Evidence, Lawyers, Socrates and Jesus

7
1761

The precedence for the following discussion is of weighty and important matter to us, not because it’s “religious,” but because truth is always important.

Atheist Lawyer Affirms Truthful Testimony was Rendered

Simon Greenleaf was a great, Harvard, atheist lawyer who wrote a seminal work: “Treatise on the Law of Evidence” (3 vols., 1842–1853) which remained a standard textbook in American evidence law throughout the Nineteenth century.

While he was an atheist, his students challenged him to apply his laws of evidence to the Gospels. He concluded by his previously defined atheist legal writing, the Gospels read as if they were authentic and honest testimony.

“The present design, however, is not to enter upon any general examination of the evidences upon any general examination of the evidences of Christianity, but to confine the inquiry to the testimony of the Four Evangelists, bringing their narratives to the tests to which other evidence is subjected in human tribunals. The foundation of our religion is a basis of fact–the fact of the birth, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection by the Evangelists as having actually occurred, within their own personal knowledge. Our religion, then, rests on the credit due to these witnesses.”

Do You Have To “Believe” in Truthfully Captured Witness Testimony?

You don’t have to accept the Bible is true, but if you do not you are simply choosing a more dubious belief by believing it is not true, because Greenleaf established the Gospels objectively read like truthful, non-fiction witness observations, and corroborate with history so well that archaeologists and historians consider it the finest and most consistent historical writing of the time. It’s impossible to write accurate history – mixed in with big lies – without making obviously conflicted claims at times. There are abundant recent examples of this we can discuss: Modern “fake news” makes it easy to find egregious omission of important truth, or reporting fake claims as “according to experts,” which allows the reporter to not fact check the “expert” or “insider” report.

An Objective, Honest Man Focuses on CONFLICTS to Find the Truth.

An objective decision maker is always noted by willingly discussing conflicts in each choice, like a student does defending a college thesis – conflicts are always brought up to challenge a thesis. Why? Socrates.

Socrates first established a standard for truth: The least conflicted of all explanations is most likely the truthful one. Thus, you can tell an objective, Socratic decision maker by a willingness to discuss conflicts in his explanations and views.

A dishonest, subjective Man Focuses on TRUTH to Hide CONFLICTS.

Conversely, a dishonest decision maker only discusses truths in order to hide conflicts. We recognize this in the behavior of a con man, telling us only why his game will make us winners, while evading discussion of the possible flaws in the “game”.

So if you don’t “believe” in the Bible, without examining the contradictions in your claim that it’s not true, you are making a bigger leap of faith than accepting the Gospels as plainspoken testimony of truthful observations. You are refusing to acknowledge the contradictions in what you believe. Perhaps you fear discussing the contradictions because they might expose your beliefs are false.  We must examine conflicts in all explanations, not just the ones we dislike, nor the ones we wish to hide – or hide from.

The Contradictions of Each Theory of Jesus

Make sure you objectively understand the contradictions in each of these 4 truths. The one with the least contradictions is the best “Socratic” choice.
  1. Jesus never existed – he was a fabrication.   This theory has 9 contradictions.
  2. Jesus was a fantastically good deceiver, he knew he was not the son of God. This theory has 6 contradictions.
  3. Jesus was a delusional, he imagined he was the son of God, but he was not. This theory has 5 contradictions.
  4. Jesus was who he said he was, the Son of God. This theory has 2 contradictions, one of which has been dismissed by a highly qualified, atheist lawyer.

Here are the list of contradictions  of the 4 possible theories of Jesus

Note choice #4 has the least number of conflicts:

  1. Suppose Jesus never existed – he was a fabrication.
    Here are the conflicts with this theory:

    1. The Gospels don’t exhibit a trail of factual conflicts with respect to other, historical documents of the time. So, the fabricators of Jesus would have had to be thoroughly honest – other than lying that Jesus existed.   No such fictitious tale exists in any manuscript in history – without obvious conflicts with reality.
    2. The writings of the apostles that came later exhibit behavior toward a fake character that would be hard to accept if Jesus never existed.
    3. Roman documents independently recognize the existence of Jesus. Here is more thorough reading about cross-examining the existence of Jesus:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus
    4. Such a fictitious tale would have to had fooled the entire Roman empire, which is a fantastic claim or an incredible insult of western gullibility. In other words, the same civilization that recognized the genius of Socrates, Plato, Galileo, Newton, etc. was easily fooled.
    5. The Council of Nicaea would have had to be a fraud. The only allegation of conspiracy for The Council of Nicaea is perhaps Rome told the Council to create a tale which would help empower Rome. Thus the first biblical editing council would have had to knowingly create a politically motivated lie using a group of Monks whose lives were dedicated to a life of spirituality, truth and worship. In conflict with this claim is the fact that the New Testament they created is quite apolitical.
    6. The Council of Nicaea, the first editors of the Bible, exhibited and documented a proper editorial attitude about accuracy and truthfulness, even leaving in conflicts in the Gospel testimonies, which is an exhibit of truthfulness about 4 separate witnesses. Witness testimony is always full of detail conflicts.  A lack of conflicts would indicate manipulation of the testimonies.
    7. The Council of Nicaea’s very existence – to create a gigantic lie without any leaks – is an outlandishly fantastic suggestion.
    8. Four chapter-length exhibits of a con artists’ writings would exhibit typical traits of perjury, described in analysis articles about false witness. Story promotion, speaking in the second person; “I think I saw”, “I believe I saw”, “you should believe me because I saw it with my own eyes”, doesn’t exist.
    9. Too many people would have to cooperate too closely to secretly pull off a “fool the Roman Empire” lie.
  2. Suppose Jesus was a knowing liar, he fooled everyone.
    Here are the conflicts with this theory:

    1. He would have to be a liar far beyond any other historical figure – one that never once aroused suspicion in any of his miracles or discussions. None of his followers doubted him.
    2. He would have to have found a way to fool all those that saw his miracles. No record of doubters exists. And many witnesses would have to be so well fooled, no record of public scorning or doubt was raised.  Impossible.
    3. He attracted followers that wrote as if they were extremely plain-spoken truth tellers. Liars rarely attract extremely honest people.
    4. He would have to be a con artist far beyond the ability known to any other human.
    5. He would have to be willing to be crucified – a horrible, torturous, publicly humiliating death – for a lie about something completely unrewarding to himself.
    6. The four Gospels contain no phrasing to indicate any prevarication was in play, quite the contrary.  The narrative is plain spoken, lucid, well connected to known history, customs and political forces of the day.
  3. Suppose Jesus was delusional, he didn’t know he was lying, and people fell for him.
    Here are the conflicts with this theory:

    1. He is the only delusional figure in human history that convinced a dozen men to evangelize a spiritual kingdom for him until their death.  To alter the course of a civilization even as the first adherents were widely tortured, imprisoned and crucified.
    2. He would have to have found a way to fool all those that saw his miracles – no record of unbelievers exists, and thousands of witnesses were fooled successfully.
    3. Why would he be speaking to God in his last breath, asking Him “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are honest plainspoken words of painful separation, while a delusional would have likely imagined God taking him into his arms at that point.
    4. He would have to be the most unique delusional ever known on earth, able to maintain his delusion under the worst torture imaginable – crucifixion.
    5. The four Gospels contain no phrasing to indicate any delusion or “dream” state was in play, quite the contrary.  The narrative is plain spoken, lucid, well connected to known history, customs and political forces of the day.
  4. Suppose Jesus was who he said he was.  
    Here are the conflicts with this theory, there are only 2:

    1. Reality tells us that miracles are impossible, thus Jesus could not be who he or his followers say he is. But, the large body of witnesses for these publicly performed miracles lack any evidence of doubt from the intelligent, inquisitive, observant Apostles. Luke was a physician. He would have easily spotted trickery.
    2. There are conflicts between the Gospel testimonies, which some say proves the tales are altered. However, great legal and investigative minds, like Simon Greenleaf, have applied legalistic analysis to the testimonies which affirm a truthful plainspoken style of narrative, lacking all characteristics of false witness.

References:
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/greenleaf.html

7 COMMENTS

  1. OK, so what is going on with him ever being an atheist? In talking with unbelievers I used simon greenleaf for an argument,
    While he was an atheist, his students challenged him to apply his laws of evidence to the Gospels. He concluded by his previously defined atheist legal writing, the Gospels read as if they were authentic and honest testimony.
    I was asked to prove he was ever an athiest, after a day of searching all I can find is the above statement repeated without any evidence whatsoever? Can someone help me out here?

    • You have to be fabricating a false objection, because you claimed you were only evangelizing to “unbelievers.” How did you prove they were all unbelievers? What details do you have to support the claim they were unbelievers, did you administer a test or question them all first?

  2. You tell the story that Prof. Simon Greenleaf became a Christian after his Harvard students challenged him to investigate the Gospels. I am certain you repeated the story in good faith, and did not know that it is completely false. With due respect, I believe that perpetuating such falsehoods cheapens real apologetics, and Christians would be better served by relying on accurate and truthful evidence.

    Greenleaf was an Episcopalian who would be appalled and offended by anyone who called him an atheist. See Daniel D. Blinka, The Roots of the Modern Trial, Greenleaf's Testimony to the Harmony of Christianity, Science, and a law In Antebellum America, 27 Journal of the Early Republic 293 (Summer 2007). If you like, I can email to you a PDF of this article.

    You can also Google "A discourse pronounced at the inauguration of the author as Royal professor of law in Harvard University, August 29, 1834. By Simon Greenleaf" to find clear proof of his Christian faith before he began teaching any students. Greenleaf explained:

    Christianity founds its claims to our belief upon the weight of the evidence by which it is supported. This evidence is not peculiar to the department of theology; its rules are precisely those by which the law scans the conduct and language of men on all other subjects, even in their daily transactions. … The Christian religion is part of our common law, with the very texture of which it is interwoven. Its authority is frequently admitted our statute-books; and its holy things are there expressly carted from blasphemy and desecration.

    Again, this is what Greenleaf believed BEFORE he started teaching at Harvard. The idea that students had to challenge him in order for him to convert to Christianity is patently absurd. The plain and indisputable fact is that Prof. Greenleaf was never an atheist or skeptic, and the apologetic stories about him trying to disprove Jesus' resurrection are appear to be complete fabrications.

    I respectfully suggest that you remove or correct this inaccurate information. In fact, I "challenge" you go beyond quietly and surreptitiously deleting the fable from your website. You can publish a retraction in which you explain the story is false and discuss how Christian should beware of such simplistic urban legends. You can take a stand against falsehood and for truth. Please contact me if I can assist you in any way.

    • Your comments start out with easy to prove, false claims:

      “I am certain you repeated the story in good faith” – You CANNOT be certain of this, so you are lying about certainty.

      “it is completely false.” – The story CANNOT be completely false, if the main character existed and he wrote the Testimony of the Evangels. So again, you are exaggerating to the point a lie is created.

      Once someone uses fantastic exaggerations in the opening sentences, it is easy see what is going to be presented: A series of grand exaggerations and lies aimed at provoking a fake debate on fake premises.

      You, sir, are an easily identified serial liar. You are FULLY AWARE the Gospels are truthful dialoague, and would not engage in a discussion of all the evidence presented in the rest of the article. You exist on “belief” far more than I do – you are only here to make sure the evidence in the article is not discussed, only your fake belief and fake claims.

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