Chapter 13 is about the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, and there’s a lot here we’ll cover more in Defending the Resurrection, with some earlier versions of DTR material we can link to here. From the start, Price raises the bar of evidence to stratospheric heights, claiming there just isn’t enough and there needs to be more. But Price doesn’t make the rules of evidence, and he also doesn’t use them. But more than that, most of the first part of the chapter is just a repeat of arguments Price used in his claim that the creed of 1 Cor. 15 is an interpolation. My response to this is no longer online, but is found in Trusting the New Testament; I’ll just summarize my answers here.
First, Price objected that the 500 were not mentioned in the Gospels. Why not?
- The purpose of the Gospels – they were ancient biographies for those already Christians, not missionary documents. Appeal to the 500 would not have been necessary for no one was trying to prove anything to anyone.
- The lack of need for many witnesses. Two was sufficient in Jewish culture to prove the truth of a matter.
- Quality appearances vs. quantity appearances. Even if we assume the Gospels were trying to prove something, the appearance to the 500 likely involved lesser quality experiences than eg, eating a meal with Jesus, and so would have less apologetic value for things that the Gospels might be indirectly addressing, such as docetism.
- The lesser lifespan of humans in the first century. By the time of the Gospels, most of the 500 would be dead; the average lifespan was 35. Even in Paul’s day he had to make it clear that many had died; how much more so by the time of the Gospels, 5-10 years later?
I answered this ages ago, but Price still hums along with it as one of his arguments for 1 Cor. 15 as an interpolation. The chapter on TNT offers multiple-angle debunking of this fringe idea, and we need say no more. Price closes the section asking how many of the Corinthians had the chance to sail off and check such things, and the answer, contrary to him, is more than enough: apparently Price has forgotten about Diaspora Jews who frequently went off to Palestine, and would have ample chance to look up witnesses and check facts. To those we can also add the occasional wealthy Gentile, of the sort that composed an unusual number of Christianity’s earliest converts.
Regarding the conversion of James: I myself make little use of the argument that James was convinced as a Skeptic, though it is something that needs to be explained. Price has apparently realized the absurdity of his earlier answer to this argument, positing James as some sort of “in it for the money” televangelist, but still uses Luke 8:19-21 and Acts 1:14, which he says implies that “all the Holy Family embraced Jesus’ word from the start.” The full answer is again in TNT, as this was also in Price’s “interpolation” piece, but in sum: Acts 1:14 is from a time after the ascension, and so would have to be after the appearance to James as well, and therefore cannot be used; as for Luke 8:19-21, this is not at all a justifiable reading of the text., and note that Jesus' mother and brothers are notably absent from the listing of Jesus' supporters in Luke 8:1-3. Bottom line: Price's interpretation is naught but an exaggerated and tortuous act of eisegesis.
Likewise, I tend not to make much of Paul’s conversion from enemy to friend, though it is stronger than that of James, given the nature of ancient personality, which was highly resistant to change compared to the modern individualist. Price, however, deals with the matter by simply waving off the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts as ahistorical, and denies that it has any relationship to what Paul records in Galatians. Arguments for why this is the case – none, really:
- Somehow Price gets the idea that when, in Galatians, Paul says he was selected by God from birth, this means Paul had been a Christian all his life. That’s a tortuous act of exegesis all by itself, but has Price Philippians 2, as well as the fact that Paul says he persecuted the church, in Galatians? Fear not, he has a ready answer: Passages like that are late interpolations. You want evidence? Shame on you, Price says, for being so “dogmatic” in asking for such a thing.
As we noted in the reply on 1 Cor. 15, you need good arguments for an interpolation sans textual evidence. Price offers the wild ideas of O’Neill to handle the relevant verses in Gal. 1, and we’ll get to those below.
- Price hauls one of his standard bedraggled arguments of “this looks like that”, comparing Paul’s conversion accounts in Acts to a story in 2 Maccabees 3, and another in Eurpides. Just need to remind all again that this sort of reasoning is bogus.(And another example here; most of the prallels Price draws are as strained as those of MacDonald’s worst.)
So now, what about arguments derived from O’Neill, trying to dispense with Gal. 1:13-14 and 22-24?
- ”The argument is irrelevant and anachronistic…” It is? Why? Maybe O’Neill explains more, but Price doesn’t quote the reasons, which leads me to suspect they’re worthless and he knows it. (Hey, I’m just “interrogating” the source.)
- ”…the concepts differ form Paul’s concepts, and the vocabulary and style are not his.” Uh HUH. Any idea that just those 5 verses are sufficient to make a judgment about style and vocabulary is just plain dumb, dumber than leaving 15 pegs on one of those Cracker Barrel games. It’s nowhere near enough of a data sample, period. The examples, apparently from O’Neill, are singularly unimpressive:
- References to “Judaism” are anachronistic, as though “implying that Christianity and Judaism are separate religions…” Um, no, sorry, I don’t get that “implied” from Paul at all. For one thing, Paul never even mentions “Christianity” or a separate movement – he calls it the “faith” (loyalty group), which is compatible as well with any sectarian movement, like the Essenes. O’Neil is just making mountains out of dust motes here.
- The use of “the faith” as a reference to a movement is anachronistic.? Note that this is the same argument used against the Pastorals, and our answer on that is good here too:
However, Paul refers to "the faith" in a creedal way in other places (Rom. 4:12, 4:16; 1 Cor. 16:13, 2 Cor. 13:5, Gal. 1:23; 3:23, 6:10; Phil. 1:25, 27; Col. 2:7). It was therefore not a foreign usage to him; he simply uses it that way more often in the Pastorals, as we would expect if he were writing to church leaders whose job it was to safeguard creeds and traditions - and considering that he was near the end of his life, this would not be a bad idea [Town.PTPT, 312].
Of course next Price will say that all of those are interpolations, too.
- Paul uses “church” as though to imply a universal congregation. Elsewhere he only uses it of local congregations. Are these guys smoking something illegal? The word used here indicates the assembly of YHWH, period. If the Jews of 700 BC converted a bunch of Native Americans, does that mean they were not part of the “assembly” because they were 10000 miles away? “Church” (ekklesia) does not have any semantic domain that restricts members by locale; this is merely a contrivance by O’Neill.
- There are five words not found in other Pauline letters. The point being what? Price only names the words in Greek, and its not hard to see why: If he gave us the English equivalents, we might “interrogate” and find out that he’s being a little goofy. The words in question are translated as, “the Jewish religion” (it’s merely a variation of the word “Judaism,” with a different suffix, and hardly beyond Paul’s capacity to use) “conversation,” (used also, Price admits, in Ephesians and 1 Timothy, but also found in Hebrews, James, and 1 and 2 Peter); “wasted” (found also in Acts); “my equals,” and “fathers”. Now the thing about this sort of argument from vocabulary is that it doesn’t mean a heck of a lot unless 1) you show that Paul did NOT use the words in places he absolutely should have – very hard to argue, especially because ancient writers were prone to vary vocabulary on purpose; 2) you have to show that other authors show statistically more meaningful use of those words (in other words, show that someone like Aristotle used “wasted” many more times per capita than Paul did, while also having just as many contexts to use it). Needless to say, that is not done. Price and O’Neill are playing the role of kindergarten statasticians who haven’t even mastered the fundamentals of discerning the meaningfulness of data – and when or if it is indeed meaningful.
- Paul uses pote (“in times past”) three times in just these few verses! That’s more often in such a short space than anywhere but the Pastorals. Again, for the same reasons – so what? Price admits that Paul uses the word in his other letters regarded as genuine, like Romans. Has it occurred to any of these guys that the reason Paul uses the word so frequently here is that he is having a slightly more extended than usual discussion of things that occurred “in times past”? I’m afraid such common-sense answers seldom commend themselves to those like Price whose understanding of statistics comes off of a Cracker Jack box.
That’s all the specifics Price offers. He plunks down for a summary claim that the Pastorals are bogus (see here, and also makes vague reference to reasons why Philippians is inauthentic, which actually, no one credible today believes; that’s why he has to reach back to Baur’s badly dated ideas to support it. (Only a dinosaur like Baur could think that the hymn of Phil. 2:6-11has anything to do with “Gnosticizing kabbalism” – it’s got roots, rather, in the Jewish Wisdom tradition).
Price also refers to the idea that Philippians “bishops and deacons” are anachronistic. He notes the answer that such offices are comparable to the “overseer” in Qumran. To this he replies that “apologists fail to see” that “such an ecclesiastical structure evolves again and again when new religious movements evolve from sect to church, and that this development is too late for Paul.” Sorry, no: This whole argument is plain goofy. New sects and such do SOMETIMES reinvent themselves compared to the parent movement, but they hardly engage a thorough revamping at all times; just look at how much Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses kept from mainstream Christendom. Those movements also make it clear that it just doesn’t take that long for such structure to “develop” – especially when other models are so readily at hand. (See more on this in Trusting the New Testament, in the chapter on the Pastorals.) Price is simply pulling the idea of repeated reinvention out of the air because he has no answer to the argument otherwise.
The rest of the chapter is a confused pastiche of objections and rewritings of history, most of which depend on the logic of the Helms-MacDonald sort (see links above), so we’ll just draw out what’s left.
- Price somehow gets out of John 20:17 that Jesus is saying “goodbye” and will never return. I can only say that to force such a meaning from the text requires the use of even more hallucinogenic substances:
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
So...this means, “and I’m never coming back,” how? John himself obviously didn’t think it meant that, since he has plenty of appearances to go. Price of course would rattle on about the alleged “blinders” worn by apologists who harmonize the stories, but it is Price who is adding problems to the text, not the text itself that is the problem. At the same time, we can point out that if Price wants to hypothesize a later editor or redactor, it seems he must posit one too stupid to see that John 20:17 isn’t compatible with more appearances by Jesus, but also smart enough to fool generations into thinking the text was a seamless whole. How convenient.
- Similarly, we are told that John 21:1-14 is “supposed to be the first resurrection appearance,” and this is a problem. Say what? Where does Price imagine this to come from? Uh, because, “[t]he disciples have dropped their delusions and have wearily returned to their mundane pursuits.” In other words, because Price is too much of a wuss to imagine that he might go fishing at a time when Jesus might be around to hand out a mission statement. Is he serious? Does he realize that, you know, people even back then had to eat? It sounds like someone here is importing their dry, dull, fundy past into the picture, reflecting a time when No Fun Allowed was the rule any time the church was planning a revival event. Sorry, no – that’s a non sequitur. There is no reason why Peter might not go back to his roots and do some fishing while waiting for Jesus to show up again. What does Price expect Peter to do while waiting? Bow down to his knees 24/7?
- On Luke vs Acts, on the Ascension, see here. Also, Price declares the Acts story “fiction” because the disciples are “dense” for asking whether the Kingdom will be restored to Israel. What Price forgets to do there is show where Jesus answered that question in any prior teaching.
And that’s all that is unique. Price is still riding dinosaurs while the rest of the world has moved on to speedboats.