, based on the seven relevant chapters of the Christian Bible.

Take care

Mike

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Well stated!

Mike

@vjtorley I’ll respond more later, but I wish you would stop making such an stretched and unsubstantiated claim. You have not presented historical reasoning, nor have you demonstrated anything about what “neutral historians” conclude. This is rhetoric that even @MJAlter is not making. He clearly is not a historian, let alone a neutral historian. Moreover, it appears neither of you actually engaged with up-to-date historical scholarship on these questions.

I hate to break it to you @MJAlter, but WLC is most certainly not the foremost writer on this. He is an eloquent writer and careful thinker, but he is largely just echoing Habermas’s case.

The foremost scholar on this might be NT Wright, whose 2003 book is relevant as it ever was. It appears you are attacking a straw-man. Did you consult with any historians as you did your work?

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@MJAlter I’m still hoping for an answer on this before we continue:

To this I would add another question that is (admittedly) idiosyncratic to us at Peaceful Science. We care a lot about origin stories. What do you understand about Adam and Evolution? Do you reject evolution? Do you believe Adam and Eve are real people in a real past? How do you fit it together?

Hello S. Joshua:

You wrote: but he is largely just echoing Habermas’s case.

Response: I have personally met Gary. He is a great guy and a definite Packer fan. I am also in contact with him… And, I am definitely familiar with his works and have them…

Habermas, Gary R. The Risen Jesus & Future Hope . Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. [239 pages] Useful material was from 15-53… Not helpful to my book. His chapter headings include: : The Existence of God, The Person and Teachings of Christ, The Kingdom of God, Salvation, Eternal Life, The Testimony of the Holy Spirit, A Personal account, etc.

Habermas, Gary R. The Resurrection: Heart of the New Testament . [Volume1] Joplin, MO: College Press, 2000a. [239 pages] Respectfully more philosophical than a detailed analysis of the resurrection narratives.

Habermas, Gary R. The Resurrection: Heart of the Christian Life . [Volume2] Joplin, MO: College Press, 2000b. [118 pages] Respectfully more philosophical than a detailed analysis of the resurrection narratives.

Habermas, Gary R. The Resurrection of Jesus . Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1980. [187 pages; reprinted Lanham, MD University Press of America] For my book, only useful spanning pages 33-38; Chapters that were not useful to my Volume 1 - The Existence of God, The Person and Teachings of Christ, The Kingdom of God, Salvation, The Resurrection and Worldwide Views, etc.

Habermas, Gary R., and Antony Flew. Did the Resurrection Happen? A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew . Edited by David Baggett. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. [184 pages] A debate This work was published six years after I started my research…

Habermas, Gary R., and Antony Flew. Resurrected? An Atheist and Theist Dialogue . Edited by John Ankerberg. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. [112 pages] Some interesting discussion but lacked [in my opinion] substantial meat] This is my opinion… And, Flew was weak…

Habermas, Gary R., and Antony Flew. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate . Edited by Terry L. Miethe. San Francisco: Harper &; Row, 1987. [190 pages] Habermas penned about useful 60 pages…T Gary’s affirmative ran from pages 15-30 !and rebuttal 39-46… That’s it!

Habermas, Gary R., and Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus . Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004. [352 pages; N.B. This is an important work that explains the Minimal Facts strategy. I extensively deal with this book in Volume 2

Craig’s books are substantial [In my opinion]

Craig, William Lane. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus . Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1989. [442 pages. An absolute must read.]

Craig, William Lane. Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection: Our Response to the Empty Tomb . Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1988. [153 pages. A short but detailed reading.]

Craig, William Lane. The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus During the Deist Controversy . Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1985. [677 pages. A lengthy, important text to examine.]

Craig, William Lane. The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus . Chicago: Moody, 1981. [156 pages. The first of the main works by Craig on this subject. A definite read.]

Craig, William Lane, and John Dominic Crossan. Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan . Edited by Paul Copan. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998. [192 pages]

Craig, William Lane, and Gerd Lüdemann. Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Lüdemann . Edited by Paul Copan and Ronald K. Tacelli. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. [206 pages]

In reference to Wright, I am not attacking a straw man…I am being honest in my evaluation of his 2003 work. And, as I commented, it does, in fact, contain a wealth of background information. However, his Easter Narratives were lacking, as compared to Craig. Again, this is just my opinion.

I respect your opinion but humbly disagree!

You wrote:
Moreover, it appears neither of you actually engaged with up-to-date historical scholarship on these questions.

Response: My book was already 912 pages with an 80 page bibliography. In Volumes 2 and 3, I will deal with some of these concerns. Volume 1 dealt with an analysis of the seven relevant chapters from the Christian Bible…

Take care

Mike

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Hello S. Joshua:

This is really an awesome question. Previously, I discussed this issue. Let me be extremely brief:

  1. I am not a fundamentalist.
  2. The Torah is NOT meant to be interpreted literally.
  3. I, along with many others employ the traditional mode of study/interpretation of the text, primarily PaRDeS. Please see my previous discussion and Google search the term…
  4. Also, [to save me time] please Google “The Thirteen Rules of Interpretation by Rabbi Ishmael.” [Sifra]
  5. How do you know Torah is true. You must define EMET. But an honest answer for many would be it is a matter of faith. Of course, Christians, Muslims, etc can say the same thing about their sacred texts.
  6. I struggle, like many others, with MANY portions of the text. The name “ISRAEL” is defined by some as “a God wrestler”… That is what many Jews do… They wrestle with the text… Just examine the Talmud.

Take care

Mike

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Blah… blahdee blah.

Hi Michael,

Let me ask a rather more pointed question, but I think it is in the same vein as what Joshua was asking. Do you believe that Moses was an historical person, or do you believe that “a Moses” existed, but he is not the Moses of the Tanakh, because the Moses of he Tanakh is probably a “composite Moses” made up by his followers?

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Sorry for the late reply. I had important family matters that needed attending.

You wrote: Do you believe that Moses was an historical person, or do you believe that “a Moses” existed, but he is not the Moses of the Tanakh, because the Moses of he Tanakh is probably a “composite Moses” made up by his followers?

Response: Similar to some rabbis (liberal), I believe “a Moses” existed, but he is not the literal Moses of the Tanakh."

In a similar manner, Jabob did not literally wrestle with an angel…e.g. Maimonides, in the Guide of the Perplexed ( 2:42), provides support for this interpretation: “I say… of the story about Jacob in regard to its saying, ‘And there was a man that wrestled with him’ . . . all the wrestling and the conversation in question happened in the vision of prophecy.”

In a similar manner, the two million people escaping Egypt…The term alum or eleph, which probably means units (similar to a military unit) or thousands

In a similar manner, liberal rabbis discuss that the ten plagues symbolized attacks against the Egyptian pantheon of gods or aspects of nature

In a similar manner, the 6-7 days of creation in Genesis do NOT refer to 6 or 7 literal 24 hour periods of time…They represent eons lasting millions if not billions of years

In a similar manner, there was NOT a Mr. Adam or a Mrs. Eve - they are symbolic and serve as an archetype…of humanity

In a similar manner, for Mr. Serpent…

The Torah is NOT meant to be interpreted literally. Please look up PaRDeS, the traditional Jewish methodology of interpretation… especially remez and sod…

Take care

Mike

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Do you think the Torah is true?

Yes

Take care

Mike

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Why do you think the Torah is true? On what basis?

Hello Mike, and thank you for your response. It is not held against you if you need time to look after family.

I think the question of whether there was an historical Moses is different from the question of whether Jacob wrestled an angel. In my mind the question to ask about Jacob is not whether he literally wrestled an angel, but rather was there in fact ever really an historical Jacob to begin with.

Why is Judaism considered an Abrahamic faith if there was no such person as Abraham? How many of the Israelite kings are either fictional or “composite” characters? I think this is what Joshua and I are trying to get at. Do you only accept as historical people the Israelite kings that are attested to by sources outside the Tanakh?

Are you really saying that none of the Tanakh is to be interpreted literally, as describing real people, real places, and real events? No actual kings of Israel, no prophets, no written Torah, none of these things literally happened. Whence Judaism then?

Surely you accept the Rabbis as historical people. Why not their predecessors?

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On PaRDeS.

I have for quite some time been interested in Jewish exegesis in no small part because the early Christians were in fact Jewish. I doubt that you dispute this. I am very interested in how we should understand the New Testament given that the sources were primarily Jewish.

I have Midrash. I have the Babylonian Talmud and portions of the Jerusalem Talmud. And I have a number of Jewish commentaries. Please don’t assume we are ignorant. :slight_smile:

ETA: The first letter in PaRDeS, the ‘P’, stand for the literal interpretation.

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You wrote: Please don’t assume we are ignorant. :slight_smile:

Response: No! I assume no such thing, I assume that you are an earnest seeker… With that said, let me add the following caveat. I am NOT by any means a Torah scholar. My knowledge is definitely limited. My Rabbis’ son has probably forgotten more than I have ever learned [a bit of humor, definite truth, and some humility]. With that said, I have learned that having books and reading books is not the same as having a “real” teacher, especially in regard to the Talmud, etc. There is “knowing”, and then there is “really knowing”…

Let me give you one small example. The first word of the Torah is Bereshit, often translated [incorrectly] as “In the beginning…” That word is spelled with six letters. I wrote a 300 page text [approximate] on just the first letter, Beit. Really! Why the Torah Begins with the Letter Beit. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998. If I, with my limited knowledge could write a 300 plus page book on the first letter, of the first word of the Torah… Well, I think that you get my point.

The key point is this, to learn the Koran/Qur’an, it would be useful/essential to learn from a knowledgeable Muslim. To learn Hinduism, it would be useful/essential to learn from a knowledgeable Hindu, to learn Christianity, it would be useful/essential to learn from a knowledgeable Christian, etc. There is something special to learning with a knowledgeable (and I will add “believing” or even "“former believing” ) teacher. Of course, I could be wrong… But, that is my honest opinion.

Take care

Mike

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Hello Mung:

It is great to hear from you.

Your questions are awesome!

You wrote: Why is Judaism considered an Abrahamic faith if there was no such person as Abraham?

Response: Who coined the term Abrahamic faith? I do not know… Perhaps, it is appropriate to mention that a historical Abraham, if he existed, never knew the Torah, or the Tanakh, or the Mishnah, or the Talmud, or the Tosefta, or the Bariita, or the Gemara, or the Midrash, or the Halakh, , or the Haggadah, or the Commentators, or the Responsa, or the RAMBAM, or the Kabbalah, or the… Unfortunately, I too, am EXTREMELY deficient in these areas of learning. However, I do have some knowledge of the resurrection.

You wrote:Are you really saying that none of the Tanakh is to be interpreted literally, as describing real people, real places, and real events?

Response: No… There is always peshat… Peshat always comes first… This is why it is important to study, learn, learn, learn, and question…

You wrote: Surely you accept the Rabbis as historical people. Why not their predecessors?

Response: To be intellectually honest, we actually possess a greater amount of evidentiary proof for many? most? of the rabbis [ravs, gaons, etc] than their predecessors.

Take care

Mike

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You wrote: Why do you think the Torah is true?

Response: First, you must define the term EMET. With that said, many portions of the Torah cause me definite problems, so I and others wrestle with the text. Second, there is the matter of chukat or hokkin. Now, please look below for more details.

You wrote: On what basis?

Response [terse]: My gut, my brain, my learning,

Now, if you do not mind in a later e-mail, I have a few questions for you. Most of them you can answer with a simple yes or no…

Take care

Mike

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Hi Michael, thanks to your mention I have just ordered Essential Figures in the Bible from this same publisher. It will be interesting to see if they are treated as historical figures. Another example that comes to mind is Noah because of his importance for gentiles as captured in the Noahide Laws.

Appreciate the conversation.

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I will be glad if the text that you ordered furthers your knowledge.

Essential Figures in the Bible

Take care

Mike

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Hello S Joshua:

I hope that all is well…

Below, are a few questions [I promised] that, time permitting, you would perhaps answer:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus is fully God?

  2. Do you believe that Jesus’s mother experienced a virgin conception?

  3. Do you believe that Jesus led a sinless life [never sinned even once]?

  4. Do you believe that the NT is true?

  5. Do you believe that Jesus literally met and had a conversation with Elijah and Moses?

  6. Do you believe that literally the entire world turned dark during the crucifixion?

  7. Do you literally believe the piercing episode as recorded in John 19?

  8. Do you literally believe that many resurrected saints visited Jerusalem (Matt 27)?

  9. Do you believe that Jesus literally ascended to heaven as recorded in Acts 1?

  10. Do you literally believe that Jesus died for the sins of humankind and those who believe in his resurrection are assured eternal life?

Take care

Mike

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