Friday, June 5, 2020

Understanding the Assumptions of Bart Ehrman

Muslims and atheists love the arguments of Bart Ehrman against Christianity, and they used these argument against us. Therefore, it is important for Christians involved in apologetics to understand what the background is to Ehrman's argument. This video does just that. It explains the history, assumptions, and errors of Bart Ehrman. It is the best video I have seen on this subject.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A New Translation of the Qur'an with Variants Listed

A common argument from Muslims is that the Bible is corrupt and there is one perfect Qur'an, and therefore Muslims can dismiss the Bible, or pick and chose which verses they want to accept. This new translation of the Qur’an helps to show Muslims that this is not the case. It is a translation with the variants from the 10 accepted versions of the Qur'an indicated in red and translated in the footnotes. It is the first translation of its kind. This is a very powerful tool, both for your own reading of the Qur'an, and because you can quickly show a Muslim, in English, that the Qur'an has variants, and therefore they should stop exaggerating. The PDF of this book only costs a few dollars and is well worth it.

Muslim attitudes to the variants vary. Some say all the variants are inspired and are to be harmonized, others, that the variants come from the early Readers and are to be judged. Either way, this translation gives you the resources to have this conversation.

And here are two short videos from Shabir Ally discussing the variants. He really takes the conversation to a new helpful level, for which I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Responding to Kermit Zarley on John 20:28

In John 20:28, upon beholding the risen Christ, Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God.” In a paper written by unitarian Kermit Zarley (aka “Servetus the Evangelical”), he rightly points out that the prima facie reading of this passage as a declaration of the deity of Christ is held by scholars across the board, both conservative and critical. Nevertheless, Zarley believes there are good reasons to conclude that this consensus is wrong. The following is my evaluation of Zarley’s arguments. 

First, Zarley argues that because Jesus called the Father “My God” in John 20:17, the apostle John could not have meant that Thomas, later in the context, was calling Jesus “My God” (v. 28). However, it is presumptuous to tell an author what he could have meant. This is not the job of a responsible exegete. Moreover, saying that John could not have meant this is all the more egregious since we have clear evidence that John could, in fact, do this very thing. At the beginning of his gospel, in the space of a single sentence, John wrote that the Word was “with God” and also that the word “was God” (1:1). If Zarley’s reasoning were valid, John could not have said this about the Word. But there it is. Moreover, John also wrote, once again in the space of a single verse, that no man has seen God (“the Father”) and also that God (“the one and only”) has been seen (1:18). According to Zarley’s reasoning, John could not have said this. But there it is again. Since John, in the space of a single verse, twice did what Zarley said he couldn’t, there is no reason to believe he couldn’t do the same thing in the space of several verses in John 20.

Second, Zarley argues that the thesis statement in 20:31 (“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”), which concludes the narrative proper, would be anticlimactic if Thomas, immediately prior to this, is quoted by John in order to affirm that Jesus is God. This is so, according to Zarley, because “calling Jesus ‘the Son of God’ does not mean that he is God.” But this assumes a reductionistic and patently non-Johannine understanding of Christ’s Sonship. Contrary to Zarley’s assertion, and according to what John actually wrote, Christ’s Sonship is unique (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, 3:18), entails His equality with the Father (5:17-18), and was regarded as a blasphemous claim to deity by the Jews (John 19:37). Since this is the case, then calling Jesus the Son of God is not even a hairs breadth below Thomas’s confession of Christ’s deity. In addition, in light of the fact that  John’s Gospel begins on the high note that the Word who became flesh (1:14) is the very Word and Son who has always been God (1:1, 1:18), what would be anti-climactic is if Thomas’ confession (20:28) and John’s thesis statement (20:31) mean something less than that.  

Third, according to Zarley, the “key” to understanding Thomas’ confession is tucked away in John 14. As Zarley would have it, when Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God,” he “was acknowledging what Jesus had taught him,” namely that “the Father is in me” (14:10), a concept that Zarley, quite ironically in light of its classically Trinitarian origins and implications, refers to as “mutual indwelling.” On the basis of this, Zarley goes on to appeal to a concept of agency whereby one person can be called by the name of the person who sent him: “This indwelling of God in Christ, and God sending Christ, reflects the concept of agency.” In other words, as the agent of God, Thomas was calling Jesus “God” in a representative sense or was referring to the Father in Him as God. But Zarley’s argument here suffers from a fatal inconsistency. Even though Zarley refers to this as a mutual indwelling, his argument completely glosses over the fact that the “key” verse (John 14:10) on mutual indwelling is about, well, a mutual indwelling. Not only did Jesus say, “the Father is in Me,” but He also said, “I am in the Father.” But if the Father being in Jesus reflects the concept of agency, and if this is the basis for Jesus being called God, then, mutatis mutandis, it would also establish that the Father is the agent of Jesus and can be called God or Lord because of Jesus dwelling in Him. Surely this isn’t a conclusion that Zarley wants to maintain as a unitarian and accounts for why he ignored that his "key" has two sides rather than one.

At the conclusion of his article Zarley says his treatment of John 20:28 is the pinnacle of his research and contribution to the unitarian case against the deity of Christ, something he has laid out more fully elsewhere. Unless Zarley, in distilling his larger case down, chose to use his weakest rather than his strongest arguments, which strikes me as unlikely, then the pinnacle of his contribution rises no higher than an anthill. In any case, with respect to the article herein reviewed, a good case against the prima facie reading of the text has not been offered by Mr. Zarley. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Rounding Off My Response to Richard Carrier On Undesigned Coincidences (Part 6)

Richard Carrier's Argument To Show God's Existence Unlikely Is ...I have been reviewing a recent article by Dr. Richard Carrier where he provided a critique of the argument from undesigned coincidences in the gospel accounts put forward in Dr. Lydia McGrew's book Hidden in Plain View (please see part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5). In this sixth and final installment, I round off my series by reviewing Carrier's analysis of what he calls "leading examples" of undesigned coincidences.

The Temple Not Made With Hands

Carrier turns his attention to a selection of what he calls "leading examples" of undesigned coincidences. The first one pertains to Jesus' resurrection prediction in John 2:18-22. He writes,
Mark 14:55-59 and 15:27-30 repeatedly depicts the Jews accusing Jesus of claiming to destroy the temple; John 2:18-22 “explains” that when Jesus said that, he was talking metaphorically about his body. This is obviously just John explaining his source, Mark. There is no undesigned coincidence here.
John, however, does not mention the later misrepresentation of Jesus' statement and its use as an accusation against Jesus. Furthermore, the false witnesses in Mark and Matthew don't accurately represent Jesus' words (since he said nothing about destroying a man made temple and rebuilding it but not by human hands). But nothing in either of those gospels gives even a hint of what Jesus actually said. Only John gives us the backstory. In fact, in Mark and Matthew the false witness statements are actually unexplained allusions. The reader is left hanging, wondering when Jesus made this statement. It is also alluded to by those mocking Jesus on the cross in Mark 15:29 and Matthew 27:40. This suggests that it was a widely known statement of Jesus (not something the false witnesses came up with out of whole cloth), even though Mark and Matthew do not supply the pretext, and even though Mark and Matthew make it clear that the witnesses at Jesus' interrogation were giving false testimony against Jesus by this accusation. We therefore have two interlocking accounts that point to their being independently grounded in truth.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

External Coincidences and Acts of the Apostles: Responding to Richard Carrier (Part 5)

Richard Carrier • Announcing appearances, publications, and ...I have been reviewing a recent article by Dr. Richard Carrier where he provided a critique of the argument from undesigned coincidences in the gospel accounts put forward in Dr. Lydia McGrew's book Hidden in Plain View (please see part 1part 2part 3 and part 4). In this fifth installment, I discuss Carrier's dismissal of coincidences involving the gospels and external secular sources, and his dismissal of undesigned coincidences in the book of Acts.

External Coincidences

Carrier begins this section by stating,
I won’t bother, however, with what the McGrews call “external” coincidences, which are merely authors knowing things about their own history (like who ruled where and when, what titles they held, and what they were like). Authors knew those things about their history the same way we know those things about ours: they read books and inscriptions, listened to lectures and speeches, and absorbed longstanding cultural knowledge from their parents and peers. The only “coincidences” that have any chance of being “undesigned” are what the McGrews call “internal” coincidences, meaning from Gospel to Gospel, not from Gospel to pop history.
That is not a very accurate definition of what the McGrews mean when they talk about external coincidences. Rather, external coincidences function in a similar way to internal coincidences except they involve external secular sources rather than other New Testament accounts. In a similar way, the accounts interlock in a way that points to truth. For example, consider John 2:18-20, which recounts a dialogue between Jesus and some Jews following the cleansing of the temple:
18 So the Jews said to [Jesus], “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
Take note of the date given by the Jews -- "it has taken forty-six years to build this temple..." We can thus discern the approximate date at which this dialogue must have taken place, since Flavius Josephus helpfully tells us when Herod the Great began to rebuild the temple. It was in the 18th year of his reign, which landed in approximately 19 B.C (Antiquities of the Jews 15.380). Forty-six years on from 19 B.C. (bearing in mind there was no 0 A.D.) lands us in 28 A.D. Now, according to Luke 3:1, when did Jesus commence His public ministry? It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Augustus Caesar died in 14 A.D., but two years prior to that (the fall of 12 A.D.), according to the historian Suetonius, Augustus appointed Tiberius as co-emperor, in order to ensure a smooth transition of power. The 15th year of Tiberius, then, lands us in 27 A.D., corresponding to Jesus' baptism and ministry commencement. The cleansing of the temple would have taken place the following Passover (John 2:13), placing it in the spring of 28 A.D. Thus, by two independent methods, and using information drawn from John, Luke, Josephus, and Suetonius, we have been able to confirm the date on which Jesus cleansed the temple. This sort of coincidence is best explained by the sources being rooted in truth.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

New York Times Blames Christians for U.S. Coronavirus Outbreak

The New York Times recently blasted Evangelical Christians in an article titled: “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.” The author, Katherine Stewart, insists that science-denying Evangelical Christians have convinced President Donald Trump and other leaders to ignore hard scientific evidence in responding to Coronavirus. Does Stewart have a case that "science denialism" is "crippling our Coronavirus response, or is the New York Times publishing more conspiracy-laden fake news?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Is Redaction Usually the Better Hypothesis? Responding to Richard Carrier (Part 4)

Image result for richard carrierI have been responding to Dr. Richard Carrier's interaction with the argument from undesigned coincidences in the gospels (please see part 1, part 2, and part 3). In part 4, I review Carrier's claim that "redaction is usually the better hypothesis." He writes,
Case in point. The McGrews are amazed that the early Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) don’t really explain why Pilate declares Jesus innocent, and lo and behold, John comes along and explains it by presenting a whole conversation between Pilate and Jesus no one had ever heard of before. McGrew calls this an undesigned coincidence. But there are two problems with this.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Who Has Fabricated Data -- Lydia McGrew or Richard Carrier? (Part 3)

Image result for richard carrierI have been responding to Dr. Richard Carrier's critique of undesigned coincidences in the gospels and Acts (please see part 1 and part 2). In part 3, I continue my response by reviewing Carrier's allegation that McGrew has fabricated some of her examples. He writes,
Yet another cause of things McGrew lists as evidence is simply: there is nothing to explain. Some of McGrew’s “examples” are simply fabricated. For instance, she tries to argue that when Mark’s account of the “feeding of five thousand” speaks of the people “coming and going” he “must” mean this was the Preparation for the Passover, and they were “coming and going” because of that, so when John relates the same incident (in fact he is redacting Mark’s account) and adds in passing that “Passover was at hand,” this proves Mark and John must have been there—and Mark merely forgot to mention the Passover was near.
I do not know why Carrier puts quotation marks around the word "must" (since this isn't McGrew's word at all). Given that this section of his review is about fabrication, this is quite ironic. Carrier implies (falsely) that McGrew is saying that we "must" take the crowds in Mark to be caused by the Passover. McGrew's discussion of this is much more modestly worded. Furthermore, Carrier also makes no mention of Mark's casual allusion to the green grass (Mark 6:39), which further supports this coincidence, since the grass in Palestine is brown throughout the majority of the year save for a narrow window of time (because of elevated levels of rainfall) during the spring, around the time of Passover. Mark doesn't explicitly tell us that the event took place at Passover, but John 6:4 does. However, John doesn't mention the people coming and going or the green grass, alluded to in Mark. Therefore, we have an undesigned coincidence.

Can Scribal Errors Account for Undesigned Coincidences? Responding to Richard Carrier (Part 2)

Image result for richard carrierIn my previous article, I began a series of responses to Dr. Richard Carrier on the subject of undesigned coincidences in the gospels and Acts. In this article, I will consider Carrier's claim that undesigned coincidences can be adequately accounted for by scribal errors.

Carrier writes,
And yet, another obvious cause of one text omitting what McGrew would call a “detail” but the rest of us would call “a few words” is simply: scribal error. We actually have ample evidence of accidental scribal omissions in the textual transmission of the Gospels (as well as deliberate ones), which McGrew simply ignores as a competing explanation for which we actually have evidence. The frequency of omissions in scribal transmission of the Gospels is discussed by fellow Christian apologist Edward Andrews. Many examples are catalogued by Bart Ehrman in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and by Taylor Barnes in his dissertation Scribal Habits in Selected New Testament Manuscripts, Including Those with Surviving Exmplars (University of Birmingham 2017).
This time Carrier offers us particular examples where his theory might apply:
For example, in Mark’s account of the prophecy game played on Jesus, the soldiers spit on Jesus and cover his eyes and just say “Prophesy!” when they strike Jesus; but in Matthew’s account, the covering isn’t mentioned, instead they specifically “spit in his face,” and more fully say “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who struck you!” Those sentences begin identically. The loss of the rest of the sentence in Mark is exactly the kind of accidental omission we have many examples of in the manuscripts of the Bible. So we can’t be confident Mark actually omitted it himself. And indeed, the full line in Matthew exists in many manuscripts of Mark. Some also read identically to Matthew even in having the guards spit “in his face,” and a few even omit the face covering. So this whole thing could simply be a textual corruption, and the two texts originally identical. We have evidence for all of this in the parallel passage in Luke 22:64, which is similarly corrupted with various omissions across the manuscripts, but all to some extent combine the text of Mark and Matthew. Which means either Mark and Matthew originally contained the same text or there was no Q source and Luke chose to combine Mark’s text with Matthew’s. But even that would be consistent with Matthew and Mark originally saying the same things here, leaving nothing left to explain.  
Carrier further elaborates,
Of course, that Matthew deliberately changed Mark’s “spit on him” to “spit in his face” might instead indicate what really is going on here: Matthew doesn’t like Mark’s story precisely because it’s too colloquial (it assumes familiarity with a common children’s game of the time, possibly then even called Prophesy: Alan Dundes, Holy Writ as Oral Lit, pp. 112-13), so Matthew replaces the sack over “his face” with spitting in “his face” (identical words in both texts), thus efficiently collapsing two acts into one, signifying to blind him with spit, and then fills out the sentence, so everyone will get the point, even those who never played the Prophesy game as a child. This may even indicate the game was common among Gentiles, Mark’s audience, but not Jews, Matthew’s audience.
The problem here is that McGrew does not use this example in her book, and in fact states in chapter 3 her reason for not doing so. She states,
I have been careful not to use a single undesigned coincidence that could be plausibly explained by mere incomplete copying or elaboration of Mark on the part of Matthew or Luke.
In fact, in footnote 15 of chapter 3, McGrew specifically lists this very example as one she deliberately chose to omit because of its ability to be accounted for by incomplete copying. She writes,
There are three coincidences I have left out of my discussion for this very reason: The "who struck you" coincidence between Luke 22:63-64 and Matthew 26:67-68, since Matthew could have been merely including one piece of information from all the information contained in Mark; the "waiting until evening" coincidence between Matthew 8:16 and Mark 1:21, since Matthew may have merely included incomplete information from Mark; the coincidence concerning the command to the disciples to tell no one about the Transfiguration until after the resurrection, from Matthew 17:9 and Luke 9:36, since all of the information may be found in Mark 9:10, depending upon one's translation of the Greek in Mark. [emphasis added]
The fact that Carrier covers this example in a review of McGrew's book causes me to be skeptical about whether Carrier has actually read the book.

In part 3, we will consider Carrier's claim that McGrew has fabricated some of her examples. We will discover that, in fact, it is not McGrew, but Carrier, who has fabricated his data.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Yes, Richard Carrier, There Are Undesigned Coincidences (Part 1)

Image result for richard carrierDr. Richard Carrier is an ancient historian who is best known for championing the idea that Jesus of Nazareth is a mythical figure -- a view which to call it fringe would be to pay it an undue complement. I debated Dr. Carrier a couple of years back on Premier Christian Radio, and you can listen to the debate here. Carrier recently posted an article on his website discussing and critiquing the argument from undesigned coincidences, an argument which I have promoted in my articles, debates, and public lectures. Carrier specifically mentions Dr. Lydia McGrew's book, Hidden in Plain View -- Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, which develops on the argument originally coined by William Paley and by his successor John James Blunt.

Unfortunately, Carrier's review only demonstrates that he has not read McGrew's book (since he claims McGrew uses examples which she does not in fact use -- in fact, she states explicitly in her book her reasons for not using them). He also never cites any of McGrew's blog posts where she deals in detail with many of the points he raises in his article. He also gets some of his facts simply wrong. With this blog post, I begin a series of responses to Carrier's critique of undesigned coincidences

Monday, February 24, 2020

Unsheathed - The Story of Muhammad - now in three versions (and still free as a PDF)

Unsheathed: The Story of Muhammad is now available in three versions:
  • the original unabridged and fully-referenced version with minor updates;
  • a new short (~two hours reading) version with 118 colour pictures by my friend Connor O'Grady; and
  • the short version without pictures, for those who dislike pictures.
Free PDF copies are available from and my Google drive.  Please download them, post them anywhere and everywhere, and share them with anyone who might be interested.

Kindle and paperback copies can be purchased from Amazon*, which is the best place to leave a review if you’d like to write one.

The audiobook is available from, or through Castbox or Soundcloud on your computer or favourite device via their free apps.

See also: Tara is free.

* Unless you live in Australia.  Apparently Amazon won't ship print-on-demand books to Australia.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Did Jesus Have Help to Fulfil Prophecy? A Response to Robert J. Miller, Part 1: Out of Egypt I Have Called My Son

Image result for helping jesus fulfil prophecy
I recently purchased a book by Robert J. Miller, published in 2016, entitled Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy. The author is Rosenberger Chair of Christian and Religious Studies at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, and a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar since 1986. Of late, I have been particularly interested in the intersection of Judaism and Christianity, in particular the evaluation of Jewish objections to the Messianic credentials of Jesus, and the case for Jesus being the fulfilment, culmination and climax of the Hebrew Scriptures. Expect to see more articles from me in the future tackling this important and fascinating subject. Here, I begin a series of critical reviews of Miller's book. The book is divided into four parts. Part 2 contains the chapters concerned with the New Testament understanding and utilisation of Hebrew prophecy. Since this is the area I am most interested in, I will begin my series of reviews with addressing part 2, but most likely will also discuss part 1 at a later date (part 1 deals with non-Messianic prophecy). In this article, I begin a series of reviews of chapter 8, which deals with the fulfilment of prophecy in the gospel of Matthew.

Miller introduces the first section of the chapter as follows:
This section of the chapter analyzes the different kinds of creativity involved in the ways Matthew matches prophecy to fulfillment: connecting prophecies to events that do not fulfill them in any obvious way, quoting scripture selectively, translating scripture selectively, fabricating prophecies, tailoring stories so that they can fulfill prophecy, and “retrofitting” prophecies so that Jesus can fulfill them.
Miller notes seventeen fulfilment scenes in Matthew, and ponders why it is that, for the majority of the Matthean fulfilment scenes, Matthew is the only New Testament writer to notice the fulfilment of Scripture. For the sake of conciseness (and because a number of the examples require a detailed commentary) I will examine just one or a few example(s) in each blog post in this series. But please rest assured that I do intend to write a detailed response to all the examples given in the chapter.

Monday, December 9, 2019

New Book - Where to Start with Islam

My book has been published! This book will help Christians know where to start with Islam in the key areas of what it means to love everyone, understanding what Islam teaches about Christianity, how to share the gospel with a Muslim, the incarnation, Trinity, salvation, and the cross. It assesses Muhammad as a prophet, answers the Muslim claims against the Bible, and gives you the relevant history to get started.

The premise of the book is that if you don’t start in the right place you may make little progress, and your Muslim friend may be more than ready to lead the way. I share my experience of starting in the wrong place and point the way forward.

The book is written for all Christians, whether you just want an introduction to Islam, or want ideas for Christian-Muslim dialogue. A strength of the book is that, for the first half, it does not require you to remember lots of details about Islam but instead shows how the Bible and Christian doctrine speak to Islam.

Australia & the Asia Pacific

U.S. Global


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Pensacola Terror Attack Connected to Fort Hood Massacre, Al-Qaeda

Shortly before he opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani (a Saudi Air Force officer) tweeted a message to the American people. In his tweet, he quoted both Osama bin Laden and Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki (of al-Qaeda fame). Since the al-Awlaki quotes were taken directly from al-Awlaki's "Message to the American People," Alshamrani clearly read about Major Nidal Malik Hasan's attack at Fort Hood.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Messianic Convergence in the Gospels: A New Way to Frame the Argument from Old Testament Fulfilment

Image result for messianic prophecyAnyone who has spent considerable time studying the gospels can tell that they are literally saturated with Old Testament fulfilment and allusions. Indeed, the early church used two primary lines of argument to establish the Messianic credentials of Jesus of Nazareth -- the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and Messianic prophecy. How useful is fulfilment of Messianic prophecy in the person of Jesus to the purposes of contemporary, twenty-first century apologists? In this article, I explore a way to frame the argument in a robust and objective way. First, I will summarise my argument and then I will dig into the details.

A Summary of the Basic Argument

When it comes to the origins of the gospel narratives, there are three contending hypotheses for explaining their origin. These are:

(1) The gospel authors deliberately fabricated the events that they narrate.

(2) The gospel authors were honestly mistaken in their reporting of the events that they narrate.

(3) The gospel authors faithfully recorded actual events.

Of course, those options could in principle be correct either individually or in combination with one another. When we discover striking correlations between the gospel narratives and the Old Testament texts (on a level that is unlikely by mere coincidence), then we have evidence against the hypothesis that the gospel authors were honestly mistaken -- that is to say, we have positive evidence for design, either on the part of the human authors manipulating the story to impose conformity to the Hebrew Scriptures, or on the part of God supernaturally orchestrating the history. The question then becomes, what is the locus of the design?

The first of the above hypotheses -- that is, that the gospel authors deliberately fabricated the events that they narrate is significantly undermined when we discover points of historical confirmation of the gospels (a subject that I have written, lectured and debated extensively about elsewhere). I have contended publicly elsewhere that numerous historical points in the gospels can be historically verified and confirmed (e.g. here). This gives rise to an inductive argument for treating the gospel documents as a whole as trustworthy. The numerous points of historical confirmation in the book of Acts, moreover, builds us a picture of the pedigree of its author Luke (who also happens to be the author of the third gospel), and thus offers us additional reason to trust what he writes in his gospel. I (and others) have developed that case extensively in various venues and to argue this is not the primary purpose of the present article.

Having shown the first two of the three options to be improbable, therefore, it is possible to provide evidential support for the third contending hypothesis, namely, that the gospel authors faithfully recorded actual events, and the locus of the design is supernatural divine orchestration of the events to result in convergence between events in Jesus the Messiah's life and foreshadows written of in the Hebrew Bible. In syllogistic form, this argument can be presented as follows:

Premise 1: The correlation between events recorded in the gospels and Hebrew Scripture is either the product of human design or divine design.

Premise 2: It is not the product of human design.

Conclusion: Therefore, it is the product of divine design.

One can of course make the inductive argument I just described for taking the gospels as a whole to be highly reliable. The case, however, is lent even greater force when we can point to specific instances of details in the gospels that are subject to historical confirmation which also correlate with the Hebrew Bible in some way. We can model this argument probabilistically using Bayesian analysis.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

What is Bayes’ Theorem, and What Does It Have to Do with Arguments for God?

Image result for diceThe strength of the evidence for a proposition is best measured in terms of the ratio of two probabilities, P(E|H) and P(E|~H) -- that is, the probability of the evidence (E) given that the hypothesis (H) is true, and the probability of E given that H is false. That ratio may be top heavy (in which case E favors H), bottom heavy, or neither (in which case E favors neither hypothesis, and we would not call it evidence for or against H). Bayes’ Theorem is a mathematical tool for modelling our evaluation of evidences to appropriately apportion the confidence in our conclusions to the strength of the evidence.

To take an example, suppose that P(E1|H) = 0.2, but P(E1|~H) = 0.04. Then the ratio P(E1|H)/P(E1|~H) has the value of 5 to 1, or just 5. If there are multiple pieces of independent evidence of the same sort, their power accumulates exponentially. Five such pieces would yield a cumulative ratio of 3125 to 1. If the initial ratio were 2 to 1, ten pieces of independent evidence would have a cumulative power of more than 1000 to 1. By expressing it in mathematical terms like this, hopefully you can see how small pieces of evidence, no single piece by itself of very great weight, can combine to create a massive cumulative case.

The equation given below represents the odds form of Bayes theorem, which is used in developing cumulative cases. Translated, it states that the posterior probability of your hypothesis (H) given the available evidence (E) is equal to the prior probability (defined as intrinsic plausibility) of the hypothesis being true (expressed as a ratio) multiplied by the ratio of the evidence given the hypothesis against the probability of the evidence given the antithesis.

Dividing the probability of the evidence given the hypothesis by the probability of the evidence given the antithesis gives you what is referred to in probability theory as the Bayes Factor. The Bayes Factor is a measure of the strength of the evidence, and indicates how many times more likely it is that you will observe this evidence given that your hypothesis is true than if it were false. For instance, a Bayes Factor of one hundred indicates that your evidence is one hundred times more likely if your hypothesis is true than if it were false.

This form of reasoning is used routinely in the discipline of forensic science. For instance, the presence of a defendant’s finger prints on a murder weapon may be taken as evidence for the hypothesis of guilt over the hypothesis of non-guilt because the probability of the defendant’s finger prints being on the murder weapon is much higher on the hypothesis that the defendant is guilty than on the hypothesis that he is not guilty.

How might we make a powerful case for the existence of God based on what we have just learned about Bayes Theorem? We can begin by giving an estimate of the probability of the evidence given theism and the probability of the evidence given atheism, in order to calculate the Bayes Factor.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Was Aisha really only Nine?

Sometimes you will read that there is debate over Aïsha’s age and that she may have been much older than nine when she married Muhammad.[1] Some of these claims are very strongly worded.
Recent researches have established beyond doubt that the age of ‘A’ishah (rta) at the time of the consummation her marriage with the Prophet (sws) was around nineteen or twenty. The Ahadith which report her age to be eight or nine years at the time of marriage are absolutely baseless.[2]
People can “debate” what they like; but this is not an issue among scholars. Aïsha’s age on her wedding day is one of the best-attested facts of Muhammad’s life. All the early traditions state that she was nine,[3] except for Ibn Hisham, who says she was “nine or ten.”[4] This suggests that Ibn Hisham was not sure and so wrote an approximation. Aïsha herself was completely sure. To be precise, she was nine years and three months, plus or minus five weeks.

Friday, October 4, 2019

What is Sharia Law?

George Brahm and Tara Macarthur:

Hello, Miss MacArthur, before we begin, I’d like to give you a few moments to introduce yourself.

Hello, Mr Brahm. I’m an ordinary university graduate who knows something about research methods. I live with my family, go to work, go to church and socialise with my friends. Most people don’t know about my secret life as a researcher and writer.

When I write about Islam, I use the name “Tara MacArthur,” which is Irish for “Asma bint Marwan”. This was the name of a real Arabian poet who once wrote a poem about Muhammad. He didn’t like her poem and so he killed her. I chose my pseudonym in her honour.

Tara does nothing except write about Islam. I keep her in a box and only bring her out on occasions like this one. She writes to encourage and inform the important conversation that we need to have about the origins of Islam.

Tara has written a biography of Muhammad and a three-book series on the lives of his wives. The biography, Unsheathed – The Story of Muhammad, is free, so as to make it accessible to everyone including people in countries where it might be dangerous to buy it. It is available in PDF and MP3 audio format from, and on Amazon for those who like paper and Kindle versions. Amazon is the best place to leave a review if you’d like to write one. The audio version is currently available through Castbox or Soundcloud.

The issue that we will be discussing today is sharia law and its effects on society. So as an introduction, what exactly is sharia law and what are the sources from which it is derived?