Arguments From Silence and All That

I have already pointed out that the actual argument I make against the historicity of Jesus and the apostles rests upon a cumulative approach — not a bare argument from silence.  Nevertheless, my critics constantly ignore this point, and challenge quite the opposite.  My argument is this: If the NT documents were produced by the eyewitness testimony of Palestinian Jews from the first century (and not from diaspora Jews from Asia Minor in the early second century — when and where Christianity actually started — which the book of Revelation shows plainly, and as the literary, accretive layers of the Gospels show), they would accurately display the Palestinian, Jewish environment of the first century.  (If P, then Q).  They do not do anything like this.  Their errors of commission (contradictions, factual errors, etc) AS WELL AS their sins of omission — the “George Washingtons” I mention below — show that the cultural environment they display misses its mark by far. Therefore, the NT documents are inauthentic — not written by Palestinian Jew eyewitnesses, but much later by those who invented the Jesus traditions from Asia Minor.  (Not Q, therefore not P).

This form of argumentation goes by the name Modus Tollens.  It is not a bare argument from silence.  My Christian critics are dead wrong.

A word about arguments from silence seems well in enough in order, given the responses to some recent blog posts I have received. Suppose that someone has a one-dollar bill. The bill appears to be perfect in every single respect, except for one error only. The picture of George Washington is missing from the obverse (face) of the bill.

How could you tell that the dollar bill is not legal-tender? Your answer amounts to an argument from silence – the salient feature noticed is missing, therefore your bill is not legal-tender. This is #1 An argument from silence (of a highly specific kind) and #2 It is perfect – that is, sound and valid – an argument that is not fallacious at all.

The “George Washingtons” of the New Testament are many. Thus, we may know it to be inauthentic – not at all what it claims to be. This proves that some arguments from silence – showing salient features that are conspicuous by their absense – are still sound and valid.


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