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poached-eggC. S. Lewis popularized the argument that Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic or the Lord. But, as Kyle Barton has shown, he didn’t invent it.

In the mid-nineteenth century the Scottish Christian preacher “Rabbi” John Duncan (1796-1870) formulated what he called a “trilemma.” In Colloquia Peripatetica (p. 109) we see Duncan’s argument from 1859-1860, with my numbering added:

Christ either [1] deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or [2] He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or [3] He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.

In 1936, Watchman Nee made a similar argument in his book, Normal Christian Faith. A person who claims to be God must belong to one of three categories:

First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic.

Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie.

Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God.

You can only choose one of the three possibilities.

If you do not believe that he is God, you have to consider him a madman.

If you cannot take him for either of the two, you have to take him for a liar.

There is no need for us to prove if Jesus of Nazareth is God or not. All we have to do is find out if He is a lunatic or a liar. If He is neither, He must be the Son of God.

C. S. Lewis, speaking in 1942 (and published in Mere Christianity in 1952), gave the argument its most memorable formulation:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. (Mere Christianity, 55-56)

Is this a good argument?

The argument can be formulated as follows:

  1. If Jesus were not Lord, he would be a liar or a lunatic.
  2. Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is Lord.

To determine whether this argument is sound, we have to ask three questions:

  1. Are the terms clear?
  2. Is the logic valid?
  3. Are the premises true?

I would give the following answers:

  1. Yes, the terms are clear.
  2. Yes, the logic is valid; premise 3 follows from premises 1 and 2 based on the rules of logic (Modus Tollens: the negation of the antecedent of premise 1 can be inferred by the negation of its consequent).
  3. But no, the argument is unsound, because not all of the premises are necessarily true. As William Lane Craig points out in Reasonable Faith, the first premise leaves out other possible options and is therefore false. There is another alternative: perhaps the Jesus presented in the Bible is not the true Jesus of history. The Jesus of the Bible may not be a liar or a lunatic or a Lord but rather a legend. In other words, the Jesus of the Bible is not the Jesus of history, so your claims about what must be trust about the Jesus of the Bible do not lead to conclusions about the actual lordship of the Jesus of history.

But C. S. Lewis can help with the rebuttal here.

In a 1950 essay, “What Are We to Make of Jesus?” Lewis works through some of Jesus’s startling claims about himself in Scripture, repeating his insistence that you can’t conclude that he was simply a “great moral teacher.” If what he said is true, Lewis says, then they are the sayings of a “megalomanic.”

In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion, which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are not looking for a piece of toast to suit you you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you. We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects — Hatred — Terror — Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.

It’s here that Lewis addresses the rebuttal that Jesus did not really say these things; his followers exaggerated the story and the legend grew that he really said these things. Lewis shows how unlikely it would be for the Jews to invent God become man:

This is difficult because His followers were all Jews; that is, they belonged to that Nation which of all others was most convinced that there was only one God—that there could not possibly be another. It is very odd that this horrible invention about a religious leader should grow up among the one people in the whole earth least likely to make such a mistake. On the contrary we get the impression that none of His immediate followers or even of the New Testament writers embraced the doctrine at all easily.

The other option is that the accounts of Jesus were written as legends. Here Lewis draws upon his scholarly expertise:

Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so. Apart from bits of the Platonic dialogues, there is no conversation that I know of in ancient literature like the Fourth Gospel. There is nothing, even in modern literature, until about a hundred years ago when the realistic novel came into existence.

So Lewis thinks it implausible that monotheistic Jews would have invented an incarnate Messiah and he thinks that the genre of the gospels bears none of the typical marks of legends—based upon a lifetime of scholarly and leisure reading of ancient legends. Therefore, the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of history. And if this one Jesus were not Lord, he would be a liar or a lunatic. But he is truthful (not a liar) and sane (not a lunatic). Therefore he is Lord.


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28 thoughts on “Is C.S. Lewis’s Liar-Lord-or-Lunatic Argument Unsound?”

  1. Brandon Vogt says:

    The argument is actually much older than John Duncan in 1860. It goes back at least to the Early Church Fathers, who had a pithy slogan: Aut Deus aut malus homo (either God or a bad man), or alternatively Aut Deus, aut mendax. For the Fathers, the lunatic/liar options both fell under “bad”, because “malus” (like our English word “bad”) carries a double sense and can mean either “deformed or imperfect” (i.e., lunatic) or “morally deplorable” (i.e., liar).

    See David Horner’s great chapter in C.S. Lewis as Philosopher. He goes way deeper into the history of this argument and how Lewis defended it. The chapter is titled “Aut Deus aut Malus Homo: A Defense of C.S. Lewis’ Shocking Alternative.”

  2. Martin says:

    Here’s a book to read along the same question …

    The Home-brewed Christianity Guide to Jesus: Lord, Liar, Lunatic Or Awesome? … by Tripp Fuller

    Available at Amazon … http://www.amazon.com/Homebrewed-Christianity-Guide-Jesus-Lunatic/dp/1451499574/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454367279&sr=1-1&keywords=jesus+lord+liar+lunatic+tripp+fuller

  3. Ben Holloway says:

    The argument does not address the existence of Jesus but the believability of his claims. Therefore, Craig’s objection fails.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      I wouldn’t put it like that. The issue isn’t the “existence of Jesus” but the “existence of those exact claims in the history.” In other words, the conclusion is that “Jesus is Lord” (not just that Jesus is *presented* as Lord). So somewhere along the way, we have to address the question of whether the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of history. That’s what Craig is getting at.

      1. Ben Holloway says:

        Here’s why I disagree: The argument is not about Christ’s existence but the believability of his claim to be God (Lord). It goes something like this:
        (1) If Jesus is not who he says he is, then he is either deluded or a con man.
        (2) Jesus is not deluded and he is not a con man.
        (3) Therefore, he is who he says he is: the Lord.
        The argument essentially says “if anything in the universe is a J, then if J is not an L, then it is either a D or a C.” The truth conditions do not imply existence of any J. Consider the parallel argument:
        (1) If Lucy did not see Aslan, then she is either deluded or lying.
        (2) Lucy is not deluded and she is not lying.
        (3) Therefore, Lucy saw Aslan.
        Now, in this case, we know that Lucy and Aslan do not exist, but that doesn’t alter the truth of the statement. Existence is not relevant to the truth of the premises.

        1. Justin Taylor says:

          Respectfully, I think you’re confusing a number of issues here. The issue isn’t whether he *existed.* Let’s grant that. It’s whether the person who existed actually *said* such things.

          With regard to your logical formulation, you’re right. The argument is completely *valid.* But validity and soundness are two different things. The form is right. But to be persuasive, you have to show that the premises are true. That’s all the post is pointing out. We have to do more work to demonstrate the first premise. When you say that it’s about the “believability of his *claim* to be Lord,” you are assuming what needs to be proved. Did he indeed claim this? I think he did. So let’s show people why we believe that.

          1. Ben Holloway says:

            Thank you for responding, I’m glad for our conversation. I see what you’re saying and I did put that in the first premise: “If Jesus is not who he says he is, then he is either deluded or a con man” But the reasoning does not imply existence of the person nor does it imply the existence of the claims. Therefore, if the argument is unsound, it is not because the trilemma does not include “legend” as an option. Jesus does not have to exist or to have actually said anything at all for the argument to go through. It only needs to claim that if he did say those things, then he is either telling the truth or he is not (either because he’s crazy or a liar).

            Your point that we should provide good arguments for the truth of Jesus of the gospels is right and there are plenty of opponents to deal with on that score.

      2. Ben Holloway says:

        I think you are right that we have to address the claim that there existed a person who answers to the name Jesus and who said all the things the gospel writers claim he said, but that is a separate argument to LLL. LLL says nothing about existence. It doesn’t need to.

    2. steve hays says:

      “The argument does not address the existence of Jesus but the believability of his claims.”

      False dichotomy. If his claims are true, then he exists. (And not merely exists, but is what he claims to be.) The truth of the claim entails the existence of the claimant.

      1. Ben Holloway says:

        Steve, I just noticed your reply. Aristotle may have agreed with you. However, the standard interpretation of a name in a premise such as, “If Jesus were not Lord, he would be a liar or a lunatic” is as a universal statement. As such, according to standard logic, it does not imply existence of either Jesus or the claims he made. It only means that if anyone is Jesus and if he said that he is Lord, then if he is not the Lord, then he is either a liar or a lunatic. Because of the conditional (if), the premise can be true regardless of the existence of Jesus or his claims. Check in any standard logic book (Hurley/Copi etc) and look up “Boolean interpretation” in the categorical or predicate logic section. You will see something like the above sentences translated without implying existence. For contrast, consider a claim that does imply existence: some seals are slippery. This sentence implies that there are some things and those things are seals and they are slippery. But the sentence about Jesus does not. Even if you take an Aristotelian view, there is only an “openness” to existence; it does not “entail” existence. Aristotle thought that universal statements were only true if the subject exists and false if the subject did not exist. This led most people to reject his view since it means one cannot say anything true about an empty set, but we do this all the time (All unicorns have horns).

  4. Daniel under the sea says:

    Well said. I have seen people relatively unfamiliar with Lewis’writings make that argument, that Lewis didn’t account for the possibility that they were legends…. That is, “Liar, Lunatic, Lord” trilemma assumes an accurate record of what he said and did. As you point out, Lewis most certainly did address the “legend” option and quite handily dispatched it. I always loved his treatment, the idea that this particular legend about one man being God grow up among the ne people on the face of the earth least likely to make such a mistake.

    Nicely done.

  5. ChrisB says:

    I think — or at least I hope — that most educated Christians today are going to understand that they have to establish the historicity of the gospels before they can launch into the trilemma.

    The same can be said for Pascal’s wager — it was meant to be the end of the conversation, not the beginning of it.

    1. steve hays says:

      Actually, I think Pascal’s wager is the opposite. It’s to shake people out of their complacency. Consider the stakes. The beginning of a journey, not the destination.

  6. Steve says:

    I believe there is a fourth alternative, although exceedingly unlikely.
    For any ordinary person to claim they are Lord, they would either be a liar or a lunatic. But if someone is highly unique in talents and abilities, it would not necessarily be lunacy to conclude they were God incarnate. It could possibly be an honest mistake.

    If I were to believe I am a better passer than any NFL quarterback, that would require insanity on my part because it is obvious I cannot throw a football more than maybe ten yards. But if Cam Newton or Peyton Manning were to conclude they were better passers than any other NFL quarterback, that could be an honest mistake because they can demonstrate capability at throwing the football.

    Jesus had a powerful impact on people and an ability to change lives. I think we can demonstrate that from history even if we do not believe his claims. I don’t think it is logically impossible to believe that he was mistaken in believing he was the Messiah, God Incarnate. But maybe this theoretical possibility is so minor it is only worth mentioning if one wants to go the extra mile in philosophical rigor.

  7. Pete Head says:

    Thanks for this. My main issue with the argument is that it has to already assume too much to be that useful apologetically. It has to assume the complete reliability of all the words of Jesus in the gospels (as already mentioned), and it has to assume that Jesus’ claim to be Lord (or ‘God’) is clear, explicit, and completely in line with orthodox Christian viewpoints. These are the areas which are currently very contested, and it may not always be effective to keep using an argument which depends on assumption at these points.

    1. Marc says:

      I agree that it assumes too much if one sees the trilemma as an opening argument when one first engages a stranger in conversation. Any, and every, one-size-fits-all apologetic assumes too much. I don’t know exactly where in the development of Lewis’s argument in Mere Christianity this passage occurs, but I know it is not on the first page. Lewis leads his audience through Natural Law for page after page before he begins to make any distinctively Christian assertions. I think we would do well to imitate his form, if not all of his content. After a few hours of discussion and a better understanding of where a particular human person is in their journey, the trilemma MIGHT be an appropriate point to make to help your friend understand Jesus’s claims further. It is a tool in a tool box, having an appropriate place at an appropriate time in a conversation, but probably not as an opening line. That would be assuming too much.

  8. Kent says:

    I think that your syllogism misstates Lewis’s (et. al.) argument. The argument is not meant to prove that Jesus is Lord – it is to show that Jesus could not have been merely a great moral teacher without also being God.

    The argument should be stated:

    1. Lying is immoral.
    2. None of the teachings of a lunatic can be trusted.
    3. Jesus claimed to be God.
    4. If Jesus lied about being God, or was deluded into thinking he was, he cannot have been a great moral teacher.

    Lewis, in his essay, puts forth evidence to explain why he is persuaded that Jesus was neither liar, lunatic, or legend but the clear purpose of the essay, and the argument, is to cut off the legs of those who want to be in two camps. Those that want to claim the Biblical moral standard while refusing the necessary implications of that claim (that Jesus is Lord).

    1. Paul says:

      The argument fails in practical testing however. It would be the same to say that the Dalai Lama can’t be a great moral teacher without also being the 14th reincarnation of the first Dalai Lama. That is what he believes. That is what he teaches. But the Dalai Lama does not seem to be a liar, he and his people suffer greatly at times for their belief. He has no appearance of being a lunatic. He gives coherent, wise counsel and teaching. So is the conclusion he must really be the 14th reincarnation? He is either that or he is a liar or a lunatic…. or he genuinely believes it without being either. I don’t think he is, but if the Dalai Lama can “pass” the LL or L test and still be wrong, it stands to reason Jesus could to. The argument is too simplistic to bear close scrutiny.

      1. Kent says:

        Hi Paul.

        The purpose of my comment was to point out what I think is a common misunderstanding of the argument (i.e. that it’s purpose is to prove that Jesus is Lord). With that said, I think I mostly agree with you (I admit to not being fully satisfied with the argument) but would like to propose one way your Dalai Lama example might be distinguishable.

        I think the question that the argument tries to address – can Jesus have been merely a great moral teacher – immediately gets the conversation off on the wrong foot by failing to define “great moral teacher.” As you illustrated, a liar or a lunatic could conceivably teach things that are objectively moral. Therefore, it would not be unreasonable for the lunatic/liar to be called a “great moral teacher” in the sense that he teaches some great moral things. But, this assumes an objective moral standard to measure the teachings against.

        If by “great moral teacher” we instead mean someone who SETS the objective moral standard, then we are closer to where the argument wants us to be. (I believe this is the definition Lewis had in mind. See paragraph 1 of “What Are We To Make of Jesus.”) If someone declares “I am God and here are the ‘new’ rules,” we cannot accept the new rules as the objective truth unless we also admit that the person is being truthful about being God. Anyone who admits a new standard proposed by a lunatic/liar is himself a lunatic or a liar.

        Can we trust a lunatic/liar who states that the moral thing to do is to turn the other cheek? We can if the lunatic/liar is merely reiterating the objective moral standard already established…we cannot if the lunatic/liar is purporting to SET the objective moral standard.

        So this brings us back to Lewis. Lewis was convinced that Jesus was neither a lunatic nor a liar and was therefore left with one conclusion.

  9. Paul Peterson says:

    Is it out of the question to suppose that while we possess an accurate account of what Jesus said, we may have misinterpreted his statements? Our possible misunderstanding of what Jesus claimed would seem to require at least one more option than what Lewis offers.

  10. Marc says:

    Thank you, Justin. Thank you for expanding the discussion from Mere Christianity to other of Lewis’s works. Two or three witnesses always makes for better dialogue in the search for truth. I have enjoyed thinking through your article and the comments that followed. Keep up the good work.

  11. Kiefer says:

    Good post, and I agree with your overall conclusion. However, I think you make some subtle mistakes when you answer the three questions about whether the original argument is sound.

    Regarding your answer to the second question, I think you mean to say that the conclusion, (3), follows from premises (1) and (2) together. (2) doesn’t follow from (1).

    Regarding whether the argument is sound, you point out that the premises are not necessarily true, but all that is required for soundness is that the premises be *true*. You also say that (1) is false, but it is clear from what you say in the rest of the post that you think that (1) is true. Craig would agree as well, though I don’t recall where in Reasonable Faith he discusses this. (Premise (1) would be false if it said that Lord, liar, and lunatic were the only *possible* alternatives, but that isn’t what it says as you formulate it.) But in that case the argument is sound; it is valid and has all true premises.

    It’s just that the premises need for their support the stuff that you and Lewis and Craig say about the legend alternative in addition to the original support Lewis gave for them.

  12. lpadron says:

    Forget Jesus; the disciples are where it’s at. Here’s my take on the trilemma:

    1. The disciples claimed Jesus performed miracles and was the resurrected Lord.
    2. Despite this claim leading to persecution and/or death they were undeterred in proclaiming it.
    3. It is not unusual for men to die for claims the don’t know are false. 9/11/2001 is an example.
    4. But it IS impossible for men to suffer persecution and/or death for claims they KNOW are false because they themselves made them up.
    5. Therefore, their claims are true and Jesus is exactly who they said He is.

    I appreciate any feedback on this!

    1. Steven the Rational Objectivist says:

      Ipadron:
      You admit that men might suffer and die for claims that they sincerely believe are true, even if the claims are false. But I would ask you to consider that perhaps not every disciple was “in on” the lie, (if indeed the claims were lies). Not every follower of Jesus was martyred; and it is not necessary to assume that if some or any of the claims for Jesus were lies, that all, or even most, of the disciples were in on the deception.

      Also: If the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion are basically accurate, (leaving aside the question of the alleged resurrection), how do you know that reports of subsequent martyrdom by followers of Jesus were not exaggerated? Perhaps way fewer men suffered for their beliefs than we think.

      Furthermore: There is actual psychological and sociological evidence, perhaps not then available to C.S. Lewis, that shows that people will OFTEN persist in believing in things PROVEN FALSE. I refer you to the classic book by Leon Festinger, WHEN PROPHECY FAILS, first published in 1956. Festinger showed a cult group whose leader predicted the End of the World at such and such a precise date. When the date came and went, quite a few of the group refused to leave the cult, and found clever ways to convince themselves that their beliefs were still valid. Actually, counter-evidence to their belief, (i.e., that the end of the world was imminent, and would occur on such and such a date) actually STRENGTHENED their faith!!

      The First Century followers of Jesus constituted a small cult. If Festinger’s sociological findings are valid and more broadly applicable, this would imply: that if the disciples of Jesus were shown actual evidence AGAINST their beliefs, they might have simply doubled down on their beliefs. In short: Festinger shows us that we are mistaken to automatically assume the perfect rationality of those who are emotionally invested in a belief-system.

  13. Gabriel Finochio says:

    As far as the Trilemma idea goes, it obviously goes back to the Early Church; however, how Lewis got to that idea is perhaps more pertinent. Lewis was a genius, and his concise use of alliteration in crafting the phrase “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” is brilliant, but he was also heavily influenced by other writers in his time. And two of those writers—G. K. Chesterton and R. A. Knox—had written popular apologetics on Christ with similar statements over a decade before Lewis attempted to do so. It wouldn’t be too unimaginable to believe that Lewis had read these writers well before he had formulated his thought.

    On the claim of Christ, Chesterton wrote:

    “The thing to say about Jesus if you do not like Him is that He was a megalomaniac like Nero or a deliberate mystagogue like Cagliostro.”

    —The Hibbert Journal, ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’?—The Latest Bubble Punctured, 1909

    and

    “It were better to rend our robes with a great cry against blasphemy, like Caiaphas in the judgement, or to lay hold of the man as a maniac possessed of devils like the kinsmen and the crowd, rather than to stand stupidly debating fine shades of pantheism in the presence of so catastrophic a claim. There is more of the wisdom that is one with surprise in any simple person, full of the sensitiveness of simplicity, who should expect the grass to wither and the birds to drop dead out of the air, when a strolling carpenter’s apprentice said calmly and almost carelessly, like one looking over his shoulder: ‘Before Abraham was, I am.'”

    —The Everlasting Man, The Riddles of the Gospel, 1925

    Ronald Knox wrote:

    “What judgment shall we then pass on the career of Jesus of Nazareth, this Man who claimed to be God? If our Lord was not God, yet claimed to be God, he must either have been a conscious Imposter, or else the Victim of a hallucination…I say, then, that even if you disallow all miraculous evidence you have still to find your way out of an impasse. You have to commit yourself to one of the three following statements: 1) Jesus Christ did not claim to be God 2) Jesus Christ was a conscious Imposter 3) Jesus Christ was a religious Maniac.”

    —The Belief of Catholics, Our Lord’s Claim Justified, 1927.

  14. Don says:

    CS Lewis must have done very poorly in logic when he was in school because he reiterated a false dilemma. There are other choices than the ones he mentioned. Jesus could have been misunderstood by the people who heard. The new testament might not be his exact words. Also Jesus never said I am God. He made some allusions to a divine relationship but it was the Theologians that said Jesus was God 300 years after his crucifixion.

  15. Steven the Rational Objectivist says:

    C.S. Lewis did not do a good job in ruling out the possibility that some of the claims about Jesus in the New Testament were, indeed, mere legend. Consider:
    1. It is not necessary that the entirety of the New Testament claims about Jesus actually be “myth” or “legend”. It is possible that there are core biographical facts about Jesus that are true, and that only key claims–possibly added later–were mere “legend”. Therefore, the New Testament would not have tell-tale signs of being a “whole-cloth” fabrication.

    2. Other scholars have argued that there are plenty of signs of “legend”-making in the New Testament. While there might indeed have been an historical Jesus, and while some biographical claims in the N.T. might be accurate, it is curious that some scholars find striking parallels between the death and Resurrection stories, and the Egyptian myth of Osiris. Such parallels would indicate that at least one key portion of the Gospels, namely, the death and Resurrection stories, might well be “Legend”.

    3. It is curious that Paul never wrote anything at all about the alleged Virgin birth. This indicates that perhaps the Virgin birth story had not yet been invented, at the time Paul was writing! If we accept that Mark was the earliest Gospel, it is curious that Mark, too, never mentions a Virgin birth. Silence is not proof that Paul was unaware of the Virgin birth story; but such silence by Paul, (and subsequently, of the author of Mark), is solid evidence of “legend”, as far as the “Virgin birth” story goes.

    4. One writer I read long ago suggested that if one were to read the Gospels in the order in which they were written, (Mark, Matthew, Luke John), one would see that the reported miracles in each subsequent Gospel are “Grander” and more spectacular than in each earlier Gospel. If that is true, then this would also be evidence of a “legend”. (The stories get embellished in the retelling.)

    Please note that I am not claiming that I have proven that any key N.T. claims *ARE* mere legend or myth. The burden of proof would be on C.S. Lewis and other apologists to reasonably rule out “legend” as a plausible counter-explanation. I believe that I have demonstrated that we cannot rule out the distinct and reasonable possibility that some amount of “legend” has indeed crept into what might turn out to be in fact a core of true biographical claims about Jesus. In fact, I would accuse C.S. Lewis of attacking a straw-man, in his analysis of why the Gospel accounts (according to Lewis), are not likely to be mere “legend”. Lewis seems to assume that if the Gospel stories are “legend”, they must be legendary through-and-through, (“whole cloth”). But showing that it can’t *all* be “mere legend” says nothing about whether perhaps there are legendary “elements” added to a core of truthful biography. It need not have been anyone who knew Jesus in the flesh, adding those allegedly legendary elements, since they could have been added at a later date. Thus, those early martyrs were not necessarily dying for anything they “knew” to be a lie, because the “lies” or embellishments could have been added many years after the earliest martyrs died.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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