Friday, 30 August 2013

The Morality of Hobbes and Machiavelli

It has come to my attention that there are parallels between my thinking with regard to ethical structures and some of the thinking of Hobbes and Machiavelli.  I’d like to take this opportunity to point out the specific parallels where I see them.


Hobbes was a tutor to the prince who later became Charles II of England, during the time of the English Civil War (1642-1651).  These hostilities had a great impression on Hobbes who came to think that, for a state and the subjects of that state, nothing was remotely as bad as civil war.  Specifically, he saw that any excesses of a sovereign were the price that should be reasonably paid for the protection provided by that sovereign.

Where Hobbes begins to approach my theory is when he explains the nature of the relationship between the subjects of a state and the sovereign, which he described in terms of a social contract.  What is important to note here is that social contract is neither real nor explicit, but rather it is a notional agreement between each individual and the state.

Without this social contract, Hobbes argued, the life of man would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Similarly, without the morality that derives from our communal ethical structures (or rather, perhaps, the common aspects of individually held ethical structures), our lives would likely be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.  I have postulated that individually held ethical structures also have, as their lowest tier, social conventions – the meat and potatoes of a notional social contract, not so much with a sovereign but with society in general.

So, in effect, there are similarities between the social contract implied by the concept of an ethical structure as I developed and the social contract discussed by Hobbes, and they have the same objective – survival.

If there are other parallels, I’d be interested to discuss them, but until then, no other similarity between my ponderings about ethical structures and Hobbesian social contract theory should be assumed.


With regard to Machiavelli, I must hasten to point out that he was not an ethicist per se and many observers (or at least those who take him literally) characterise Machiavelli’s argument that the end justifies the means as immoral, if not evil.  That said, Machiavelli did write about morality in relation to seizing and maintaining power in The Prince.

I acknowledge two aspects of similarity between Machiavelli’s thinking and my own (although, as with Hobbes, I’d be interested in discussing other perceived parallels – but please don’t assume that my thinking parallels Machiavelli in all areas).

Machiavelli noted that while a prince is praised for keeping his word, he is also praised for seeming to keep his word and it is this seeming that is key (Ch. 18).  Appearing to be moral (conformant) is certainly key in my arguments regarding ethical structures.  For the purposes of promoting your survival it is essential that you are seen to be moral with regard to your peers and superiors and somewhat less important that you are moral.  If you are scrupulously honest, but appear to be a lying, conniving cheat, you fail to benefit from your honesty.  You would actually be at a disadvantage with respect to a lying, conniving cheat who works hard at appearing to be scrupulously honest, and you would benefit neither the veneer of honesty nor the fruits that derive from being a lying, conniving cheat.  Note the inclusion of the words “works hard” – it often requires more of an effort to appear to be scrupulously honest when one is a lying, conniving cheat than it is to be honest.  Therefore, for the lazier among us, it is rather more convenient to be truly honest, rather than just pretend.

However, there are situations in which honesty is not the best policy.  For example, there are times when the risks associated with obeying the injunction against killing others are greater than the risks associated with being identified as a killer.  When morality no longer features strongly in the optimal course of action, Machiavelli’s advice to the Prince becomes salient:

(The Prince) should appear to be compassionate, faithful to his word, guileless, and devout. And indeed he should be so. But his disposition should be such that, if he needs to be the opposite, he knows how.

Machiavelli describes this skill – knowing when to be uncompassionate, faithless, guileful and profane – as a “virtue”.  This should however be taken in context.

Machiavelli was a hardened realist rather than an idealist, and in the pages of The Prince, he was providing (possibly ironic or satirical) advice for successfully taking and maintaining power.  He had recently witnessed the rise and fall of the House of Borgia and at the time of writing The Prince, the Medici family had recently returned to power in Florence.  One of first acts by the Medici on retaking power had been to arrest, torture and banish Machiavelli – notionally for “conspiracy”, but possibly as payback for his involvement in expelling the Medici in 1494, his earlier successes with his citizen-militia and his efforts to defend the city-state republic of Florence against the return of Medici in 1512.  

So, The Prince was written in exile during a period of considerable political instability.  One could argue that Machiavelli’s situation was analogous to that of Hobbes’, although whether he experienced what could be considered a state of civil war is a matter of interpretation but the Borgia had tried, quite brutally, to unify what is now central Italy.  Such an argument finds support in the fact that Machiavelli appeals to the Medici, who had tortured and banished him, to unify central Italy.

If, like Hobbes, Machiavelli had come to the conclusion that stability was paramount, then it should be no surprise that there should be some parallels between their thinking.  The difference lies in the perspective.  Hobbes was saying that, for the subject of a nation, subordination to the sovereign (despite the behaviour of the sovereign) is the path to security.  Machiavelli was saying that the security of the sovereign (or Prince) relies on the sovereign acting in whatever manner necessary to remain in power.  In this sense, knowing when to act immorally would indeed constitute a “virtue”.

Subordination to a weak sovereign offers a subject little protection, so one can see that Hobbes might well have argued that immoral behaviour that is necessary to maintain the security of the sovereign would be entirely justifiable (although he may have stopped short of labelling sovereign-maintaining immorality as virtuous).

Similarly, in respect to ethical structures, I have argued that the survival benefit provided by acting morally is potentially negated if – when being moral is no longer the strategy that will promote your survival – you are unable to “be the opposite”.

Note, however, that this sanctioning of immorality is caveated – both on the part of the sovereign (or Prince) and the individual.  Immoral behaviour for the sake of immoral behaviour is not justified and can be deleterious to security.  Excesses can lead to the removal of a sovereign - even Machiavelli, who rated fear more highly than love as a motivator for the subjects of a Prince, warned against letting fear become hatred.  Untimely immorality on the part of an individual can lead to punishment, withdrawal of privileges, exclusion or even death (see The Bible for an extensive list of infractions occasioning capital punishment).

I’d like to stress that although there may be some similarities between what Hobbes and Machiavelli had to say and my musings on ethical structures, this should not be taken as meaning that I subscribe unreservedly to either the Hobbesian or Machiavellian schools of thought and that neither of them were (at least not directly nor intentionally) sources from which my thinking was derived.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Return of the Moral Animal

In The Moral Animal, I raised the apparently controversial topic of moral agency in animals (I discussed the minor controversy in Some Musings on the Moral Animals of reddit).  My fundamental argument was that there are absolute minimum requirements for moral agency – comprehension and volition – and that some animals meet these absolute minimum requirements.

That’s all well and good, you might think, but why was an article about moral agency in animals the first article in the Morality as Playing Games series when it focuses entirely on humans?  I just want to very quickly point out that the reason is that the series sketches out how survival concerns can drive the development of an ethical structure which in turn would produce the very sorts of moral systems that we observe in human communities around the world and would explain our frequent departures from those moral systems.

Implicit in this argument is the idea that our morality emerged during our evolutionary development and there is, as a consequence, some fuzziness regarding precisely when that morality emerged.  A challenge that might be mounted by a “moral sense” or “objective moral values and duties” theorist could revolve around a variation of the chicken and egg dilemma: which came first, moral agency or morality?

And as with the “chicken and egg” challenge, the answer is quite simple: moral agency came first.  At some point when we were pre-human ape-like animals, we would have met the absolute minimum requirements for moral agency, much as one could argue that a dog today meets the absolute minimum requirements for moral agency.  (The egg came first.  It was laid by a bird which was very similar to a chicken.)

Given a capacity for moral agency and the evolutionary benefit that can be derived from an ethical structure, the emergence of a morality much like what we have today was therefore merely a matter of time.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Resurrecting an Old Argument

Below are the gospel stories of the resurrection, all collected together in one handy location.

Remember that the resurrection of Christ is the key event without which Jesus is no more than a crazy man claiming to be the Messiah (or God, or the Son of God, depending on your preference).  This is the evidence to support the claim that Jesus was resurrected.

Does it seem to be good enough evidence given the nature of the claim?


The first three gospels are referred to as the synoptic gospels meaning they are, or should be, seen together.  When New Testament scholars argue about whether the Bible contains any elements of historical accuracy, they tend to focus only on these gospels.

Matthew is the second written of the gospels.  Like Luke, Matthew appears to be based on Mark and a second work referred to as Q.  Matthew the person is thought to have been a tax collector and an early follower of Jesus.  How he managed to learn how to write so well in Greek is a bit of a mystery, but that’s the case with all the of the purported gospel authors, with the possible exception of Luke.

Matthew 28

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.

12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,

13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

14 And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark is the first written of the surviving gospels and just who Mark the person was is a bit unclear.  There is a school of thought that he was one of the disciples who left when the sacrament was introduced (being uncomfortable with reified symbolic cannibalism).  This might go some way to explaining the apparent large gap between the death and supposed resurrection of Jesus and anyone bothering to write it down.   Note that the text in 9-20 appears to be a later addition – hence is marked in dark grey.

Mark 16

1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

Luke is the third written of the gospels and was originally written together with Acts as a single work.  The person Luke was a companion to Paul and he is mentioned a few times in Paul Epistles, but not as the author of the Gospel of Luke or Acts.  Luke is usually considered together with Matthew and historians believe that their work draws on both Mark and another work, now lost, referred to as Q.

Luke 24

1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

8 And they remembered his words,

9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.

14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?

18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?

19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:

20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;

23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.

24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.

25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.

29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.

31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.

38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.

41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?

42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

43 And he took it, and did eat before them.

44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.

51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.


John is the last written of the gospels.  It’s very different in tone to the synoptic gospels and, when apologists are trying to claim that the Bible has historic validity, John is often set aside as a special case.  There is considerable doubt about the authorship of John, some think that John was the source and not the author, some think that the gospel was written by a number of people of a lengthy period.  This gospel is also thought to contain “new knowledge” or “spiritual inspiration”, rather than relying entirely on oral history and earlier works.

John 20

1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name

John 21

1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.


The only other references to the resurrection are in Acts (written by Luke) and in one letter attributed to Paul the Apostle.  As a bonus, here are the Paul related references as well, and the introduction to Acts (note that Luke and Acts are thought to have the same author, with Luke written first but only by a few years).  Note that there is mention, in Acts, of Stephen seeing Jesus standing beside god just before he died and two mentions of Peter hearing a voice while in a trance, but there is no pretence that these are anything more than visions or hallucinations – therefore I have not included them.  Note also that while there appear to be four references, all four of them refer to a single event – Paul’s conversion, once mentioned as an aside by Paul, once reported as a story by Luke, and twice reported as something that Paul said to others.  Paul also mentions other appearances, but these are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible (Luke’s account appearing above).  Furthermore, it should be noted that as Luke was a companion to Paul, these conversion reports all have a single source, so it is really one report mentioned four times.  The other appearances are also, at best, a single report mentioned four times (once by Paul and once each by Mathew, Luke and John).

Acts 1:1-5

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Interestingly, Luke didn’t write about the ascension in these terms in his Gospel.  In fact, the ascension is only mentioned by Luke in the original version (I say original because it does appear in the text that has been appended to Mark).

Acts 9:1-9

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

And to think that we tell kids today that you should not start (or finish) your sentences with “and”.

Acts 22:6-11

6 “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me,

7 and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’

8 “And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’

9 “And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me.

10 “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’

11 “But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.

Acts 26:12-18

12 “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,

13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.

14 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;

17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,

18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

1 Corinthians 15:3-9

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

So that’s it.  That’s your evidence for the resurrection.

The really sad thing is that people kill each other over this stuff.