In an ideal world, most of the Skeptics I know of would be required to pass a basic test of competence in research and intelligence before being allowed to post anything on the Internet. Here’s an example of why.
One of my favored arguments over the years has had to do with the offensiveness of crucifixion in the first century being a stumbling block for new converts to Christianity. I have found that ignorant Skeptics have tried to foist two responses to this.
One has to do with cognitive dissonance, which they claim can explain why people would believe in Christianity in spite of the crucifixion. One of my guest writers did a chapter showing the error of this argument in Defending the Resurrection, so I won’t deal in it further here.
The other argument involves an allegedly damning counterpoint provided by Rodney Stark, who wrote:
…Nor would the Jews have been so easily put off by the facts of the Crucifixion. Indeed, the cross was a symbol used to signify the messiah in Hebrew manuscripts prior to the Crucifixion.
Stark is a competent scholar, to be sure, but to be perfectly honest, on this one, he dropped the ball. I found out by doing something it never occurs to ignorant Skeptics to do, since they’re too happy to do so: I checked Stark’s source, which is listed as Finegan 1992, p. 348.
That book is Finegan’s text on New Testament archaeology. It looks like a good source, but here is what it actually says on the subject:
In other words, Finegan isn’t talking about crosses used for crucifixion. He’s talking about, essentially, their version of the letter “T”, which had nothing to do with crucifixion crosses (other than a coincidental resemblance in form), and had no associations of shame or disgrace or criminal behavior.
Skeptics of course ought to be able to think about this and realize that there is no way an actual crucifixion cross could ever represent the Messiah in Judaism, unless there were some sort of validating factor (e.g., a resurrection!). All of the evidence (assembled by Hengel and so many others) indicates this. They ought to think it over, and at least check what Finegan said.
But that’s beyond them, of course.