Thursday, January 27, 2011

My First Million-Seller!

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Well, kinda-sorta . . . Unfortunately, the big seller is not a book. It's my pamphlet, Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked, published by Our Sunday Visitor in July 2002. I've made more in royalties for this two-page pamphlet than I have for any of my books, since it has consistently sold well, and because Our Sunday Visitor is the largest Catholic publisher (more advertising and distribution: the name of the game in publishing).

It has sold 22,695 copies, as of 12-31-10. The pamphlets come in packs of 50, so if you do the math, individual pamphlets sold a total of 1,134,750. Thus, over a million people have read this, just as over 1.5 million people have visited my blog since February 2004. I don't make one cent of profit from the latter activity (2650 posts and counting) but that's fine. It's my choice, and I'm happy to serve the Catholic community, as long as I am able to, and have enough income from other avenues.

My other bestselling books are as follows (in terms of copies sold):

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (self-published in October 2001 and by Sophia Institute Press from May 2003): 19,144 (as of 7-25-10).

The Catholic Verses (published in August 2004 by Sophia Institute Press): 16,174 (as of 7-25-10).

The One-Minute Apologist (published in May 2007 by Sophia Institute Press): 8,981 (as of 7-25-10).

The New Catholic Answer Bible (April 2005) is also consistently selling very well, as evidenced by continually high placements (often top 20, or at least top 50) in amazon lists for sales rank in the category of Catholic books. I don't have exact numbers for that because I don't get paid royalties for it (hence no statements with figures twice a year). But to be that high in those rankings, it must be doing quite well.

Essentially, then, I have five bestselling works in the Catholic market, which is (obviously, with these kinds of numbers) a small, niche market. Catholic apologist Karl Keating, in his November 2006 e-letter written in support of Sophia Institute Press (publisher of four of my books), wrote about Catholic publishing:

I remember, years ago, meeting with Fr. Joseph Fessio at Ignatius Press in San Francisco. I asked him how many copies of a book he would need to sell to turn a profit. He said he would need to sell as few as 3,000 copies, but not a few of the titles Ignatius published never reached even that level. . . .

The plain truth is that very few Catholic books sell into six figures. For that matter, few sell into five figures. In orthodox Catholic publishing, you have a hit if you sell 10,000 copies of a title. It certainly is a niche market.

The Writers Guidelines web page for Servant Books / St. Anthony Messenger Press makes a similar observation:

Our books are written for the adult Catholic market. Our readers are parents, young adults, priests, members of religious orders, directors of religious education, catechists, teachers, people actively involved in parish life and ministry, small–group leaders, readers searching for inspiration for their spiritual life or help with special problems. We look for books that will sell in trade and religious bookstores. We expect to sell at least 5,000 to 7,000 copies of a book.

Another way to "rank" my books is to figure out what they have sold as an average per month. By those calculations, the bestselling titles are as follows:

The One-Minute Apologist 236 / month average over 38 months.

The Catholic Verses 225 / month average over 72 months.

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked 225 / month average over 101 months.

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism 201 / month average over 87 months (Sophia Institute Press: since May 2003) or 181 / month average, including the self-published period starting in October 2001 (106 months).

Again, I don't have figures for The New Catholic Answer Bible, but it would certainly be comparable to these, if not the bestselling of all.

Thanks so much for reading! It's both rewarding and quite humbling to me that people are actually interested in my writing. I love my life, and wouldn't trade it for anything. It's a financial struggle at times, but all in all it is a wonderful life and it is my privilege and honor and joy to be a full-time apologist (as I have been since December 2001). All glory to God for His gifts and provisions and mercies and guidance.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resurrection Appearance Accounts: More "Bible Butchery" From Atheist "DagoodS": His Demonstrably False Pretense That the Passages Are Contradictory

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[ source ]


This is what our friend "DagoodS" (former fundamentalist Christian and now atheist) does: he loves to gleefully suggest supposed contradictions in the Bible, so he can feel all the more comfortable and comfy-cozy in his relatively new atheist "skin." He can confidently, triumphantly face each new day with his head held high, "knowing" that he has refuted those ignorant, lying, intellectually dishonest Christian apologists once again. He correctly understands the Bible; we Christians don't, because (so he tells us) we are blinded by our belief in inspired written revelation.

Everyone has their natural biases of party affiliation; sure. I've always acknowledged that. But there is bias, and there is BIAS (if you know what I mean). I've often said that atheists of his sort approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog (hence my title). DagoodS is on record as not appreciating that description. But it's true in his case and that of most atheists who deign to do what they consider to be "biblical exegesis." He sees what he wants to see. When it comes to butchering individual Bible passages we Christians refer to that with the 50-cent word eisegesis, which means literally "reading into the text [what is not there]."

We can be assured that when DagoodS sets out to "interpret" the Bible the result always comes out the same: the Bible is untrustworthy and self-contradictory. It's made up. It's not what it purports to be: not even on the level of historical analysis and verification (wholly apart from the question of error-free inspiration).

Now, it is true, on the other hand, that when Christians (like myself), who believe in biblical inspiration and infallibility, interpret the Bible, it "comes out" harmonious and self-consistent. Very true. We have a bias "fer," and the atheist has a bias "agin" the Bible. That's a given. So all we can do is apply the logic and common sense that both sides presumably have (or should have) in common, and let the reader determine which individual interpretation is more plausible and reasonable to hold. This will be an opportunity for readers to do just that.

I shall be examining DagoodS' post entitled "Picking and Choosing" (3-4-08). His cited words will be in blue. He sets the stage in his paper:

Prior to a trial, each side has to present to the other an Exhibit List—a pleading detailing what documents and items they intend to introduce at trial. It is no surprise the lists between opposing parties disagree. Why? Because each side is picking (out of ALL possible Exhibits) those which support their case.

When looking for support for our position, we look for those with similarities. We even overlook great dissimilarities to focus on minute agreement. . . .

One of the areas in which I watch this happening is the attempt to reconcile the resurrection appearances of Jesus among the canonical books. Similarities are trumpeted; inconsistencies are down-played. . . .

. . . assuming this was a credo of some sort [1 Cor 15:3-8], passed from Christian to Christian eventually falling on Paul’s ears—what does it say about the Gospel stories which have very different accounts? How is it the Gospel of Matthew, if written by one of the Disciples, does not align with the credo? Nor the Gospel of John—also an alleged eyewitness according to Christian tradition?

Many Christian apologists attempt to place this credo early; unwittingly forfeiting the reliability of the Gospel accounts. They want us to look at the similarities, and ignore the differences.

Having plainly stated his thoroughly hostile presuppositions, DagoodS then summarizes the post-Resurrection accounts:

1 Corinthians

1. Cephas (presumably Peter)
2. “The Twelve” (title of the Disciples)
3. Over 500 brethren at once
4. James, the brother of Jesus
5. All the apostles
6. Paul.

Mark

Has no appearances.

Matthew

1. Mary Magdalene and the Other Mary
2. Eleven Disciples

Luke

1. Simon? (24:34)
2. Cleopas and ____ on the Road to Emmaus
3. Eleven and those who were with them.
4. Apostles. (Acts 1:2)

John

1. Mary Magdalene
2. Ten Disciples (No Thomas)
3. Eleven Disciples.
4. Peter, Thomas, Nathanial, sons of Zebedee and two other disciples

These are assumed throughout to be contradictory ("dissimilarities . . . attempt to reconcile . . . inconsistencies . . . does not align . . . forfeiting the reliability of the Gospel accounts . . . differences . . . very different"). Let's take a closer look to see if his opinion can withstand scrutiny. It has always been the case with DagoodS' anti-biblical arguments, every time I have scrutinized them: they always appear to be strong at first glance but they are actually as weak as a house of wet cards when closely examined.

What is striking is not only the differences in order, but the actual persons involved.

My my; how astonishing that different writers dare to highlight different people who saw the risen Jesus!!! How dare they do that! Don't they know that self-deluded atheists 2000 years later will pick through their accounts and falsely allege trumped-up contradictions, so they can run around proclaiming how ignorant and stupid Christians are, to believe such tripe?

The credo does not include the women—who are in both Matthew and John.

Even if true; so what? Other biblical books did, so that information is in there. Who says every single fact needs to be in each book? There is no such "rule." That level of repetition is neither necessary nor required: certainly not to avoid the silly charges of "contradiction" spewed out at every opportunity by atheists and other Bible skeptics who seem constitutionally unable to see the forest for the trees.

I deny, however, that Paul doesn't mention women at all (if this is implied), because 500 "brethren" (1 Cor 15:6) certainly includes women, as the term (adelphos) has a very wide range of meaning, including kinfolk, ethnic group, all Christians (e.g., Mt 23:8; Jn 21:23; Acts 6:3; 9:30; 11:1; Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 5:11; Gal 1:2; Phil 1:14), and all people (Acts 17:26; Heb 2:11). Paul's own sister is called adelphe at Acts 23:16. We can safely assume that in a crowd of 500 Christian believers, women were present. Even DagoodS could begrudgingly agree to that, I think.

But if DagoodS means only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (which is probably the case, I think), again, I say, "so what?" If they are included in the lists of Matthew and John, of what necessity is it, that Paul also "must" mention them? In DagoodS' illogical, jaded mentality, not being mentioned automatically means "denial" and hence, contradiction.

The credo specifically lists James—again unmentioned in the Gospels.

This is insignificant as well, because it was an event that happened later on. The Gospels describe the appearances shortly after the death of Jesus and hence don't mention later ones, such as to the 500, and to Paul and James. James came to the faith later on. He is described as skeptical in the Gospels themselves (cf. Mt 13:55 and Mk 3:21). This is no contradiction: much as DagoodS would hope that it is.

And finally lists “all the apostles” which is an unknown group comprised of unknown individuals, and unaccounted for in the gospels as well, although possibly included in Luke’s second book of Acts.

See the previous comment.

The credo includes this count of “over 500 brethren” which are not mentioned in any of the gospels.

Why does DagoodS seem to think this is of some grave importance, in order to maintain the integrity of the different accounts? It just isn't . . . This is his game but it is illogical, altogether sloppy, shoddy thinking.

Oddly, Acts 1:15 records the total number of “brethren” as being only 120. This is the same word used by Paul—how could it drop from 500 to 120?

This is a classic instance of DagoodS' wooden literalism: no doubt a remnant of his old rigid fundamentalism. He shows no consideration whatever of context: either in the immediate passage or in the historical sense of when each event occurred. Acts 1:15 is reporting about the time shortly after Jesus' ascension into heaven: even before the day of Pentecost. So this is very early. Presumably all the Christians were staying together at this early stage (implied by Acts 1:12-14).

After Peter preaches, as a result of the extraordinary events on the day of Pentecost, we learn that "there were added that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41; RSV, as throughout). Acts 2:47 adds: "the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." This all took place before Paul was in the picture. The numbers were multiplying due to preaching and miracles. Again, Acts 5:14 reports: "And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women."

Acts 6:1 refers to "in these days when the disciples were increasing in number . . ." Acts 6:7 states: "And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem . . ." Paul is first mentioned at Acts 7:58, and he is still hostile to Christianity. Therefore, he had not yet had his vision, which came after the 500 saw Jesus. By that time, there were more than enough Christians around, for 500 to see the risen Jesus. We have all this information, yet DagoodS makes an astonishingly ignorant remark about "how could it drop from 500 to 120" -- ignoring all of this relevant data, and expecting that this will seem to be impressive reasoning to fellow atheists, who never meet an objection to the Bible they don't like: no matter how ludicrous. It truly is extraordinary.

Luke seems to have no knowledge of any appearance to Peter prior to the disciples (note the words are placed in other people’s quotes, with no indication of any event occurring) . . .

The silliness never ends with DagoodS. Now he is quibbling about someone else mentioning Peter seeing the risen Jesus (Luke 24:34). In his list of appearances, he questions [question mark] whether "Simon" is Peter; everyone (who knows anything about the New Testament) knows that it is him: his given name was Simon, and Jesus usually called him that, until he re-named him "Rock" (Peter / kepha). Yet he claims that Luke "seems to have no knowledge" of an appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34 disproves this!).

In Luke, Mary Magdalene and the other women are clearly presented as seeing the risen Jesus before the disciples do (Lk 24:1-12). The narrative then switches to the two disciples walking to Emmaus. But that is not immediately after the account of the women, because the text says "That very day . . ." (Lk 24:13). When these two return to Jerusalem, they find the eleven disciples, who report that Simon (Peter) had seen the risen Lord. This doesn't necessarily imply that they had not also seen Him. Peter is mentioned because he was the leader of the disciples, and consistently portrayed that way in the Gospels and also the book of Acts (see my 50 NT Proofs for Petrine Primacy).

The (non-contradictory) chronology is clarified in the book of John, where Mary Magdalene (note that the text doesn't deny that there were women with her) sees the empty tomb first (Jn 20:1). She then informs Peter and John (20:2), who run and also see the empty tomb (20:3-10). Then Mary Magdalene actually sees Jesus (20:11-17). She tells the disciples that (20:18; cf. Lk 24:8-10), but the disciples were skeptical (Lk 24:11). By that night, Jesus had appeared to the disciples (minus Thomas), and they believed (Jn 20:19-23).

and [Luke] does not include any appearance to James.

Explained above: it is a later event not intended to be dealt with by the Gospel writers.

The subject of the Resurrection accounts and how they can be harmonized is a fascinating one for Bible students. I ran across an article from the always superb Christian Think Tank site, by Glenn Miller, entitled, "Do the Resurrection accounts HOPELESSLY contradict one another?" A number of excellent, super-relevant points are made. He approaches the question in the following manner (which I think is exactly right), providing five guidelines and brilliantly examining each factor in turn:

1. The absolute necessity of conjecture in historical reconstructions

Anybody that has "done" any history knows that the "just the facts" position above is simply absurd. History is reconstructive in its concrete practicality. To show this, it is sufficient to simply cite passages from standard works/textbooks on historical method. [four textbook examples provided] . . .

What this means for us is simple: we are SUPPOSED to come up with 'glue' explanations, plausible conjectures, and hypothetical 'narratives'--to weave the historical facts into a comprehensible whole. It is simply historical method that dictates that we will try to integrate (via interconnections and "induced" facts) the various historical data we have. It is not 'special pleading' or 'speculation'--anymore that constructing a history of Tiberius from the disparate and wildly divergent sources of Tacitus, Suetonius, Velleius Paterculus, and Dio Cassius would be. History is composed of inferential thinking and hypotheses.

2. The significance of different details in the accounts (from the standpoint of evidence)

No one disputes that the surface structure of the Easter narratives contains a large number of differences in details. The narratives themselves are not complete, of course, since each author selected only the details relevant to his literary purpose; so we would expect SOME LEVEL of complementary information (which is sometimes interpreted as 'contradiction'!), but the amount of these surface differences has historically been quite a discomfort to the casual reader or beginning student.

In actual fact, however, these differences serve both to (1) 'tip us off' to the author's intended purpose (e.g. what facts from a shared body of information did the author SELECT to include)--VERY important to exegesis; and to (2) lend additional weight to the credibility of the accounts! While it might seem odd to a reader to say that the apparent discrepancies between the narratives ENHANCES THE CREDIBILITY of those narratives(!), this is exactly what experts in evidence say. [gives four legal-type examples] . . .

The point should be clear--the surface structure IS puzzling; but instead of casting doubt on the passages, this structure actually turns out to be a reason to accord the narratives higher credibility.. . . the the differences in the accounts are very IMPORTANT to us--they give us additional reason to trust the testimony of these men . . .

3. The legitimacy of harmonization attempts relative to historical material;

We have already seen above that building an "imaginary narrative" that is essentially integrative, from "all the confusing phenomena," is the essence of historical method. So, 'harmonization'--the attempt to render a unified narrative from disparate narratives--should be understood as a legitimate step in this process. . . . it is standard practice in classical historiography, . . . Not only is harmonization a basic and standard tool of the historian; it is likewise a rigorous and DAILY tool of those who "get paid" to evaluate evidence--the legal profession! . . . Evangelicals agree that forced harmonizing (of which there are many, many comical and/or deplorable examples!) is illegitimate, but that the opposite extreme of dismissing exegetical efforts to follow standard historical praxis is likewise foolish.. . .

Notice that this account [Wenham's] has all the elements of historical inquiry--both conjectural and "imaginary" as well as supportive--e.g.,the "three reasons". It does NOT assume that the authors were under some kind of constraint to provide a list of all the incidental characters in the story--they only needed to marshal the relevant details for their specific literary intent and purpose.

The point should be clear by now: harmonization is a standard, essential part of BOTH historical inquiry AND legal assessment of testimony of witnesses. As such, it is not 'alien' to the biblical students task, nor is it something to be practiced woodenly. The student of ANY history (not just 'biblical' history) is not only sanctioned in the praxis of harmonization, but he or she is literally compelled to do--under the methodological norms of historiography. [four supporting quotations omitted]

4. The issue of "plausibility" of explanations.

"Plausibility" is a notoriously subjective concept, and one that engages epistemologists to no end. Oxford dictionaries define "plausible" as "seeming reasonable or probable", but this will not get us very far. What seems "reasonable" to one may seem unreasonable to another. "Reasonable" could entail simply the notion can I can make a "rational" argument--one in which a conclusion is supported by some appeal to accepted premises or evidence. In the case of "reasonable", all one has to do is demonstrate that the explanation under question is POSSIBLE, given what we know about the situation and players in the scenario under study.

"Probability" is, however, of somewhat more strength, but is still very loaded. Probability would need to be greater than 25-30%, say, for something to be considered 'plausible', but even the determination of some "threshold" percentage will be difficult in historical events.

Given this somewhat ambiguous criterion, let's examine two skeptical passages to see how this 'plausibility' criterion plays out.

[he then does fabulous lengthy refuting examinations of skepticism from Dr. Robert Price and Farrell Till]

5. Several specific reconstructions/sequencing of the post-resurrection events (or appearances of Christ)

I have assembled here several harmonizations or sequences of appearances of Christ. Some are extended entries (e.g. Archer), some are short lists (e.g. Ryrie, Willingham), some are merely statements of how specific difficulties are to be resolved (e.g. Blom), and still others are detailed summaries (e.g. Harris). Most of these harmonizations will differ in some details, indicating the reality that there are MULTIPLE WAYS to harmonize the accounts! The Christian need not be concerned over whether or not THERE IS a defensible and "plausible" answer; the tough question is "of the 10 plausible reconstructions, WHICH ONE is the best, in my opinion?"--a radically different situation.

Such is the case with these Gospel accounts. With further study, the apparent contradictions disappear. For example, all four accounts are in harmony with the following sequence of events: Very early a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna set out for the tomb. Meanwhile two angels are sent; there is an earthquake and one angel rolls back the stone and sits upon it. The soldiers faint and then revive and flee into the city. The women arrive and find the tomb opened; without waiting, Mary Magdalene, assuming someone has taken the Lord's body, runs back to the city to tell Peter and John. The other women enter the tomb and see the body is gone. The two angels appear to them and tell them of the resurrection. The women then leave to take the news to the disciples. Peter and John run to the tomb with Mary Magdalene following. Peter and John enter the tomb, see the grave clothes, and then return to the city, but Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb weeping, and Jesus makes His first appearance to her. Jesus next appears to the other women who are on their way to find the disciples. Jesus appears to Peter; He appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and then appears to a group of disciples including all of the Eleven except Thomas.

[retired judge and lawyer/solicitor/barrister Herbert C. Casteel, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, College Press: 1992, 2nd rev., pp.212-213]

[seven other harmonization scenarios also offered]


Miller then summarizes all of the foregoing:

  • I have obviously not resolved all the surface phenomena of the narratives, nor have I even attempted to do so.

  • I have shown that the methods used by thinking and conscientious evangelicals--harmonization and integrative narrative reconstruction--are legitimate and important.

  • I have argued that the Christian does not necessarily have to submit to external and foreign criteria for 'plausibility,' and that the historical student should be a critical thinker relative to those who would attempt to impose arbitrary criteria on the process.

  • I have given examples of appropriate harmonization.

  • I have argued that the apparent divergence at the surface level of the narrative accounts is actually something to appreciate! That these differences are important for both understanding and the extra 'weight' of credibility of the gospel accounts.

All of this taken together disposes of DagoodS' objections. He obviously sought no Christian answers to his incessant agonized "difficulties" with Holy Scripture. He just gives his "atheist sermon" -- knowing that his fellow atheists will soak it up and not give a thought to possible Christian replies.

Glenn Miller offers a fantastic amount of material on his site, that deals in excruciating length with just about every stock, garden-variety skeptical argument about the Bible that one can imagine. But does DagoodS -- the eternal Bible skeptic -- show any awareness of his site? Nope. A search of his blog revealed no instances at all of "Glenn Miller" ever being mentioned. Ignorance is bliss . . .

In any event, once again (as always), DagoodS has not actually demonstrated a true contradiction: in any conventional definition of that term. He merely asserts or insinuates it. He's the master of the superficial, surfacey treatment of Holy Scripture. We mustn't ever examine it in the depth it deserves: that he would accord any other document. We mustn't take a look at any Christian replies (and if we ever do, we wanna seek out the worst examples of our opponents, not the best). No; instead DagoodS bandies about fashionable, endlessly repeated atheist folklore and myth about the stupefying ignorance and special pleading ways of apologists. He condemns ideas without making the slightest attempt to interact with them.

Let's conclude by showing some facts about alleged contradictions that actually aren't:

1) 1 Corinthians 15:5 does not assert that he first appeared to Peter (Cephas), it simply says that "he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." So we know from this that he saw Jesus before the disciples as a group did (and before the 500 and James, and "apostles" and Paul himself), but it doesn't logically require that he was the very first.

2) Likewise, Luke 24:34 doesn't say Jesus appeared first to Peter. Thus, neither passage entails a contradiction with Matthew and John's report of women first seeing Him.

3) I submit that Paul started his list with Peter not because of some intended slight to women, but because he was the acknowledged leader of the apostles, and of earliest Christianity, and this was significant in terms of eyewitness testimony. It would be like citing the President of a company as an eyewitness, rather than some second-tier workers who saw the same thing. It carries more force. Paul singled him out as the leader (consistent with the Gospels) by mentioning him only; for example, in 1 Corinthians 9:5: "as the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?" When he began his ministry, Paul went to see Peter for fifteen days, and "none of the other apostles except James" (Gal 1:18-19).

4) Descriptions of appearances to the disciples as a group do not rule out an appearance to Peter beforehand. To rule this out logically, it would have to say something like, "He appeared to the disciples and this was the first time any of them had seen the risen Jesus."

5) Accounts given in one book only (e.g., the 500 in 1 Corinthians, and disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke) do not contradict accounts that do not contain them. Rather, they complement, adding new data.

6) DagoodS states in the combox: "And there is simply no way to confirm this '500' number. As I noted, it is not adhered to by any canonical work, and actually contradicts Luke/Acts. " As usual, he doesn't demonstrate this alleged "contradiction." I say he doesn't try because he has no case, It can't be done.

7) DagoodS' own list of the four books' accounts of the risen Jesus, that he tosses out, thinking that it is obvious to anyone (besides one billion Christians) that the data is contradictory, can easily be harmonized in a number of internally consistent ways. I shall denote each of his listings according to the first letter of the book and the number as he arranges it within the book:

DagoodS' Categories and Instances by Book

C1. Cephas (presumably Peter)
C2. “The Twelve” (title of the Disciples)
C3. Over 500 brethren at once
C4. James, the brother of Jesus
C5. All the apostles
C6. Paul.

M1. Mary Magdalene and the Other Mary
M2. Eleven Disciples

L1. Simon? (24:34) [Yes, Peter]
L2. Cleopas and ____ on the Road to Emmaus
L3. Eleven and those who were with them.

A1. Apostles. (Acts 1:2)

J1. Mary Magdalene
J2. Ten Disciples (No Thomas)
J3. Eleven Disciples.
J4. Peter, Thomas, Nathanial, sons of Zebedee and two other disciples

Murray Harris' Chronological Schema of Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus (as summarized by Glenn Miller)
1. Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John to the tomb, saw two angels inside, and then met Jesus (John 20: 11-17; cf Mark 16:9).
2. Mary (the mother of James and Joses) and Salome met Jesus and were directed to tell his brethren to go to Galilee (Matt. 28:9-10).
3. During the afternoon Jesus appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus. They then returned to Jerusalem to report the appearance to the Eleven and others (Luke 24:13-35; c£ Mark 16:12-13).
4. Jesus appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15 :5).
5. That evening Jesus appeared to the Eleven and others (Luke 24:33), Thomas being absent (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23; 1 Cor. 15:5; cf Mark 16:14).
6. One week later Jesus appeared to the Eleven, Thomas being present (John 20:26-29) .
7. Seven disciples had an encounter with Jesus by the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee (John 21: 1-22).
8. The Eleven met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16-20; cf Mark 16:15-18).
9. Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people (Luke 24:44-49; 1 Cor. 15:6).
10. He appeared to James (1 Cor. 15 :7) .
11. Immediately before his ascension, Jesus appeared to the Eleven near Bethany (Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:7; cf Mark 16: 19-20).

Incorporation of DagoodS' Instances Into the Harris scenario
(MH = Murray Harris)

i. MH1 [Mary Magdalene] = M1 (partial) = J1
ii. MH2 [Mary and Salome] = M1 (partial)
iii. MH3 [Two Disciples at Emmaus] = L2
iv. MH4 [Peter] = C1 = L1
v. MH5 [Disciples Minus Thomas and Unnamed Others] = J2
vi. MH6 [Disciples Including Thomas] = C2 = M2 = L3 = J3
vii. MH7 [Seven Disciples at Sea of Galilee] = J4
viii. MH8 [Eleven Disciples on a Mountain] [not mentioned by DagoodS]
ix. MH9 [500 Believers] = C3
x. MH10 [James] = C4
xi. MH11 [Eleven Disciples Prior to Ascension] = A1, C5
xii. [Paul] = C6

[Harris' schema doesn't include Paul at the end (C6), but that can be added on with no conflict of chronology whatever, let alone alleged "contradiction"]

This schema includes all of DagoodS' instances, save that of Paul, and Harris mentions one that DagoodS doesn't have. It is all done in a fashion that doesn't violate the chronology of any given account. It all fits together.

8) Note that if one follows DagoodS' instances by letter, all of them are arranged chronologically in an internal sense (i.e., within the book), excepting L1 and L2, which is easily explained: the two disciples on the road to Emmaus learned after their experience that Peter has seen Jesus, from the disciples "and those who were with them"(Lk 24:33-34), and so Harris lists Peter after them. But it is entirely possible that the appearance to Peter was before their own (or vice versa). Either scenario is entirely possible and neither entails a definite contradiction. Paul's account doesn't require Peter to have seen Jesus before the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (whom he simply doesn't mention).

Thus, there is no conflict of chronology, in putting together a plausible scenario of the data from five different books of the Bible. DagoodS has no argument. He hopes to succeed only by surface, first glance appearances of complexity (and ostensible "contradiction" deduced from same), knowing that most of his atheist and troubled Christian readers (on their way out of the faith) won't take the trouble that I have taken to examine the thing in the detail that it deserves.

DagoodS' "method" (insofar as we can say that he has one at all) is a textbook case of how propaganda and agenda-driven sophistry and biblical eisegesis proceeds, but not how serious historiographical research or biblical exegesis is done. We've seen this again and again in DagoodS' materials. It's always the same: alleged baldly stated contradictions that turn out to be nothing of the sort.

He keeps doing it, unburdened by the rigors and requirements of simple logic and intelligent interpretation of a text. And we Christians can easily keep refuting his miserable efforts if he insists on foolishly churning them out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Great Hittite Wars, Part IV: Lying Christian Egyptologist M. G. Kyle?: Atheist DagoodS Disputes Sir A. E. Wallis Budge's Reported Hittite Skepticism

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_FOIrYyQawGI/TTna4ZPyngI/AAAAAAAADN0/xJXT63UdAu8/s1600/Pinocchio.jpg
Christian Egyptologist M. G. Kyle (left) being lectured by hyper-skeptical atheist "DagoodS" (right) and instructed not to lie and deceive the reading public



See the three previous installments in this ongoing debate over the issue of whether radical biblical skeptics once denied that the Hittites existed at all, and whether Christians apologists and scholars have been lying about this reputed fact ever since (for over 130 years):

The Hittites: Atheist "DagoodS" Lies About Christian Apologists Supposedly Lying About How Biblical Critics Once Doubted Their Historical Existence

Habitually "Lying" Christian Apologists?: 19th Century "Hittites Didn't Exist" Radical Skepticism & Examination of Atheist DagoodS' Replies & Charges

Hittite Skeptics Chronicles, Part III: Specific Citations of Denial (Budge, Sumner, & Conder) and Biblical Historical Accuracy (in the Time of Elisha)

"DagoodS"' words will be in blue; Vinny's in green; D'Ma's in purple, and Jon's in red.

* * *

. . . you made a distinction between those who questioned the existence of Troy and those who questioned the existence of Hittites. You have a faith based commitment to the Bible whereas you are indifferent to The Iliad. Therefore, you have no need to discredit scholars who apply critical methods to Homer whereas you must attack those who apply the same methods to the Bible.

I think it is you who wants to treat the Bible differently from other ancient documents. You are perfectly willing to accept the intellectual integrity of those scholars who doubted the existence of Troy absent historical/archeological confirmation; however, if similar logic is applied to the Bible, you deride the scholars as “extreme Bible skeptics.” The only double standard I see here is yours.

If I read your latest findings correctly, even one of the authors of the work that gave “fundamentalism” its name is unable to cite any scholar who ever published a claim that the Hittites never existed. The most he can provide is the private musings of an anonymous colleague. I think you are right to anticipate that Dagoods is not going to admit defeat on that. (1-21-11)

It looks like you didn't read (or didn't properly understand) what I wrote above or the latest section of my (3rd) paper.

Kyle was (it seems pretty evident to me) being charitable to a very eminent fellow Egyptologist (Sir A. E. Wallis Budge) who had been shown to be dead wrong (two years after he made his statement), based on the seminal Hittite archaeological finds of 1906-1907, under Winckler.

Secondly, as he noted, Budge did not state this in print (he stated in print the lesser claim that the "Kheta" were not the same as the Hittites). He was apparently afraid to do so. Therefore, he expressed it privately. So Kyle honored the confidentiality by not naming him; yet he left so many obvious clues as to his identity, that I could figure it out 100 years later by a textual comparison and a fun bit of "literary archaeology."

Thus, not naming him didn't have to do with lack of evidence, but with the demands of charity towards a colleague, and the reluctance of the latter to publish his true opinion.

In his article "Archaeology" in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Kyle names many higher critics who question everything under the sun in the Bible. He didn't name Budge there as the person who made the denial (since his extreme skepticism was not in print), but he left a clue in context (see all the clues in my paper, above):

Occasionally it has been boldly said that "no such people ever existed" (compare Newman, Hebrew Monarchy, 184-85; Budge, Hist of Egypt, IV, 136).

The use of "compare" means that he wasn't arguing that these two works made the claim. They didn't. Budge said it privately to Kyle in 1904, as Kyle noted (not naming him) in The Fundamentals (1909). Since Newman died in 1897, this clue narrows it down to Budge. (1-21-11)

Newman's Hebrew Monarchy, incidentally, was initially published anonymously, so again we see a reluctance of the higher critics to openly state their more radical claims (in this case, in print, but without a name attached; in Budge's case, in conversation only). (1-21-11)

The same dynamic applied to Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger's works Letters of Janus and Letters of Quirinus, that dissented from the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility during the First Vatican Council (1870). They were anonymous. So this practice of anonymous dissent was not an unknown phenomenon at all.

Budge would have been all the more reticent in 1904, with over 20 years of archaeological findings already having occurred. Like many scholars who have been proven wrong over the course of time, he held on to his outmoded beliefs in the face of manifest evidence.

Archaeology is no different from natural science in that respect (see Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions), since human nature is the same and pride is a huge factor working against the granting of concessions and admitting error. (1-21-11)

(1) Scholars bounce theories ideas off their colleagues all the time. Then they do research. If the evidence directly supports the theory or directly refutes it, they may publish something. If the evidence isn't is inconclusive, they don't make a claim about it. Sounds to me like Budge didn't make a claim.

(2) Maybe, Kyle didn't identify Budge because he knew perfectly well that Budge would deny that he had ever categorically denied the existence of the Hittites. Maybe Kyle is just like all the other Christian apologists who have claimed that skeptics denied the Hittites without having the evidence to support their claim. (1-21-11)

Right. So you think the most plausible explanation is to simply call Kyle a liar regarding his report of what was said, huh? He completely fabricated a remark made by a very reputable archaeologist? Budge would categorically deny saying what Kyle reports him to be saying (if Budge is the guy)?

I thought DagoodS might pull a stunt like that (since he thinks many many Christian apologists are in the habit of deliberately lying or being utterly incompetent in research); I didn't realize you were as hyper-skeptical.

It's true that if one holds (like Bareknuckles Bum and to a lesser extent DagoodS) that those of a different persuasion are clearly a pack of liars and incompetents; intellectually dishonest through and through, that almost anything can be explained. You can do that; you can take a quasi-conspiratorial view of things.

I approach things vastly differently: I take people (all people) at their word unless there is very strong, compelling evidence to doubt their individual honesty. I don't regard atheists en masse as a bunch of liars or evil people. Nope. I approach each one as a person with presumed integrity; as a seeker of truth and the good, as he or she deems it to be.

The demonization of opponents is the primary cause of dialogues being impossible from the outset. Atheists and agnostics too often demonize Christians as dishonest liars or clueless dumbbells.

We all have to get past that and regard those who differ from us as people with an honest disagreement: seekers of truth just as we are. We can dispute and dialogue and debate about what these truths are or might be, minus all the derogatory opinions and cynicism. But we must presume good faith and honesty in our opponent.

At least that is what I will continue to do. I'll continue to seek out atheists who don't start with an assumption that virtually all Christians are idiots or liars or "retards" (the Bareknuckles Bum mentality). (1-21-11)

. . . he knew perfectly well that Budge would deny that he had ever categorically denied the existence of the Hittites.

I have already argued that this is implausible, because Budge would have known full well that he was the one being referred to, and that folks could figure it out without too much trouble, since so many clues were left, that I discovered myself.

Therefore, if it were a complete falsehood that he had made such a denial, he would have surely renounced the misrepresentation. The fact that he was not named is overcome by the fact of obvious clues left, where readers can put two and two together.

If Kyle were truly interested in lying and fabricating for mere polemical purposes, then he wouldn't have left so many clues to identity, precisely because it would backfire and become ugly with a strong rebuttal. It wouldn't be in his interest to do so; it would be counter-productive to his purpose. He would just say "so-and-so stated they didn't exist" without all the clues.

So I find your take quite implausible on these grounds and on the basis of not being in the habit of regarding eminent scholars as bald-faced liars: especially regarding aspects of their own field.

They may be wrong; stubbornly wrong, of course. They may be reluctant to change their mind when evidence warrants it, but they (atheist and Christian alike) don't usually lie and fudge the facts (i.e., unless they are in certain corners of the global warming PC crowd, where data manipulation is the norm). (1-21-11)

“Compare” means in support of the proposition. “Contra” would mean against. See compare vs contra. If Kyle wasn’t claiming the citations were supporting the claim “Occasionally it has boldly been said, ‘No such people existed,’” then what WAS he citing them for? (1-21-11)

DagoodS references "Basic Legal Citation" (which we can understand, since he is an attorney). The abbreviation "cf." or "compare" can and often does indeed mean "support", but it doesn't necessarily imply an equation of the original proposition and the ones suggested as comparisons. They could also be similar, but not identical. As a writer / author myself and apologist, I use "cf." all the time: preceding biblical passages. Oftentimes, these are merely similar, not identical (i.e., in the ideas therein).

It's rather foolish for DagoodS to make out that Kyle's use of "compare" means without a doubt that he is claiming that his two similar citations are absolutely identical to the alleged oral statement of Budge. This simply doesn't follow. They can be similar. Any dictionary definition or work of grammar or writing style will bear this out, and we need not belabor the point of definition any further.

Perhaps DagoodS is ignorant of the broader range of meaning that "cf." has) Fortunately (whatever the cause of his peculiar difficulty), we have things like dictionaries that provide objective meanings to words, so they can't be molded at will like putty, to mean whatever we want them to mean. DagoodS himself proves my point. I searched "cf." on his blog and found the following:

Essentially, Total Depravity holds that due to the inherent capacity for sinfulness, and yes, a proclivity toward self-interest (cf. Dawkins' "selfish gene" theory), . . . (8-18-08)

Total Depravity is a specifically Calvinist belief (not even the majority of Christians hold it). Dawkins is an atheist. Obviously, then, whatever his theory is, it is not identical to Total Depravity. Therefore, it is a comparison of concepts similar in some respects only. This is precisely what I contend Kyle was doing. It's not rocket science. But prior bias and hostile premises create strange opinions.

DagoodS latest reply is entitled, "Hittites, skeptics, and hearsay" (1-21-11). I shall cite it in its entirety (his words in blue, as usual) and respond point-by-point: a courtesy that DagoodS rarely if ever extends to me. He usually cites very few of my words, usually preferring to simply launch into his own little thought world with scarce reference to any argument of mine (akin to a closing argument in a court case).

That makes for, too often, lousy rational argumentation. On my site, I present both sides, and give my opponent the respect of dealing with his arguments and replying, rather than ignoring most of them or presenting "them" back in my own words, filtered through my natural bias (as he frequently does).

I apologize for this; I don’t generally like to create a post out of comment discussions, as it becomes disjointed. However, as you will see, this will simply be easier to read by putting in posting form. We continue our search for a skeptic who stated, “Hittites never existed.”

For Lurkers, the newest name proposed by Dave Armstrong in our Parade of Characters is E.A.T.W. Budge - prolific writer who wrote extensively on Egyptian history from 1885 – 1930.

We don’t have a specific writing from Sir Budge denying the existence of the Hittites; what we have are the writings of Melvin Grove Kyle (a contributor to The Fundamentals (1909) if that means anything to you!) where Kyle reports, “In 1904 one of the foremost archaeologists of Europe said to me: ‘I do not believe there ever were such people as the Hittites…’”

No name, situation or context is given for this anonymous quote. Dave Armstrong argues (persuasively, in my opinion) Melvin Kyle is implicating Sir Budge with this quote, without directly attributing it to Sir Budge.

Good; so at least he agrees that Kyle thought it was Budge, and was persuaded by my reasoning for believing this to be the case.

The documentation provided by Dave Armstrong supports this position:

1) In 1912 (three years after The Fundamentals), Melvin Kyle wrote The Deciding Voice of the Monuments in Biblical Criticism. At pg 105, he states:

Some had even gone so far as to say, though not often for publication, that “no such people as the Hittites ever existed.” Budge, in his History of Egypt, says: “The Kheta, who are, no doubt, the people referred to by the Assyrians under the name of Khatti, have been identified with the Hittites of Holy Scripture, but on insufficient grounds,” and again, “In passing it must be stated that the commonly accepted identification of the Kheta with the Hittites of the Bible is as yet unproved, since it rests only upon the similarity between the Hebrew name Heth, and the Egyptian name Kheta.”

The citation of Sir Budge immediately following the statement about Hittites not existing implicates Sir Budge either directly stated it, or supports it in his writing.

It is part of the "clue" that Budge was in his mind. But Kyle had just noted that these ultra-radical statements of skepticism were made "not often for publication." He then goes on to document examples of lesser but still significant skepticism, because that is what the skeptics (including Budge) were willing to put into print. It doesn't follow that these opinions were thought by Kyle to be identical to the complete skepticism.

In past installments of this debate DagoodS has, more than once, made wild claims about what he thinks Christian scholars were arguing by citing something, that did not logically follow, or make sense in context. He has claimed, for example, that people were misrepresenting the opinion of F. W. Newman, when this was not in fact the case. Anyone who can read can see that what Kyle cited from Budge is not the same as absolute denial. DagoodS need not point that out, as it is already obvious.

However…we encounter our first problem. Melvin Kyle is quote-mining. Sir Budge wrote a multi-volume set of History of Egypt in 1902. The second quoted sentence comes from Volume Six, page 34 where Sir Budge states

In passing it must be stated that the commonly accepted identification of the Kheta with the Hittites of the Bible is as yet unproved, since it rests only on a similarity of the Hebrew name Heth and the Egyptian name Kheta; on the other hand it may readily be conceded that the people who built the fortress temples of Baghaz-Köi and Eyuk belonged to the same race, if they were not actually the same people, as the Kheta depicted on the Egyptian monuments.

Whoops! Did you catch that? Melvin Kyle only quotes Sir Budge up to “Egyptian name Kheta” and then stops. I don’t know about you, but if I continued a sentence with “on the other hand” I would appreciate being quoted entirely! Sir Budge specifically states it is “readily conceded” the people who built the fortress (the Hittites),

But Budge didn't call the people who built these fortresses "Hittites." This is what DagoodS hasn't yet grasped. We do now, but he didn't, because he denied the category.

belonged to the same race as the Kheta, “if not actually the same people.” (his words.)

So what!! This is irrelevant, which is probably why Kyle felt no need to include it in the quote. Budge denies the equation of the Kheta and the biblical Hittites. But he concedes that the folks further up north (current-day Turkey [Asia Minor or Anatolia] and Syria) are "of the same race." They are part of a much larger category, but "not actually the same people." This is no more significant than saying "Dwellers in the Caucasus mountains and John Smith from Wichita, Kansas and Karl Schmidt from Hamburg are of the same race: Caucasians." A category that broad indicates little with regard to peoplehood, or culture, etc. And peoplehood is precisely what is presently under consideration.

Hence, Budge denies that the two are the same people (they are only part of a larger race). He is skeptical of the category of "Hittites" altogether. That's why he wrote, "the people who built the fortress temples of Baghaz-Köi" rather than (what was already pretty much accepted by then) "the Hittites who built the fortress temples of Baghaz-Köi" (a major city in the Hittite Empire). He denies that the Kheta are Hittites and he denies (by refusing to name them) that the people who built the temples of Baghaz-Köi were Hittites, too.

DagoodS wants to play the quotation game and argue that someone provided an incomplete, out-of-context citation (with the insinuation of deliberate cover-up or possible dishonesty)? I can play that game, too, if he wants me to. Why don't we, then, continue his larger quotation and see what Budge says after that?:

The reasons for this view are based upon the identity of features and costume of the people depicted on the reliefs of Eyuk with the Kheta of the Egyptian reliefs. The hieroglyphic inscriptions of the race to which the Kheta belonged, which have been called "Hittite," and which are declared to have been "read" and "translated" have not as yet been deciphered, and all deductions based upon such "readings" and "translations" are worthless for archaeological purposes.

We see, then, that the only two times Budge uses Hittite or Hittites in this work, he is skeptical. On p. 34 he denies that the Kheta are the same as "the Hittites of the Bible." On the next page he skeptically puts "Hittite" in quotation marks. He denies the very category (precisely what I have been arguing that he did, and what Kyle claims he made quite clear in a remark). So he uses "people" to describe those who built Baghaz-Köi: the city that all now hold to be a Hittite center of power. That is the entirety of relevant references in this particular book. Yet DagoodS claims that it provides some proof that Budge accepted the existence of the Hittites as a nation (let alone an empire).

Moreover, we see him naming all sorts of other peoples in the following pages (minus the cynical quotation marks): "warlike tribes that lived on the southern coast of Asia Minor" [where the Hittites lived], "Qarqisha" or "Qalqisha," "Pitasa," "Euka" or "Luka," "Maunna," "Masa," "Tarteni" . . .

The first of these tribes, the Qalqisha, seems to be undoubtedly the Cilicians, the termination sha representing the nominal termination in Lycian, the typical language of the ancient races of Asia Minor. The Pitasa are the Pisidians, the Euka or Luka are the Lycians, as already mentioned.

He mentions the Mashauasha, Sharetina, Sardians of Lydia, Sardinians, Shakelesha, Sagalassians, Thuirsha, Aqaiuasha, Achaians, Tchakarei (Teucrians), Taanau (Danaans), and Pulsath (whom he thinks are the Philistines), among others. All of these peoples are mentioned, but he has no place for the Hittites. He scorns them all three times he mentions "them" at all or their capital. And that is because, I submit, he doesn't think they existed. It's completely consistent with that hypothesis. I showed in my last installment how he exhibited this same "Hittite skepticism" in at least two other books of his:

In his 1929 (originally 1913?) book, The Rosetta Stone, Budge gives indirect indication of his skepticism in print, by putting every instance of the word Hittite or Hittites in the text (pp. 194-196) in quotation marks: thus suggesting a questionable identification, whereas he does no such thing for Babylonians, Assyrians, etc.

Budge writes similarly in his volume, A Guide to the Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities (London: Harrison & Sons: 1900), where he uses skeptical phraseology such as ". . . which has been called Hittite" (p. 27) and "seals inscribed in the so-called Hittite character" (p. 200).

All of this is quite consistent with the theory I am proposing and that Kyle indirectly asserts with all his clues (that DagoodS agrees implicate Budge in Kyle's mind and intentions).

Sir Budge is NOT stating, “The Hittites never existed.” He is indicating is that the connection between the Kheta and the Hittites has yet to be proven at the time of his writing.

He is not acknowledging them at all. He denies that the category exists, as I have shown from this book and two others of his. That's logically the same as "denying that a people and empire known as the Hittites existed."

Now look at the first quoted sentence by Kyle Melvin which comes from Sir Budge’s History of Egypt Vol. 4, pg 136 (1902)

The Kheta, who are no doubt the people referred to by the Assyrians under the name of Khatti, have been identified with the Hittites of Holy Scripture, but on insufficient grounds, and similarly the Khabiri have been identified with the Hebrews.

Again, Sir Budge questions whether Kheta is correctly identified with the Hittites. Not whether the Hittites existed at all.

It is not inconsistent with the latter proposition. It doesn't contradict it. It is simply a lesser example of skepticism which is completely harmonious with a proposed complete skepticism.

1n 1906, archeology confirmed Kheta was referring to the Hittites.

Yep.

Sir Budge wrote a book The Dwellers by the Nile which was originally published in 1885, but updated. I cannot confirm publication date of the copy linked, but in it, Sir Budge states at pg 53:

[F]or it was from this race the Khita nation, so celebrated for having waged war successfully against Ramses II, and recently identified with the Biblical Hittites, sprang.

(It appears in his later works Sir Budge refers to “Kheta” as “Khita.”) Reasonably, this was updated some time after 1906—after the discovery linking the two.

I agree; it appears that he finally learned by that time what had been argued by Sayce and Wright since the mid-1880s. Five times in the book he directly equates the Khita (aka Kheta) and the Hittites. Better late than never. At least he can admit he is wrong (unlike many people I know). I respect that.

If we review The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archeology published 1893, but updated 1925, Sir Budge repeatedly refers to the “Hittites” as historical without qualification.

Because he "got it" late and figured out the truth of the matter does not disprove that he categorically denied the existence of the Hittites before. Kyle indirectly acknowledged that he had changed his view, by writing in 1912: "no one is saying now that 'no such people as the Hittites ever existed.'" Budge had budged: he was now acknowledging the archaeological evidence. Some folks are slow learners. And some will accept the evidence of the spade, even if they eschew the historical evidence of Scripture (that is persistently verified by the spade).

Everything we have seen (including positive demonstrations of how he repeatedly denies the validity of the very category "Hittite") is completely in accord with such a theory. DagoodS denied that anyone ever was that entirely skeptical of the Hittites. He has been proven wrong. Christian apologists have not been lying, lo all these years. These opinions were quite real among Budge and no doubt other biblical skeptics, yet to be found and documented.

At best what we have is a scholar who questioned the sufficiency of proofs whether “Kheta” was referring to the Hittites. Notice he carefully qualifies his statement. He doesn’t say, “Kheta does not refer to the Hittites” nor does he say, “The Hittites didn’t exist, so Kheta can’t be the biblical Hittites.” He says the case is “unproven.”

Granted, that is how he puts it in his writing, with as much scholarly objectivity as he can muster. It is still not at all inconsistent with a theory of his radical skepticism.

Further (contra Melvin Kyle’s quote-mining) Sir Budge states whether Kheta refers to the Hittites or not—If Kheta is not actually the same as the Hittites, they must be the same race.

But he didn't say this! DagoodS imports his own thinking into the quotation but it isn't there (which is precious and humorous, doing this, as he does, right after falsely accusing Kyle of quote-mining). What he actually wrote (as already shown above) was:

. . . the people who built the fortress temples of Baghaz-Köi and Eyuk belonged to the same race, if they were not actually the same people, as the Kheta . . .

He did not identify these "people" as Hittites, and in the same work was consistently skeptical of "Hittites" altogether.

How could one claim Sir Budge was stating “the Hittites did not exist”?

The evidence of his works prior to 1904 bears this out, with consistency (at least what I have seen thus far). It doesn't prove it, but it is entirely harmonious with such a scenario. Nothing there contradicts it. And then, of course, we have Kyle's word for what he stated outright.

How could the Kheta be the same people, or at least the same race, as a myth?

That's not what my opinion (nor the early skeptical Budge's) requires. The early Budge stated that the Kheta were of the same race as an undetermined "people" who built and inhabited Baghaz-Köi -- but not with what he would regard as the Hittites (since he didn't acknowledge them).

Upon gaining new information, Sir Budge readily accepts Kheta and Hittites are the same.

Good for him. Maybe DagoodS will eventually alter his opinion as well, the more we keep showing that it has more holes than a pin cushion.

Now to the second document.

2) Melvin Kyle’s entry on Archeology in the International Bible Encyclopedia (1915?) states,

Then grave doubts in the past have been raised concerning the Hittites Occasionally it has been boldly said that "no such people ever existed" (compare Newman, Hebrew Monarchy, 184-85; Budge, Hist of Egypt, IV, 136)

Uh-oh. Do you see those two cites?

Yes we do! We can read!!! Isn't literacy wonderful?

That first name may be familiar to you—Francis William Newman. He was a previous contestant in our Parade of names and we already blew out of the water the allegation Newman said, “Hittites don’t exist.”

. . . which was a perfectly ridiculous and irrelevant exercise, since neither I nor anyone else claimed that he did so in the first place.

Indeed, he demonstrated he did think Hittites existed.

Yes, of course (YAWN). As already pointed out, I had written in my first paper (this is now the fourth in the series):

Note, however, that neither Newman's nor Cheyne's positions entail an absolute denial that the Hittites existed: only a severe doubting of many particulars and the general thrust of the biblical accounts, which have since been corroborated by archaeological evidence.

All this demonstrates is that DagoodS either didn't read or fails to comprehend my papers and clarifications made in his own comboxes, since here he is stating something that never was part of my argument. He's now been informed of this three times (counting this one). His stupefied repetition of the non sequitur comes as no surprise to me. It's what often happens when one fails to respond point-by-point. If you don't understand the opposing argument in the first place, then you make yourself look silly by opposing straw men that have nothing to do with the opposing argument.

And so here I am yet again, correcting DagoodS' false understandings. He can make fun of a caricature of my argument if he likes, for his readers, but he'll look awful silly when I present the actual truth of the matter in my replies. His choice . . . if he insists on looking rationally inept, I suppose I can't stop him. But maybe he'll learn to read more carefully in the future.

The original 1882 claim that I cited, from William Wright, entailed no such implication, either. DagoodS again simply read into it what wasn't there (an occurrence apparently distressingly frequent in his argumentation, since we have seen repeated instances of it). Wright stated that Newman "speaks of the Bible references to the Hittites as 'unhistorical,' and as 'not exhibiting the writer's acquaintance with the times in a very favourable light'". That is not the same as denying the existence of the Hittites altogether. I trust that most readers can perceive the logical distinction, even if the logically hapless DagoodS cannot.

And the second citation we have just demonstrated doesn’t hold water, either.

That particular section of Budge doesn't prove that he thought the Hittite nation or people didn't exist. I never said it did, nor did Wright. DagoodS certainly knows what I intended to argue: what my claim was, since I expressly affirmed right after the long quotation: that both men did not deny the existence of the Hittites in the citations mentioned. I didn't believe that of Budge till yesterday, when I put all of the evidence together. And this particular citation was not any part of my evidence proposed.

Realizing these entries are not enough, . . .

DagoodS acts as if his non sequitur paper made me see the light, but he misunderstood the nature of my argument in the first place. He reads the writings of Christians like myself in the same manner that he reads the Bible: not attempting to properly understand either before he proceeds to futilely attempt to rip them to shreds.

Dave Armstrong claims Sir Budge made an oral statement to Melvin Kyle, who did not attribute it to Sir Budge out of friendship. Curiously, the only support given is that they were in the same occupation (really? Everyone in the same occupation are friends?), and that Melvin Kyle didn’t attribute the quote to Sir Budge.

The reason someone says that the originator of some thought shall "remain nameless" is generally because either 1) they can't document or prove their identity, or 2) they fear a reprisal of some sort, or 3) they are protecting the person from embarrassment, out of charity. The latter seems the most plausible to me, since they were in the same field. True, that is not proof of friendship. It was merely speculation on my part; no more.

But good will and respect (if not technically friendship) could and would motivate one not to embarrass a colleague in one's own field. Assuming for a moment that the utterance actually happened, it strikes me as something that would be communicated to a friend, since it is controversial in and of itself. But friendship is not crucial to the theory as a whole. DagoodS is free to try to argue the superior plausibility of an alternate scenario.

The second support is question-begging: We know they are friends, because Kyle didn’t attribute the quote to Sir Budge. Kyle didn’t attribute the quote to Sir Budge because they are friends.

Mere speculations are not intended to be serious arguments in the first place. They are simply thrown out for consideration: to create a plausible scenario of what may have happened. They are tentative by nature.

I submit it more likely Melvin Kyle did not attribute this quote to Sir Budge, because Melvin didn’t want to be called out on it! Safer and anonymous to say, “I heard it from a leading archeologist” than to actually call out a name!

I don't find that plausible, for reasons I gave in my second reply to Vinny, near the top of this paper. The question at hand is whether the remark was actually said, and whether we can trust Kyle to accurately report it or not. I say that we can, because I see no reason why we shouldn't.

How many times have we had conversations like that? How many assertions have you heard, started with, “They say….” Or “Scientists claim…” And when we look for the proof (like we are doing here) all of a sudden “they” and “scientists” and “skeptics” become difficult to find!

I think eminent professors talking about their own field can, and should be granted a good degree of trustworthiness.

This is the reason we do not allow hearsay (a witness stating, “She told me…”) in a courtroom. It is unreliable. We don’t know the context, the credibility, the bias or anything at all about the person making the hearsay statement.

It was inevitable that DagoodS would object to it being "hearsay." I predicted that. Again, we are left with the decision of how we will interpret the claim. Is Kyle distorting what actually happened or fabricating a complete lie, or not? I don't find that likely or convincing, myself.

Take this simple situation. Bob is testifying:

Bob: Tim told me the truck was red.

But Tim isn’t there; we cannot cross-examine him. What if Tim was color-blind? Or it turns out Tim wasn’t in a position to even see the truck? Or Tim has some bias? This is the reason we indicate attorneys must be allowed to cross-examine the ACTUAL witness. Not what someone else claims the person said.

We have the same problem here. What was the context where Sir Budge talked (if he did at all) to Melvin Kyle? How many of us have heard someone quote what we said, and think, “Wait a minute. I wasn’t saying that AT ALL!” or “Wait, that was taken totally out of context.”

I know the feeling well, from how DagoodS treats my arguments! I agree that reports of oral communications aren't compelling in and of themselves. That's why I am creating arguments and a plausibility structure around the alleged spoken words of Budge: showing that nothing in Budge's writings contradicts such a proposed scenario.

Melvin Kyle already demonstrated he has no problem quote-mining.

I deny this, and I have given my reasons why, above. But I have shown how DagoodS distorted what Budge said and molded his stated opinion into a conception of his own making: a sloppy exercise in wishful thinking.

What if Sir Budge said, “The Hittites as literally described in the Bible? In my opinion, no such people existed”? Many other scholars questioned the literal accounts without questioning the Hittites existence. (The same way if I was talking about Exodus and someone mentioned the Egyptians willingly giving the exiting Hebrews gold, silver and clothing to the point the Egyptians were plundered. Exodus 12:35-36. I could respond, “No such people existed!” I am NOT saying Egyptians didn’t exist—I am saying those particular Egyptians are a myth.)

I trust the eminent scholar to have reported it accurately and not out of context. DagoodS doesn't trust him. That's what it comes down to. I trust scholars in their own field. I take them at their word. It is irrelevant to me if they are Christians or atheists or left-handed, one-eyed, freckled libertarians.

Melvin Kyle could easily take a sentence out of context or modify it, or mold it to his own wishes.

And DagoodS can easily apply his usual cynicism and skepticism to Kyle, just as he does with everything and anything else Christian or biblical. If Kyle had a bias (granted) -- not the same as deliberate distortion or misrepresentation --, then by the same token, so does DagoodS, in how he interprets. It doesn't mean that someone is deliberately lying. Natural bias is one thing; lying or deceitfulness quite another. In the end, readers will have to make up their own minds how they will interpret all this.

Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe Sir Budge said to him privately, “All this Hittite nonsense is bunk. No Hittites ever existed.” That is the problem with hearsay—we don’t know! This is why we must rely upon our sources, and avoid inferring something not there.

Not everything is the equivalent of a court case. We proceed in our everyday lives doing many things that aren't absolutely proven. Absolute proof is not required here (nor belief "beyond a reasonable doubt"). We're speculating and arguing for plausible scenarios.

Finally, it appears anachronistic for Sir Budge to write about the similarities between the Hittites and the Khetas—if not the fact they were actually the same people!—and then privately proclaim the exact opposite.

This smuggles in the same falsehood that DagoodS has used repeatedly: that Budge was referring to the Hittites in comparison to the Kheta. He did not do so, as shown.

A hearsay statement conveniently fitting what a quote-mining apologist wants to hear, who carefully avoids attributing it to Sir Budge.

Essentially, this is a sophisticated way of saying that Kyle lied. Big surprise: DagoodS again concludes, after long, agonizing, soul-searching (utterly fair-minded) reflections on the matter, that the Christian lied. That's what they always do. Christians (especially we lowly scheming apologists) are a great big pack of liars.

The actual quotes do not align with what Sir Budge claims—the fact Melvin Kyle cut out a most important portion should cause heavy concern regarding his reliability.

That's sheer nonsense. I have shown that Kyle didn't do anything wrong in not including later sentences (whereas DagoodS read incorrectly a crucial element of Budge's position). This is a bum rap. But DagoodS is desperate at this point, and the charge of lying and/or incompetence is what he always seems to fall back on. It's what started this debate: his classifying apologists as habitual, inveterate liars. He tried to water it down later and make out that he wasn't claiming that, but I documented his original meaning beyond any doubt. And now he is doing the same thing again. The leopard can't change its spots. It looks like as long as DagoodS is an atheist, he will always suspect any Christian thinker of being a dummy or a liar. Kyle is the present recipient of this blessing.

Not to mention citing Newman, who we have already seen, contended Hittites existed. If Kyle is willing to misrepresent Newman . . .

He did no such thing. DagoodS charges Kyle falsely. This goes back to the meaning of "compare" (or, "cf.") that I dealt with above. DagoodS reads into the quotation an intent to distort that was not there.

and is willing to misrepresent Sir Budge, why should we consider him reliable for claiming an anonymous statement, implicating the opposite of what Sir Budge wrote?

DagoodS says Kyle is an incompetent and a liar (surprise!!!). I say he can be trusted, for the many reasons I have given. Readers can choose for themselves. It's all here. I have included DagoodS' entire paper, with my reply. I trust readers' intelligence enough to use their critical faculties and come up with an informed opinion.

But the substance of the reputed oral statement is not at all the "opposite" of what Budge wrote (prior to 1904). To the contrary, it's completely harmonious with it. I think I have demonstrated that, but again, readers are free to judge for themselves. I encourage all of you reading this to do just that.

* * *

Sniping-type remarks by DagoodS in his combox and my replies:

Read Dave Armstrong’s response to my question as to why Kyle was citing Newman and Budge. He indicates “compare” means “concepts similar in some respect only.”

He mocks me; calling me “foolish” for allegedly claiming Kyle’s use of compare means “without a doubt that he [Kyle] is claiming that his two similar citations are absolutely identical to the alleged oral statement of Budge.” [emphasis in the original] (Note I did not say they were absolutely identical. Example 17,233 of Dave Armstrong misrepresenting my position.)

Interesting. So Kyle says “it has been boldly said that ‘no such people exist’ (compare Newman and Budge)” and Dave Armstrong insists this means the citations are NOT “absolutely identical” to the statement.

So Newman and Budge did NOT say “Hittites didn’t exist” just “concepts similar in some respect only.”

QED (1-23-11)

Yeah? So what? As I have stated three times, and again now, I haven't argued otherwise. I stated as much in my first paper. Maybe you'll get it now. (1-23-11)

In other words, in what was cited from Budge's writing, he didn't outright deny their existence. That's because he didn't wanna say it in writing. (1-23-11)

Read Dave Armstrong’s reply. One word: Spin.

Longer explanation: Dave Armstrong considers Kyle’s quote-mining of Sir Budge’s quotes (twice) by chopping out the end of sentences which conflict with his (Kyle and Dave Armstrong’s) position not important because…

…those portions of the sentences were “not relevant.”

No--I’m not kidding. (1-23-11)

I made my arguments, and they were quite involved and systematic. You can choose to ignore them or misrepresent them (as you usually do), or actually interact with 'em: take your opponent seriously enough to grasp his argument and show everyone what is actually wrong with it, rather than simply calling it names (like "spin"). I know it's a novelty, but I think there is a good chance that you might like it if you tried it sometime.

There has been no conflict demonstrated between Budge's words and my interpretations of what I believe was his pre-1904 position. Quite the contrary. (1-23-11)

* * *

The search for an old version of Encyclopaedia Britannica (reputed to have described the Hittites as a "mythological people") continues. I ran across a citation of the 8th edition (1853-1860; published in 1861) on "Hittites":

The 1861 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, under the subject ‘Hittites’, contains just eight-and-a-half lines and if you read these carefully, you will notice that they are only a brief summary of what is found in the Bible.

‘HITTITES, the children or descendants of Heth, formed one of the tribes of Canaanites which occupied Palestine before the Israelites. They lived in the mountains of Judea round Hebron, and retained their nationality even after the return of the Israelites from exile. The “kings of the Hittites” are often mentioned in connection with the kings of Syria; and in the days of Joram their alliance with the Egyptians was an object of dread to the besieged inhabitants of Samaria.'

(David Down, "The Hittites -- second time round")

We know, then, that as late as 1861, the Britannica was, in effect, still accepting the authority of the Bible with regard to Hittite history. Thus, that edition and earlier ones will not have the reputed text I am looking for (if it exists at all), because biblical skepticism was not yet the norm.

The next (9th) edition was published from 1875-1889. We know that in 1881 (article by T. K. Cheyne) the existence of the Hittites was not denied. A question remains, however, as to whether articles can change even within editions. Possibly they do (I recall, I think, revisions of Cheyne's article being mentioned). It may be that in earlier years within the dates above, more skepticism was expressed; then as archaeological finds came out, it was toned down.

A set dated "1875" is available at Wayne State University (my alma mater): "library use only" -- so I'll have to persuade them to let me look at it or learn what it says about the Hittites. That would be a special treat if I could find the great sought-after "gem" (that would end this discussion once and for all) right at my own college.

* * *

"D'Ma" commented on DagoodS' blog:

I've been reading the back and forth between you guys as this has unfolded. I really don't have a dog in this fight and am unprepared from a research stand point to argue for or against. Thus what I am offering is an observation and not an argument.

It seems to me, and as one who has typically been on the side of Christian apologist, that the arguments put forth by the Christian apologist in this case are a massive fail. This, again, is just an outside observation of facts.

The key words in this are "Occasionally it has been boldly said". Just from the outside looking in, if the best as a Christian apologist, you have is that Sir Budge didn't outright deny the existence of the Hittites "because he didn't wanna do it in writing" it can hardly be called bold.

It is my observation that apologists on both sides of any issue(I'm not speaking of anyone in particular here - so don't think I'm attacking anyone in this debate)tend to latch onto ideas and quote mine to support their own agenda.

I think at the very least maybe some agreement could be had that if the support for said argument is not strong, and holes have been shot through and through, that maybe it's just not a good argument and drop it.

It is hard to believe that apologists have clung to such a vague quote. But it does happen on both sides.

Furthermore, I'd be interested to know, did the Christian apologist correct his statement later? Even if Sir Budge did make the statement at some point, it appears that he later corrected his views "in writing" when new information came to light. Did the Christian apologist do the same? Did they recant the use of this denial of the existence of Hittites as an apologetic when the person in question changed his views on the subject? (1-24-11)

I responded (with a few minor additions here, compared to the original entry on his blog):

In effect, yes. Kyle noted that no one argued like that anymore, in the same context, and I would contend that his not naming Budge was a charitable act, because the man no longer believed it; therefore shouldn't be named. But it was important to note that skeptics once argued in such a fashion and that archaeology had corrected them. Kyle took a middle road by not naming him, yet leaving clues for those really interested in who it might be.

I think it is important to understand that skepticism in certain areas (basically from the school of higher criticism) was much greater in the past, before the advent of biblical archaeology, because we should learn from our mistakes. It's always good to know where we have come from. This is why history in general is a good and constructive field of study.

That said, I think that when this is done, it should be properly documented. I'm as disgusted as atheists, at the use of some "proverbial"-sort of accepted wisdom, minus any documentation and hard evidence presented. This is why I have had to work so hard looking up things, because so many Christian apologists (even scholars) were too lazy to do so and contented themselves with simply parroting "commonly known" knowledge (i.e., within their own circles) that something or other was the case. That doesn't cut it. It's never been how I do my apologetics.

But there are some additional reasons I have suggested, as to why it is so difficult to find documentation of this: it's very old (pre-1880), a lot is in German; skeptics were reluctant to put it in print (Budge), or to publish such radical opinions with their name attached (F. W. Newman).

But there were indeed such opinions (to a more or less degree). My research has shown that. It doesn't convince DagoodS, but nothing ever does: he is beyond all rational argument on some things. I write for others, not him. His was simply the extreme opinion that needed to be refuted. He doesn't dialogue (at least not with me). And that is what I am about. I seek dialogue, not mutual monologue (mixed in with a bunch of insults that have nothing to do with the topic). (1-24-11)

Another reason it is difficult to find is, as I have noted, because the word "Hittites" doesn't necessarily have to be used, if a person is so skeptical that he would relegate most of the early books of the Bible to mythology and legend. This definitely happened (I produced documentation). Such a position (such as held by Schultz or David Strauss or any number of higher critics) entails by its very nature a questioning of the Hittites' existence, along with that of many other figures involved.

It doesn't necessarily do so (one could hold that there were real people who were distantly and initially connected to the later massive accretion of legend and myth: such as King Arthur or Robin Hood, etc.), but such a position might very well involve that premise (non-existence) within itself. And it could be expressed without ever saying the word "Hittite," so that Google Book searches, etc., would not locate it.

But DagoodS has already stated that documentation of that sort is not good enough for him. Very convenient isn't it: if we irrationally rule out legitimate evidence and documentation for a position because it doesn't conform to a tee to what we say it should conform to? I have maintained that this is not the ideal evidence that could be found, but it is evidence, and relevant.

But this is part and parcel of the frequently illogical nature of DagoodS' argumentation: that I have objected to. His thinking is thoroughly irrational and confused.

Of course, you would expect me to say that, as a Christian. I say this is a key reason why he is an atheist, because of his disturbed, irrational thinking, that led him to atheism, by means of many false premises.

This is how I generally approach atheists and atheism: the problem is not usually a matter of being immoral, but rather, of being irrational and improperly grounded in or informed of Christianity and its rationale. That's why I always go in my analyses and apologetics right to one's premises (a thing that DagoodS detests and despises). (1-24-11)

I say DagoodS is irrational and uninformed about Christianity, so that he rejected it. Anyone would expect me to have some theory about atheists who once were Christians. I'm not gonna say his reasons for rejecting Christianity were perfectly good ones! I would be a pretty lousy Christian apologist if I thought that. :-)

I don't say he is immoral and evil. But DagoodS generally says about Christians that they are profoundly stupid and also a pack of liars. Which is worse? I haven't attached moral judgment; he has.

I can only do so much discussion about discussion. DagoodS refuses to actually talk about the thing itself in any comprehensive, normal fashion. He doesn't dialogue with me. That gets old. I will continue to seek an atheist who has the courage of his convictions and can defend them against honest criticisms. (1-24-11)

I hesitate to explain my researching skills. Like the magician, I fear once explained the magic becomes mundane, and the magician considered nothing more than a skilled laborer. All I did was two (2) things:

1) Find the Google Book of the source cited;
2) Search “Hittite” or “Hittites.”

The first step took a googlewhack. The second, typing in the single word in the “Find” box. I then found other instances where the same author referred to Hittites as existing.

Not particularly impressive, eh? *grin*

I personally find it very disingenuous to cut out a sentence…especially when the cut-out portion starts with “on the other hand” indicating a differing position than the first quote-mined part of the sentence.

By the way, does anyone (this isn’t directed at D’Ma) think I need to explain why I don’t dialogue with Dave Armstrong? It seems like petty internet feuding to do so. (1-24-11)

Thanks for the confirmation and clarification (lest anyone mistakenly think you have actually been attempting dialogue).

Again, I'm not the one calling you an immoral or dishonest person. At worst, I use a few pointed terms for what I consider weak arguments. But we can expect those on your side to take your side, no matter what happens. Nothing new there.

Since I am interested in dialogue and you clearly are not (with me) by your own admission, then obviously we are at an impasse. I have no interest in mutual monologue, so we'll have to agree to disagree and call it a day.

I thank you for the time you did put into this, and opportunity for me to clarify (and I think, considerably strengthen) my argument. (1-24-11)

* * *

Additional final comments in the combox:

[Dave: 1-21-11] :

Yep, "liar" seems to be DagoodS' stock answer to every Christian counter-claim. We must be lying about it. What else could possibly explain our maddening intransigence and refusal to bow at our atheist overlords' feet and accept their manifest wisdom?

[Larry ("Barefoot Bum"): 1-21-11]
(Summary: but Christians actually are liars . . .)

[Dave: 1-21-11]

I certainly wouldn't waste time with folks I consider inveterate liars. But of course there are very few I regard in that way.

[Jon: 1-24-11]
(gross summary caricature of what I supposedly argued, and how I did it)

[DagoodS: 1-24-11]
(agrees, pats Jon on the back, and presents further distortions of what I did)

[Dave: 1-24-11]

. . . it is entertaining and excellent for a good belly laugh. Thanks!

[Jon: 1-24-11]
(reiterates the tired canard that I am very nice in person; why not also in print?)

[Dave: 1-25-11]
(explains yet again why this objection is obfuscation, erroneous, and irrelevant)

[Larry: 1-25-11]
(puts his spin on the discussion and concludes that I am a liar)

[Larry: 1-25-11]
(I'm a liar, so he sez, because, well, all Christians are liars; therefore, I must be, too!)

[Dave: 1-25-11] :

Many thanks for the superb confirmation of exactly what I've been saying. Christians are a bunch of despicable liars. Rarely have I seen such a clear example of pure prejudice. This is as bigoted as it gets.

You lie about my supposedly classifying DagoodS as a "liar" (he showed the same non-comprehension of my position, even after I clarified it). When I used the term "Lies" in the first paper, it was a rhetorical use, since he had the word "lying" in his paper I was critiquing.

But it was "lie" in the sense of falsehood; not deliberate, knowing, deceptive falsehood.

If you look up "lie" in any dictionary, it's true that the first definition is knowing deception. But a secondary meaning is simply "untruth" or "falsehood." That was my sense. If it wasn't clear at first, it was after I clarified (at least to anyone who is willing to receive it, rather than concluding that I was deceiving and "lying" in the first sense).

So I didn't call DagoodS a "liar": contrary to his later semi-paranoid overreaction. But he has certainly called many Christians and apologists that, and you without question classify virtually all Christians into the category of dishonest, deceptive liars who care nothing about truth. I have never EVER said anything remotely approaching this sort of bigotry, about atheists. I don't believe it. It couldn't be any further from my position than it is. There is no comparison. Yet the myth around here is that I'm the one who has supposedly engaged in all these "personal attacks."

Whatever DagoodS thinks about Christians in general is hard to tell (he sends mixed signals), but I do know that he is unwilling to dialogue with me. So this continues to be a sheer farce. It's simply post mortem analysis now.

I continue to be astonished at how dimly my arguments, my motivation, the thrust of my reasoning throughout this, are understood. But what can I do? This is what happens, when the opponent is demonized and caricatured from the beginning. I agree with Plato and Socrates: that true dialogue is literally impossible with those stacked conditions of hostility and relentless suspicion of motives.

Apparently the goal on this site is to pat each other on the back and cry in your beer about how terrible and cruel and stupid and what a bunch of liars Christians and God are. There is little interest in discussion with someone who differs. The goal is to refute Christianity at all costs. It ain't the goal to interact with a Christian who dares to disagree with the cynical, jaded portrayal of the Christian faith that occurs here on a regular basis.

[DagoodS: 1-25-11]:

I am not quite as pessimistic towards Christians. I think many are truth-seekers, but the environment and culture is not very amicable towards it. The fact we see deconverts come out of Christianity would be sufficient evidence such truth-seekers exist.

As for Christian apologists…I do dialogue with many—and quite amicably. I think such discussions are helpful more for lurkers than any hope of one converting the other. To see how the arguments pan out, what the facts are, etc. However I quite agree with some it becomes a “tedious exercise in futility to have a discussion about a substantive issue with someone who is not an honest seeker after the truth” and further discussion becomes a waste of time and effort. Commodities best spent in other endeavors.

[Dave: 1-25-11]:

So you classify me as "someone who is not an honest seeker after the truth," right DagoodS? That's why you have no desire to dialogue with me.

[DagoodS: 1-25-11]:

Yep. Although don’t short yourself here--that is only one of many reasons I choose when and when not to reply to you.

Plus it is always fun watching how long you string out your insistence in having the last word.

[Dave: 1-25-11]:

Thank you for your frank reply. Let it be known that I don't return that insult. Be well.

[Jon: 1-25-11]:

Sorry to dwell on this. Maybe it's not important. But Dave, I find you to likewise be a bulldog in person. You seem competitive and not a shrinking violet in person. The same is true for your written debate. The difference is that the personal discussion seems a lot more pleasant to me.

I think that bit of unpleasantness in your written debates makes written communication more difficult and potentially hostile. Ask yourself why do you think it is that it's only the written communication that descends to levels you (and I) don't like. You and I will never have a problem in spoken discussion and you know that. So there's a difference between the written and spoken. Is it me? I think it's you. But if it's me tell me.

[Dave: 1-25-11]:

Is it me?

I think so.

I think it's you.

You're entitled to your opinion.

But if it's me tell me.

I did.

Do you agree that I am not "an honest seeker after the truth," as DagoodS just confirmed was his opinion?

[Jon: 1-25-11 + Dave: 1-25-11 (one / two / three)]:

I do not think you are dishonest.

Okay, cool. So we have three atheists, and three opinions of me. I'm quite the controversial (and complex) figure:

Bum:

Dave in person (though the man has never met me he purports to know all about me personally): ass, loser, etc. ad nauseum.
Dave in writing: ass
Is Dave a liar?: yes, cuz all Christians are.

DagoodS:

Dave in person: nice guy
Dave in writing: ass
Is Dave a liar?: yes

Jon:

Dave in person: bulldog in argument, but a nice guy
Dave in writing: bulldog in argument, and an ass
Is Dave a liar?: no

Fascinating. Thanks again for the comedic value of that. And I'm delighted to see that we have come so immensely far in our personal friendship that you can readily admit that I am not a liar. Now there is something very positive and encouraging to build on, ain't it, Jon? I'm not an inveterate liar because I disagree with you on something. I actually like truth, as you do.

But let me ask you this. Have you learned something through this exchange?

I learn something -- lots of things -- in every exchange I have. That's why dialogue is fun. One doesn't enter it in order to always be right, but to learn and grow. I do think I succeeded in providing sufficient evidence for what I suspected would be the case.

The claim of the apologist is that skeptics used to deny the existence of the Hittites

They did. That has been shown to my satisfaction. My Christian friends think so too. You guys think the opposite. Such is life. We think the evidence for the existence of God is quite sufficient. You don't. What else is new? I accept the report of reputable archaeologists in talking about their own field, even if I don't see exact quotes. Thinkers do that all the time in many fields of inquiry. We accept the word of the expert. We can't do everything ourselves.

and this reveals that they are in some way defective, or perhaps "hyper-skeptics" grasping at demonstrably false claims in their efforts to discredit the bible.

It shows that they wouldn't trust the Bible's historical accuracy (due to the poison and bankruptcy of much of higher criticism) and were proven wrong. I entered this whole debate because DagoodS called apologists who mention these 19th century skeptics inveterate liars. They weren't lying. There was lots of skepticism, to differing degrees.

Granted, much of this skepticism was not total, but then, many of the more nuanced scholarly claims made by Christian scholars were not necessarily claiming it was always total. There are gradations. This is what one usually finds in any intensely detailed and comprehensive study. It's like seeing a mountain in the distance, but then up close you really see how many topographical features it has. It ain't "smooth" at all. It's not simply described.

Is that a fair characterization of skeptics generally based on what you've learned about their claims regarding the Hittites? I hope you would say no.

My position is that atheists and other biblical skeptics are driven by their hostile premises, and these premises are false. I analyze peoples' thoughts and where I believe they go astray, not their hearts and motives. That is the game of DagoodS and Bum: "Christians are liars and dolts; that explains why they don't agree with us, the smart people who get it. But we know there are a few honest Christians: the ones (like us!) who decide to leave Christianity . . ."

I would hope you would at least agree that the apologetic characterization is not fair. Will you go that far?

I have made a number of statements critical of sloppy research and lack of documentation. No one knows that better than I do, because I've been out here busting my butt looking for stuff for two weeks, only to put up with DagoodS' condescending mocking and systematic disregard for my arguments, because (as we now know) he never had any intention of dialoguing in the first place, and regards me as a liar, not interested in truth.

Christians exaggerate claims and atheists do also. It's a general human tendency (bias). I've said this all along and it has been my opinion for as long as I remember. So I haven't learned anything new in that regard. I was only surprised by the extent to which DagoodS resorts to "liar" as an explanation for almost anything. He has gotten much more bigoted and cynical compared to when I first encountered him.

But this is what happens. The more you hang out with atheists (people like Bum) who despise Christians and think they are imbeciles and liars (and the less you hang around thinking, halfway decent Christians), the more you will tend to think that way. We are what we eat. If young people hang around other kids who do drugs and steal cigarettes from the store, they will tend to start doing it, too, the longer they hang out with 'em. People are sheep. That's how they act. Christians do the same thing, and not always in a good way.

The claims have been exaggerated, and things passed on that lack nuance and the proper distinctions. I saw a lot of that, and fully agree with you in despising it. I'm the one who has to deal with the backlash of that, as an apologist, not you, so I have at least as much motive (if not much more so) to detest distortion, as you. It's not the way I have always operated.

That said, I have shown in various different ways that such skeptics did exist. The key thing I found is, unfortunately, the report of a spoken communication. I accept the word of the Egyptologist who reported it; DagoodS does not, and essentially calls him a liar, too. So he's a liar and so am I. That is DagoodS' excuse to flee the debate and respond no further. I predicted early on that personal insult would be the result, the more I pressed the issue, and sure enough, it was.

It's easy to dismiss the other side of an argument as all liars and dumbbells. I don't approach discussion in that way. And that is why this goes nowhere. The stakes were high from the beginning, because of how DagoodS framed the question: making an absolute statement that "no one" ever denied the Hittites' existence, and then calling apologists en masse liars for denying his take.

My main mistake was in naively assuming that mere reason would work with a person who starts out with that sort of ludicrous and intrinsically hostile outlook. I should have known better, but I don't regret doing the work, because it was instructive on several levels and fascinating.

I especially loved learning more about and being able to defend the Bible in terms of what it stated about "kings of the Hittites" and of the Egyptians, in the time of Elisha, and how current archaeology and historiography backed it up.

So I am blessed after this. It was bound to end up with ill feelings because DagoodS began the whole thing with those same feelings. Garbage in, garbage out . . .

[DagoodS: 1-26-11]:
(relentless misrepresentations of my arguments, repeating dumb things back that have been clarified 3, 4, 5 times or more, compete with numerous personal attacks and additional falsehoods: "many Christians [including me] embrace non-truths to sustain their belief without researching. . . . persecution complex. . . . tenuous rationalization . . . claiming you didn’t mean lying when you said lying . . . name-calling, bad arguments, long-winded posts, rudely insistent on having the last word . . . dunderheads [myself and other apologists] . . . my position misrepresented, the quote-mining, the strawpeople and the refusal to clarify . . .")

***