Completely ignoring all I have said in our past exchanges about the problem with multiple attestation, and completely ignoring all that his own biblical scholar peers have said about the fatal flaw at the heart of this criteria when applied to historical Jesus studies, and completely ignoring two of three of my analogies that made the message very clear, the usual suspect goes to town with the third analogy and writes a lot of truism as if it were a legitimate critique of what I said. Sorry, Dr McGrath, but it may disappoint you to know I agree with everything you said with reference to the UFO analogy, and that your “critique” actually supports the point I was making — which is not original but merely a repeat of what your own peers have written often enough:
If one person says they saw a UFO, we may well dismiss it. If a group of people unrelated to one another all saw something, we will take it far more seriously. It will remain an Unidentified Flying Object and does not by virtue of multiple witnesses become an alien spacecraft. But we will take the claim to have seen something seriously because of the multiple attestation.
I am overseas and away from my quick references at the moment, so do not wish to risk giving false citations (though I am sure Fredriksen and Porter are both well known to him for their statements discussing the limitations of the criteria), but Dr McGrath surely knows as well as any of his peers why multiple attestation is flawed. He has certainly read exactly my own criticisms of it many times before by his own scholarly peers.
Multiple attestation is of itself NOT an indicator of the truth or interpretation of what is being testified. In a recent post McGrath tried to explain that words take their meaning from context, so I am surprised he did not understand the meaning of “UFO” when it is wedged between “alien abductions” and “homeopathy”. That context should have alerted any reasonably comprehending reader to understand UFO as a reference to the popular view of alien spacecraft visiting earth. Perhaps McGrath believes in homeopathy so missed the contextual cue.
Now that many people have independently reported alien abductions is not in doubt. I have no doubt that they experienced something. What is in question is the interpretation of their experiences. Where they reporting manifestations or interpretations of what is nothing more than sleep paralysis? Are UFO sightings, independently and multiply attested, references to weather balloons or Venus or Martians?
With respect to historical Jesus studies, as many of Dr McGrath’s peers have long observed, multiple attestation is only of value if we have reason to be sure that what they are reporting really is not itself a product of misguided or fabricated belief.
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