Jesus and the Spiderman Fallacy

by Robin Schumacher

An atheist that I was dialoging with last week tried to support his disbelief in Jesus through the use of the “Spiderman fallacy”, which is a contrived argument that has been defined in the following way by Urban Dictionary:

Archaeologists 1,000 years from now unearth a collection of Spiderman comics. From the background art, they can tell it takes place in New York City. NYC is an actual place, as confirmed by archaeology. However, this does not mean that Spiderman existed.

Often used to illustrate the flaw in the assertion by evangelical Christians that archaeologists unearthing biblical cities today “proves” that the Bible was written by a supernatural force.

The Spiderman Fallacy is committed any time the discovery of a mundane element from a myth, legend, or story is taken to mean that ALL other parts of that story, even the supernatural, are also true.[1]

Let me explain why I believe atheists should not use this argument to try and support their skeptical position on the Bible and/or whether Jesus actually existed.

Why Historical Accuracy Matters

Perhaps there are Christians who argue along the lines of “because Jerusalem exists, Jesus also existed…”, but no Christian apologist or theologian I’ve ever listened to has argued in this manner. The Spiderman fallacy argument misstates the true argument that good apologists make, which is this: We tend to trust people who get their facts straight.

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Take for example the author of the gospel of Luke and Acts. By all standards of measure, he shows himself to be a top notch historian, a fact demonstrated by such credible scholars such as Colin Hemer in his work The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History.

Of Luke, historian and archaeologist Sir William Ramsay said: “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statement of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. . . . In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[2]

Why are such accreditations important? Because historical accuracy matters; an author who shows him/herself to be correct in matters that can be falsified should be granted trust in matters that cannot be directly investigated…


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