"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, January 05, 2007

Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

The following was put together by Jonathan Jong. Many thanks to you sir. I was planning on tackling it myself by it would have taken me a week to type what Jon hammered out in about an hour. From here on it is all Jon (end alex) (start Jon)

OK, I think this will be a rather long post and I don't know how well-written it will be. Apologies beforehand. A lot of this material can be found in John Barclay's essay in "Resurrection Reconsidered." Barclay hold the theology chair at the University of Durham, taking over from the legendary James Dunn.

The matter of the historicity of the Resurrection is a complicated one, certainly far more complex that trusting four people 2000 years ago. The best New Testament scholars in history have disagreed over this matter, which goes to show that it's not a simple matter of "weighing the evidence." There is, as Barclay says, no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Keep that in mind as you read this post.

Let's look at what we have to work with. The NT material on the resurrection is twofold. First, there are the four gospels (as Matt pointed out). Mark was written ca. 67-70, followed by Matthew and Luke (ca.70-80), followed by John (ca. 90-100). The second (and more important to me) is 1 Cor. 3:5-7, written in the mid 50s.

Let's look at 1 Cor. 3:5-7 first. In this pericope, Paul hands down what he calls "tradition", and speaks of Jesus' death, burial, resurrection and appearances. That Paul speaks of "tradition" handed down to him strongly implies that this is the stuff told to him upon his conversion, ca. 36. We're talking mere years after Jesus' ministry.

NT scholars who do not believe in the resurrection (e.g., Crossan, Ludemann) rightly point out that Paul does not mention an empty tomb. So, Paul could have referred to a "spiritual resurrection." That is, he could have believed that Jesus' soul went to Heaven, while his body was in a pit somewhere with other criminals. (They don't think Jesus was buried.) However, Paul specifically mentions burial, as if that was important (and it is, considering how most criminals were chucking in a mass grave). Also, this "spiritual resurrection" idea relies on Greek concepts of body-soul dualism. Jews didn't belive in body-soul dualism. Resurrection, for the Jews, was strictly bodily resurrection. There could have been no resurrection without an empty tomb. Now, Crossan and Ludemann would counter by saying that perhaps the Jews were influenced by Hellenistic ideas. Maybe, but there's really no way to know. The rest of the NT appears to be severely Hebrew (not Hellenistic) in thought, though.

And then there's the gospels. Crossan et al. point out that there are many discrepancies among the biblical testimonies, and I agree. But eye-witness testimonies are (as a psychologist) notoriously unreliable. One would expect different testimonies to differ (sometimes markedly!) in the details. However, the basic idea that Jesus rose from the dead is not a detail. Eye-witnesses make errors on the details of a crime, but do not err on whether a crime was committed or not.

And there's the issue of women. Why would anyone make up the story and use WOMEN as the primary eye-witnesses? It's not the thing you'd do if you wanted your story to be credible.

The claims that Jesus rose from the dead were circulating very early on in Christian history, and it was really easy to verify the claims of an empty tomb. It is unlikely that the early church would make such audaciously false claims, if they were easily falsifiable. Some say Jesus' body was stolen. If so, by whom? If the Jews/Romans stole it, why didn't they disclose this to stamp out this new religious movement? If the Christians, why would they die for something they knew to be a lie? Others say Jesus feigned death and crawled out of the tomb. Any historian who knows anything about crucifixion can tell you how unlikely that is.

Finally, the resurrection appearances. Crossan and Ludemann claim these to be hallucinations of three orders. Firstly, mass hallucinations. Secondly, hallucinations of expectation. Thirdly, hallucinations of guilt. To support the first, many people appeal to Jungian psychology...which is no longer taught by psyhchology faculties because it is unscientific. Mass hallucinations of such detail do not occur. Secondly, there is no reason to think that the disciples were expecting a resurrection. The crucifixion would have proven beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus was NOT the Messiah. For the Jews, crucifixion was tantamount to a curse by God. It is the supreme mark of divine disaproval. There are, as such, no crucified martyrs in early Judaism. Even if the disciples did expect some sort of vindication for Christ, it would have been translation a la Enoch, not resurrection. Early Jewish eschatology posited a single general resurrection upon the coming of the Messiah, not a special resurrection of an individual, followed by a long wait, then an eschatological general resurrection. The disciples were faces with the resurrection and then had to radically modify their eschatology (and their theology, in fact). The third suggestion (hallucinations of guilt) just shows how unscientific these suggestions are in general. How unfalsifiable is a claim if two opposites are predicted to have the same outcome: Those who expect resurrection see it, and those who do not also see it. Very Freudian!

All things being equal, I think the chances are good that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised in the flesh. The tomb was empty, etc. There is a very good recent book which paints both sides very well by NT Wright and Dominic Crossan (whom I already mentioned). It's a dialogue. Look it up on Amazon.

*phew*

All this is from memory because I don't have my notes and stuff with me. So, I apologize for any errors made.

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32 Comments:

Blogger Matt M said...

Depends whether you consider the recorded testimony of four people from 2000 years ago reliable evidence for a completely miraculous event.

(Okay, I know, I'm turning this damn computer off...)

4:49 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Matt, Alex...this is going to take a long time, so I'm only going to respond later today. I'll try to argue both sides as well as possible. My NT training is University based, so it's not necessarily orthodox, conservative Christianity as you'd expect from a seminary. But my views are, as you'd expect, Christian. Later then.

4:56 PM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

While this post certainly shows why a lot of people accept the resurrection "story" (sorry, couldn't think of a better word - nothing is implied by it), I still think it's a pretty weak argument to a non-believer.

You ask how likely it is, given the circumstances and the strength of the early belief, that people would make something like this up. But, given the nature of the resurrection and the general non-supernatural nature of everyday life (for me, at least), I find it far more likely that what we have is only a distorted version of a non-miraculous event. There's obviously no way we can establish this either way (without direct intervention from God), so all we can do is consider the evidence honestly, and go with our gut feeling. That leads me to non-belief.

Also, and this ties back into a point I made about miracles (which I may not have been too clear about), even if we could establish, beyond doubt, that Jesus rose from the dead, all that would establish is that he rose from the dead - the reasons, and his nature, would remain unexplained. To go from the resurrection to Jesus being the son of a Christian God requires either considerably more evidence, or a leap of faith.

3:30 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

This may be a side-note, as I'd hate to divert this thread so early, but I'm interested to know what you think about this:

Given the importance of accepting Jesus, and living a life modeled on God, why carry out the resurrection in a way that seems deliberately designed to sow doubt? Why not have Jesus appear to more people? Why no grand dramatic signs that, why not conclusively proving the truth of the event, would at least give more people pause for thought?

(I'm assuming that the talk of darkness, earthquakes and the saints rising from their graves is a bit of poetic license - given that pretty no-one else seems to have noticed it.)

3:41 AM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Why did Paul say 'the first Adam became a created being, the last Adam a life-giving spirit'.

Surely he was saying that just as we shared in the nature of the first Adam, and have a natural body, so we will share in the nature of the second Adam and become 'life-giving spirits'.

And why did people in Corinth convert to Jesus-worship and still scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

From Paul's letter , it is clear that the Corinthians accepted that God had created Adam from dead matter, so what was there about the resurrection of Jesus that made them doubt that God would choose to raise a corpse?

And why does Paul call the Corinthians 'fools' for wondering how a decayed corpse would be restored?

Surely that is a perfectly sensible question.

Will stillborn babies be raised as babies?

Will old , infirm disabled people be raised as old infirm disabled people?

If you believe the model of a corpse being reassembled from the dust it decays into, these are sensible questions, not foolish ones.

Paul responds by telling the Corinthians that a resurrected being is different from a corpse.

He reminds them that there are all sorts of different things , fish, birds, man, animals, the sun, the moon.

Presumably , expecting a corpse to be turnned into a resurrected people is as foolish as expecting a fish to be turned into the moon.

9:14 AM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

'Resurrection, for the Jews, was strictly bodily resurrection.'

Paul calls his previous Jewish believes 'garbage' (symbala) in Philipians.

Remember , this was the man who thought it was OK to eat food sacrificed to pagan idols, unthinkable to somebody who still had Jewish beliefs.

And was Moses 'resurrected' bodily when he returned to Earth at the Transfiguration?

Was that return from the grave a bodily resurrection?

' Why would anyone make up the story and use WOMEN as the primary eye-witnesses? It's not the thing you'd do if you wanted your story to be credible.'

It was an angel who was the primary eyewitness in Matthew and Mark (or a young man, if you prefer).

Perhaps Mark told the story the way he did . to get around the fact that nobody had heard it before.

The women don't tell anybody in Mark.

As for different accounts , still agreeing that a crime was committed, Mark and Matthew and John have resurrection appearances in Galilee, while Luke is clear that Jesus instructs people not to leave Jerusalem.

And the timing of Luke meant that this instruction to leave Jerusalem was issued on the Sunday.

Do people agree a crime was committed, if one places it in Chicago and another places it in New York?

9:19 AM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

There are more questions about the resurrection, which are unanswerable on the model of a corpse rising from the grave.

Romans 7:24 'Who will rescue me from this body of death?'

Excuse me, but isn't Paul supposed to be preaching that the body will also be rescued?

Why does he want to be rescued from something that is going to be made eternally alive?

1 Corinthians 6:13 "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"—but God will destroy them both.

How could Paul have believed that Jesus ate food with an imperishable stomach, when the stomach will perish?

1 Corinthians 5:5 'hand this man over to Satan, so that the flesh may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.'

If the flesh and the spirit will have different fates, how can they be saved together at the resurrection?

This is such an obvious contradiction that the NIV translates 'flesh' as 'sinful nature' to hide it.

But the word is 'sarx' - 'flesh'

Why does 1 Peter 1:24 think that flesh is a really good metaphor for all that is perishable and transient?

Wasn't his world supposedly turned upside down by the news that Jesus resurrected body had flesh?

All this is incomprehensible on the theory that these people believed a corpse would rise again.

But if we read Paul's words 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit', they make a lot more sense.

9:31 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Matt,
if we could establish, beyond doubt, that Jesus rose from the dead, all that would establish is that he rose from the dead - the reasons, and his nature, would remain unexplained.

Why is that?

Given the importance of accepting Jesus, and living a life modeled on God, why carry out the resurrection in a way that seems deliberately designed to sow doubt? Why not have Jesus appear to more people? Why no grand dramatic signs that, why not conclusively proving the truth of the event, would at least give more people pause for thought?

Good question. mind if we start a new thread on that?

11:40 AM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Hey Steven,
Thanks for popping in and giving us your thoughts. Pleanty to consider there. To be honest it's a bit beyond the realm of my research. Looks like I have some more work to do!

11:42 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Why is that?

Because evidence of someone rising from the dead isn't evidence that they were the son of God, only that they rose from the dead.

Mind if we start a new thread on that?

I'd expect nothing less. :-)

1:18 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Matt,
Well sir my thoughts on that would be that if the gospel accounts are accurate enough to be correct in the details of history as well as showing us the man rose from the dead would they not be accurate enough to give us a picture of who he thought he was?

Or are you coming at it from a more abstract angle? Such as, Man rises from dead = man is beyond nature. Man raises from dead does not necessarily need to mean that Man is God. Is that how you are approaching it?

1:59 PM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Each new claim has to rise or fall on its own merits - the fact that it comes from a source which has been proven right on other matters is no guarantee of its truthfulness or accuracy.

If I claimed that I was about 6ft tall, with dark hair, I'd be absolutely right. But that does nothing to validate my claims that I'm also one of the fifteenth most smartest people in the world, or that I should rightfully inherit the throne of at least five different European countries.

Proving that someone rose from the dead proves just that, and nothing else. If that proof came from a trusted source, then we'd be wise to consider what else they have to say, but their word alone isn't nearly sufficient to establish anything for which further proof has not be submitted.

would they not be accurate enough to give us a picture of who he thought he was?

What people think he is isn't necessarily what he is.

2:25 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

What people think he is isn't necessarily what he is.

Fair enough. But what is recorded is not just what others thought of him. It's what he thought of himself that should give one pause.

But really this does nothing for our conversation if it is more likely that he was a mistaken sage trumped up through legend formation.

I really want to look more into Steven's claims. I have not heard them before. But like I said earlier, so far it's beyond the scope of my reading.

5:01 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the slow responses. I'll get to it later today.

revvvvvvvd

8:01 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

I'll respond to each comment individually.

Matt,

You've pointed out a veyr important point about the decisive factor in belief/unbelief. It's not really about evidence. In the end, we have our a priori presuppositions about miracles. We've heard this many times from Crossan, Ludemann and more popularly, Bart Ehrman. However, I was hoping to make a "all things being equal" point.

The data is there: 1 Cor 3:5-7 and the Gospels were written, a revolutionarily new movement was begun. And these facts require explanation. The Christian explanation is the resurrection. The non-Christian one is that some people made stuff up, or were deluded, or had hallucinations. I was trying to show why I think the Christian explanation is better. And I don't think I did a bad job.

Finally, I wholeheartedly respect your decision to not believe, just as you respect mine to believe. I'm not really out to convert you, althought I can't speak for Alex. I've said before that all I'm doing is laying it out on the table for everyone's consideation.

10:00 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Steven Carr,

You raise many very interesting and important issues. Some issues you raised are less interesting.

Your first point reveals our Cartesian inheritence of facing off "body" against "spirit." I think this is foreign to the NT. In the NT, the physical and the spiritual are not antithetical. So, being a life-giving spirit and being a physial body are not mutually exclusive. Read Joel B. Green and Ted Peters for more on NT anthropology.

The Corinthians did have issues with bodily resurrection. And it's exactly these issues which Paul wants to clarify. It shouldn't be surprising that Hellenistic Christians in a highly Hellenized city like Corinth should have bought into substance dualism.

You point out that a lot of Paul's beliefs were very un-Jewish, and of course I agree. The early Jewish Christians modified a lot of their Jewish faith...but why? The Christian explanation is the resurrection. In the light of the risen Christ, the early Jewish Christians experienced a crisis in their previous thought categories. Read Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado for more on this topic.

Again, no biblical scholar (Christian or not) denies the discrepancies in the biblical witness. However, biblical scholars realize that the canons of historicity are different now than they were then. Christian biblical scholars affirm that the accounts in Scripture are, to some (perhaps great) extent embellished, but ultimately rooted in fact. The details of the resurrection are discrepant, but the resurrection happened. The details of the appearances are discrepant, but there were appearances. I agree: This IS a problem, but I join with my fellow Christian scholars that it's not an unsurmountable one for faith.

Angels cannot serve as eye-witnesses. So, for all intents and purposes, the resurrection stories had women as the main eyewitnesses. Bad strategy for evangelism, for sure. And of course we've heard the Markan conspiracy before (with the Messianic secret): Mark ends with the women's silence in order to explain why no one had ever heard of an empty tomb story. I can see no reason for anyone without an agenda to discredit the story to attribute this particular story to Mark, while saying that Mark used pre-Markan sources for other parts of the Gospel.

All the other comments have to do with sarx, soma, and pneuma. The default reading of these NT passages, post-Decartes is via the lens of Cartesian dualism. I can't think of a single biblical scholar in the last 100 years who would support this reading of those words. A lot of my Christian friends cannot imagine NOT reading substance dualism into the text, and I understand that many non-Christians will also have the same problem. And that's the rub of reading any text, biblical or not. We come to the pages of the text with our presuppositions and biases.

10:22 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

This is my definitive statement on the debate over resurrection of Christ:

There are many good reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. And there are many good reasons to believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Each position has good evidence for and against, and good arguments for and against. Furthermore, the arguments for and agianst are internally consistent in themselves. And I must admit that it is difficult to choose between the two positions, from an objective perspectives.

Now, as I've said before, I'm not out to convert anybody. I'm here to present one side of the story (even though in my main post, I did present some of the opposite points) and furthermore, to encourage each and every one of you to do as much research as possible in this important area. The Christian faith rises and falls on the resurrection of Christ. It is relevant to us all.

Atheists and Christians, we are in this together. If I'm wrong about the Resurrection, I want to know and drop out of this religion as fast as possible. And I hope that you're interested in truth more than you are in atheism per se. Heck, I'm more interested in truth than I am in keeping the faith. Which brings me to my suggestion: Read up.

I've spent the last year or so reading as much as I can on both sides of the resurrection argument. I've read Crossan and Ludemann and Ehrman and Borg, the premier NT scholars who don't believe that Christ has risen. At the same time, I've read NT Wright, James Dunn, Richard Bauckham, and John Barclay, the premier NT scholars who do believe that Christ has risen. And weighing their arguments, I've tried to make the most objective judgment possible. And as you know, I came out believing that Christ did rise from the dead.

I don't expect all of you to the same conclusion that I have. However, since we're all here debating this out, I expect all of us to do our homework. We all have many questions, and if our questions are not asked simply to belittle each other but truly in pursuit of truth, then we should start working at finding the answer. Do read the writers I suggested above. All of the mare top notch scholars, internationally renowned for their work in biblical studies. The first four are atheists, or non-Christians at any rate. The second four are Christians of different persuasions.

The issue is a complex and sensitive one. We Christians cannot pretend that the resurrection is an obvious historical fact. Atheists similarly cannot pretend that the resurrection is obviously absurd. Nothing is obvious, at this point, 2000 years down the road. But difficult though the issue may be, it's an important issue. So, let's work very hard in the near future to read up and think this through and make the most honest, objective decision we can.

10:37 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Jon,
Thanks again for popping in. This is getting a good bit more technical than I can follow with further study. However, I very much appreciate hearing your side. You and Steven are obviously more studied in this area than I am. Hope you don't mind if I just sit back and watch.

Jon Said to Matt: Finally, I wholeheartedly respect your decision to not believe, just as you respect mine to believe. I'm not really out to convert you, although I can't speak for Alex.

I've never really seen it as my job. I'm really more on a mission for the truth of life. I have my world view that I have developed over my 27 yrs. It's admitedly Christ centered. It's been challenged from time to time, but nothing like the last year or so. I've had to jettison many things that I've discovered to be cultural add-ons. It's been a healing process to be honest.

I'm still in the midst of a struggle however. How do I make everything I see in this world add up in my Christian perspective? Take Matt, or Brad for instance. They are very smart people. I know Brad is deeply in love with his wife and kids. I'm sure Matt is a very compassionate person as well. They have a purely naturalistic outlook. It would seem They make it work out in this life just fine. Why is mine any better? I'd guess if it's solidly rooted in truth that would do the trick, but it's just not possible to verify that according to any method we have available to us. Sure we can look at the claims of Christ and show how they are not necessarily irrational, but it always comes back to faith. Why is faith so important? Faith like a child... It seems like that kind of faith so often leads to blind faith in fundamentalist religions. People justify all sorts of terrible things by the 'faith' they hold.

It's just so hard to turn off the part of me that wants to be sure. I don't want to be following some overblown myth.

Even when I start talking like this the beauty of Jesus and the redemptive story that is my world view seems so much more desirable and inspiring than any alternative perspective. If it's true... All I can do is have faith that it is and live in that faith. I will never stop my studies. I will never stop seeking to understand the world and the people in it, but when it comes down to it, my Christian world view is hinged on faith.

11:15 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Ah, I see you posted yet again as I was typing...

Clarifying as always. Good recommendations. It would seem I have another pile of books to add to my list! I do believe I'll have to nudge the other ones I have already started to the side. =)

11:21 PM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

'Your first point reveals our Cartesian inheritence of facing off "body" against "spirit." I think this is foreign to the NT. In the NT, the physical and the spiritual are not antithetical. So, being a life-giving spirit and being a physial body are not mutually exclusive.'

I never said that it was. Please read my post.

Paul thought of a resurrected being as a body made of spirit.

He lays about the Corinthians , pointing out that celestial things are made of different materials to earthly things.

So naturally the material in their corpses will not be used to make the 'life-giving spirit' - a body made of spirit.

But this totally contradicts the Gospels.


'The Corinthians did have issues with bodily resurrection. And it's exactly these issues which Paul wants to clarify. It shouldn't be surprising that Hellenistic Christians in a highly Hellenized city like Corinth should have bought into substance dualism.'

If you believe in the resurrection, then this is amazing.

Have you read Acts 17? Apparently people who scoffed at resurrection did not become Christians.

But of course, the author of Acts believed in bodily resurrection, so he hid the fact that many early Christian converts just laughed at the idea.

Why did the Corinthians convert to Jesus-worship and scoff at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse?

This is the question I asked in my post and one Christians cannot answer.

And Paul tells them they are idiots for wondering what happens to their corpses.

He tells them that their corpses are dead. That was the point. The corpse is dead.

That is why Paul had to ask in Romans 7:24 'Who will rescue me from this body of death?'

The corpse will die. It was important to be rescued from it.

The Corinthians were like modern people wondering how they could fly from London to New York.

How could they convert their car to fly? How could they fit wings on to it?

No wonder Paul thought such questions were 'idiotic'.

You don't transform your car into a flying machine. There are different machines. Some go on the ground, some in the air.

First you go in a car, and then you go into a plane.

This is exactly how Paul writes. Literally. He writes just the same way.

He thinks it is stupid to ask how a corpse will be reformed from dust.

It won't be. There are earthly bodies and celestial bodies.

First you have your earthly body and then you have your celestial body.

For the Corinthians to worry about how the corpse will be transformed is as stupid as for us to worry about how we will fit wings on to our cars so we can fly to place.

There is more at my blog on Blog

12:26 AM

 
Blogger Matt M said...

Alex,

It's just so hard to turn off the part of me that wants to be sure. I don't want to be following some overblown myth.

If it helps, that is exactly how I feel, just from the opposite direction. I'm quite adjusted to the atheistic outlook, and I think that, in many ways, it can be a positive thing. But, there's no real way I can certain I'm right about it, so I want to keep challenging my views and hear what other people have to say - no matter how strange or unbelievable it might sound to begin with.

At least you have a potential light at the end of the tunnel. I don't see how eternal or absolute truths can be reconciled with the idea of a Godless universe, so for me there's only the *search* for truth, a continual process of refinement and reflection. But then that's what atheism's really all about: the journey, not the destination.

5:48 AM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Ah, I see your problem. WHile you may choose ot read Paul as saying that our resurrection bodies are going to be made of this stuff called "spirit" (whatever that is), most biblical scholars would disagree that this is an accurate reading.

Most of us in biblical studies are more likely to point out that soma pneumatikon (a spiritual body) is a body, but yet spiritual. It is the same as our body, but different. This idea of continuity-discontinuity is found in the Gospels also, in that Jesus is a body, but this body has some bizarre properties.

You mentioned Corinthian converts and other Greeks (Acts 17) who sneered at the resurrection. Again, all these people were Hellenized. The Athenians were Greek. So, they had a substance dualism. I'm going to argue, with most of biblical scholarship that the Jews (i.e. Paul, early Jewish Christians, Jesus) had a monist anthropology.

You'll find that most Christian theologians and biblical scholars are have more nuanced views of resurrection that the re-entry of life into a decayed body. We know that there aren't enough molecules to go around, for example. You're best not to ask the run-of-the-mill Christian about Christian theology, because the lamentable situation in the 21st century is that Christians no longer think much and hard about their faith. Instead, read up like I've challenged.

On resurrection, read what John Polkinghorne, Michael Welker, and Ted Peters have to say. They've all written books separately and together on the subject matter.

2:28 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Matt,

I don't think the journey is over for anyone, not Christians, not atheists. For us, as much as for you, life is about the journey.

Christians all around the world struggle with questions and issues, both ethical and dogmatic (without the negative connotations of that word).

I teach first year psychology in Uni, and basic theology to some peers. In both settings, I teach them to have evidence-based faith. And this means that our beliefs should change with the evidence. So, 50 years from now, if the evidence piles up against the resurrection, I'll have to reconsider my views. And I hope we're in the same boat, Matt. We all have to be open to the possibility that we're wrong.

2:34 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Now that I'm more awake, I'll try give a finer response to Steven's comments. I only have a few things to add to my previous post.

First, the issues of differences between Paul and the Gospels. In Luke, Jesus' body is pretty darned physical. In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes resurrection bodies as being spiritual. On face of it, there appears to be a contradiction. While I don't deny that Paul and Luke might well disagree on this issue, I think the things they share are more significant. Also, I don't think the differences in Luke and Paul give rise to contradiction. Certainly not total contradiction, to use Steven's phrase. Paul and Luke agree that resurrection being is embodied being, contrary to popular first century Greek and 21st century Western thought. Paul and Luke also agree that resurrection bodies are same-yet-different. Luke shows this in narrative form, and Paul explains it didactically (albeit, with poetic language). Reading Paul closely, there is a clear continuity-discontuity dialectic going on. For Luke, Jesus is still physical, but unrecognisable. For Paul something - "it" - is sown perishable, and this same "it" is raised imperishable. What is sown and reaped are not separate things, but a change has occurred.

Second, the issue of early Christians who found it difficult to believe that Jesus bodily raised form the dead. I've explained this before, but perhaps not clearly. The earliest Christians were Jews, and they had a monist anthropology within which resurrection was necessarily bodily resurrection. But once Christianity reached the Gentiles, for example in Athens (Acts 17) or Corinth (1 and 2 Corinthians), the apostles had to preach a very Jewish gospel to a Hellenistic audience. These Hellenists did not have a monist anthropology within which resurrection was necessarily bodily resurrection. They had a dualist anthropology which allowed them to spiritualize the risen Christ. And they preferred to do so! Similarly, the early Gnostics and Docetists tried very hard to deny the physicality of Christ. It was the onus of the early Jewish Christians (like Paul in 1 Cor 15) to affirm he physicality of the earthly and risen Christ.

Third, Romans 7:24. A dualist reading of this passage would suggest that Paul wants his soul to leave his body. The analogy is one of transfer, like Steven's perhaps, from car to plane. A monist reading of this passage would suggest instead that Paul wants his body to be transformed. The analogy here is metamorphosis, from caterpillar to butterfly. Very very few biblical scholars - Christian or otherwise - would want to say that Paul thought that he had a soul living inside this shell of a body, ready to escape. This sort of ghost-in-the-machine substance dualism was a very Greek thing that slowly became a Christian thing in the post-apostolic period.

3:48 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Matt,

If it helps, that is exactly how I feel

It's good to hear that Matt. I often wonder about the effect my 27 years of world view formation have on my search for truth. Brad would have me believe that I am incapable of seeing things the way they are because I've brainwashed myself into believing a fairy tail.

Personally I don't see it that way, but if he is right, I wouldn't know it if I was.

I am doing my best to keep my eyes wide open. Jon's suggestion to read the best we have available to us in both (or all) camps is a concept I whole heartedly agree with. You and I have very inquisitive minds. I say we keep exploring and testing. Question everything.

so for me there's only the *search* for truth, a continual process of refinement and reflection. But then that's what atheism's really all about: the journey, not the destination.

It you want my perspective take out the word "only". Replace "Atheism" with "Christianity". And replace "not" with "as well as".

I'm quite glad Jon (revvvvvvd) showed up. He really has a way of cutting to the heart of the matter.

5:14 PM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

There still is no explanation offered of why people scoffed at the resurrection of a corpse and still converted to Christianity, and remained Christians.

Saying 'They were Hellenised' is not an explanation of why they converted to Christianity and still scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse.

Nor has anybody explained how Paul could write 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit', impying that we too will become life-giving spirits.


And Paul certainly thought of the body as a temple which contained a spirit (at least Christian bodies did)

Paul wanted to be rescued from his body, which he knew would die and decay.

2 Corinthians 5
4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Paul is using a clothing metaphor.

That means we will change clothes.

And changing clothes means discarding our present clothes (or body) and getting new clothes (or body)

One made of spirit.

And as proof, Paul points to our present bodies which contain spirit as a deposit, a guarantee that we will get new clothes, made of spirit.

Paul continues :-

6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.

This makes no sense if it is written from somebody who claims we will be in the same body that we are in now , one restored from the dust a corpse dissolves into.

But it makes perfect sense if written by somebody who has already claimed that the spirit and flesh will have different fates (see 1 Cor. 5)

Still, it is nice to know that all people can do by way of a defense of a bodily resurrection is deny the meaning of the Biblical text and substitute their own preferred words.

It increases my confidence in being right.

3:07 PM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

'The Athenians were Greek. So, they had a substance dualism.'

Again, no attempt is made to actually read the Bible to see if this applies.

The Corinthians believed Jesus was still alive, but scoffed at the idea of a corpse rising.

Clearly they must have converted after being told that Jesus was still alive, but not as a risen corpse.

The Corinthians did not believe that they had immortal souls. They did not believe in 'substance dualism'.

They did not take part in baptism for the dead, implying that they thought the dead were lost. (The Thessalonians also worried that the dead were lost)

The Corinthians did not believe in immortal souls, they thought that they only had physical bodies and were worried about what would happen to them.

So how could they think Jesus was resurrected?

Easy. Jesus was a god and gods could take on physical form and leave it behind, just as Zeus could turn into a swan and back.

But how could they, mere mortals, do what Jesus had done?

How could they live on after death, when they were not gods and had only a physical body which would rot?

Paul calls them idiots, and tells them that they also would share in the nature of the second Adam and become 'life-giving spirits'.


Paul never attacks their alleged belief in an immortal soul.

Paul attacks their foolishness in thinking that their resurrection somehow involves a corpse rising from ash, dust or whatever it dissolved into.

They had completely the wrong idea.

As for Paul's 'Jewish beliefs', he calls his beliefs prior to his conversion 'garbage' in Philippians.

So it is pointless to say that Paul could only have had 'Jewish beliefs' about a resurrection.

Those ideas could well have been what Paul called 'garbage'

3:19 PM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

REVVVVD
'For Paul something - "it" - is sown perishable, and this same "it" is raised imperishable. '

CARR
There is no word 'it' in the Greek of 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. Paul deliberately avoids writing in a way that ties that which is sown to that which is raised.

It is amazing to see people change the Bible to make it suit their theories.

Poor Paul.

He tried so hard to write 'life-giving spirit' and avoid claiming that the dead corpse lives again, only for Christians to change his words.

3:24 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Steven,

I don't see why everyone who converted to Christianity then HAD to believe in a bodily resurrection. The Greek converts probably didn't (as you mentioed) at first, and Paul had to correct them.

Those texts you quoted...you think it necessarily speaks of some kind of body-soul (or flesh-spirit) dualism, but I don't think many biblical scholars (Christian or atheist) would agree. For the early (Jewish) church, the spirit isn't something "in" the body. It's a mode of living or a plane of existence. And it's not true to say that "bodily resurrection" was thought to be about body-recycling. Paul thought we'd be re-made.

I think you're way off in that second post. You're welcome to readthe text like that, but I can't think of a single biblical scholar (Christian or otherwise) who reads it like that. You're especially off on Paul. When Paul calls what he had before Christ "refuse" or "garbage" you can't just say that he suddenly threw away all his beliefs. You might as well say that Paul thought he was male and now he thinks he's female. He certainly modified his beliefs based on his experience, but his prior beliefs also shaped his experience.

Steven, Steven. While there's no "it" in the Greek, that doesn't change the fact (to which I alluded) that what Paul said was sown perishavble and raised incorruptible is the same object. I merely used the "it" to make it more understandable in English. Not many people would understand me if I wrote in Greek. My point stands.

By the way, this is getting a little tiresome. I've been involved in dozens of seminars in science, theology and biblical studies and in none of them, have I witnessed the kind of hostility I get here. There is a lot of disagreement in both the sciences and humanities, but it's done in a calm fashion. If studying psychology and biblical studies at a tertiary level has taught me anything, it's to reserve the emotions for something else.

8:39 PM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Actually, I think Crossan might say that Paul was going for a spiritualist interpretation of the resurrection. So, I take the statement that no biblical scholar reads it like that back.

I respectfully disagree. As do most other biblical scholars. And I don't think there's a real way to find out either way.

I'm willing to concede that Steven may be right. But of course that should've been assumed since the beginning. I think he's wrong, but he might not be.

That's the complicated thing about the Bible, I guess. There's no way to really tell whose reading is more accurate. Both arguments appear to be internally consistent. But like I said, I was never out to convert anyone. Just laying it out the way I see it.

8:54 PM

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

RWEVVVD
'I don't see why everyone who converted to Christianity then HAD to believe in a bodily resurrection.'

CARR
Read Acts 17.

People who believed in a bodily resurrection claimed that if you scoffed at the idea, then you could not become a Christian.

Presumably you can't see any reason why early converts to Mormonisn HAD to believe that the Book of Mormon was genuine, or any reason why early converts to Islam HAD to believe that Muhammad was a prophet.

REVVVVD
'Steven, Steven. While there's no "it" in the Greek, that doesn't change the fact (to which I alluded) that what Paul said was sown perishavble and raised incorruptible is the same object.'

CARR
Nope.

There is no subject in those verses.

They are abstract verses.

The nearest subject is 'the dead'.

So if you wanted to put a subject in, you would have to write something like 'One of the dead is swon imperishable, one of the dead is raised imperishable.'

But Paul deliberately avoids claiming that the corpse is raised.

It is like us saying 'The dead fell on the battlefield of the Somme and the dead are remembered in our hearts.'

'The dead' is a different thing from 'the dead corpses.

When Paul does use a subject (esti), in verse 46 , he uses TWO subjects , implying two different bodies. 'There is a natural body AND there is a spiritual body'.

This is why the Corinthians were foolish to worry about their natural body. They did not know that they ALSO had a spiritual body.

12:53 AM

 
Blogger revvvvvvvd said...

Again, Acts 17 doesn't dictate that people who don't believe in bodily resurrection cannot become Christians. And in reality, it's not true that one has to believe in bodily resurrection to be a Christian.

I'm sorry, but I still fail to see the problem. The dead are sown perishable, and are raised imperishable...and they have a new body. Sounds perfectly orthodox to me. So, I die, my cells rot, and I am re-made anew, imperishable. No dualistic strings attached. The difference is between being given a new body and being made into a new person.

7:46 PM

 

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