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Direct and Indirect Evidence for the MG Theory

By:  Erick Nelson
Last Updated: 
January 3, 2002

Internal Evidence

There are two kinds of Internal evidence to which proponents of the Metaphorical Gospel Theory might appeal: Direct statements and Indirect statements.

Direct Statements:  None

The evidence that would help the case of the MG Theory immeasurably would be several direct statements which comment on how the accounts and claims about Jesus are to be understood, and which say clearly and unambiguously that they are not to be understand factually, but metaphorically.  Surely, it was within the abilities of the writers to do this.

Yet, as far as I can tell, the MG scholars do not point to even a single such statement.  In fact, I can't find any, either.

Indirect Evidence

The most prominent "indirect evidence" arguments I've seen are the following:

Appeal to Authority says:

  1. Historical Criticism has already proven the MG theory
  2. Therefore, it's true, and I don't need to provide specific proof

The Argument from Alleged Contradictions says:

  1. The type of differences you find in the gospel accounts amount to actual contradictions. They are mutually exclusive.
  2. Therefore the authors must have intended the accounts to be taken spiritually.

The Argument from Theory Intersection says:

  1. If the MG theory is true, then you would find such-and-such in the New Testament (which also happen to apply to its opposing view).
  2. You do find such-and-such in the New Testament,
  3. Therefore the MG theory is true.

The Argument from the Spiritual Body Resurrection says that Jesus' resurrection was a spiritual one, not a bodily one, for these reasons

  1. "Flesh and blood" will not inherit the kingdom of God
  2. Jesus' appearance to Paul was a spiritual one, and Paul experience Jesus just like the disciples did
  3. Paul says that our resurrection will be spiritual, not physical; Jesus' resurrection was like ours will be
  4. Paul would have mentioned the empty tomb if the tomb had been empty; he doesn't mention it

All four of these approaches depend upon a fairly complex reasoning process.  After more careful examination, there is good reason to think that they are all based upon definable logical fallacies.

External Evidence

The witnesses who are in the best position to know the truth of the matter are the Apostolic Fathers:  Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna.  They were actually part of the audience which the MG theory claims understood the stories and claims about Jesus metaphorically, not factually.  What do they say about this?  Do they make any direct statements confirming the theory?  Do they make any indirect statements which make better sense under the theory, or only make sense if the theory is true?  In a word, NO.

Direct Evidence - None

There's not a single statement in their published writings that unambiguously confirms that the MG Theory is true.

Indirect Evidence - None

I know of no appeal to indirect external evidence, either.

I will next examine each of the four appeals to Indirect Evidence