Sources for the resurrection


#1

Since the thread was closed while I was responding, I've posted my response here.

[quote="oldcelt, post:75, topic:349961"]
Edwin,

I'm afraid I don't understand that statement. Where is the evidence except in the writings of a few of Jesus' followers? I know they say that others saw him and etc, but they do not mention who, or get their accounts.

[/quote]

Do you mean by "others" "people not followers of Jesus?" True. They certainly mention a number of people by name--Paul lists a lot by name and then mentions 500, some of whom he says are still alive.

Again, by the standards that ancient historians have to work with, sources written a few decades after the event, naming names of eyewitnesses, clearly independent of each other (Mark, Paul, and John) and differing circumstantially while agreeing on key details, constitute pretty good evidence.

No one in authority tried to make contact for 40 days, etc., etc..

I don't know what you mean by that exactly. I'm not sure what sort of contact you would expect the authorities to make. There's no evidence that the disciples went public right away. Matthew gives us the alternative narrative of what happened, which he says is that the disciples stole the body. According to him, this was the story the authorities told from the beginning. Now he may or may not be reliable on this (he may be responding to claims made decades later by Jewish opponents of early Christianity), but it's unreasonable to question the resurrection narrative on the grounds that if true the authorities would have been concerned, when one of our sources tells us that they were and tells us what their story was.

If this was a modern story and a dead man was walking around there would be a lot more questions asked.

Sure. We have journalists. They didn't. I'm not sure we are to be envied.:p

Edwin


#2

When I was exploring Christianity a little over 10 years ago (after 47 years of almost no religion in my life), one of the doctrines of the faith I had to deal with was that of Christ's resurrection.

A book that helped me with this was, 'A Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel. A conclusion I came to (by that and many other books on faith and history), was that the faith that the Apostle's and the other followers of Jesus had in proclaiming the resurrection, was so powerful. The Apostles and other disciples of Jesus were willing to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming it, and this was a life of hardship, persecution and death. And there is no evidence that they wavered in their belief!

Unlike today's Televangelists and other book writing Christians, who may or may not have a strong faith in Christ, have made a lot of money writing or preaching about Jesus' resurrection. There was no profit to the disciples of Jesus to profess his resurrection (financially). Would men like Peter and Paul continue preaching that Jesus had appeared to them after his death, and spend the next 35+ years walking, riding and sailing all over the Roman Empire in hardship and persecution? Would they go to Rome (the source of much of their persecution), where they both would be executed by the Romans for their belief, unless they actually saw the risen Christ? My conclusion was no. The disciples truly believed what they had seen and touched with their own hands, and that was the risen Jesus Christ!


#3

Contarini -- your comments on your perspective on the different gospel accounts (in the closed thread) was interesting as well, particularly regards your reticence -- as a historian -- regarding the gospel of Matthew.

It would seem you do not hold to the absolute inerrancy of the gospel accounts; is this in your capacity as an historian, or as a Christian, as well?

Obviously, inerrancy -- even in terms of inerrant historical transmission -- is something that no historian would grant to any text, whether it be Plato's Dialogues or even Caesar's Gallic Wars, written in his own hand. So, obviously, to grant the same benefit of the doubt to the biographers of Jesus, as to the bigraphers of Alexander, still would not get one to ascribing to it no factual inaccuracies whatsoever.


#4

[quote="CalCatholic, post:2, topic:350195"]
When I was exploring Christianity a little over 10 years ago (after 47 years of almost no religion in my life), one of the doctrines of the faith I had to deal with was that of Christ's resurrection.

A book that helped me with this was, 'A Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel. A conclusion I came to (by that and many other books on faith and history), was that the faith that the Apostle's and the other followers of Jesus had in proclaiming the resurrection, was so powerful. The Apostles and other disciples of Jesus were willing to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming it, and this was a life of hardship, persecution and death. And there is no evidence that they wavered in their belief!

Unlike today's Televangelists and other book writing Christians, who may or may not have a strong faith in Christ, have made a lot of money writing or preaching about Jesus' resurrection. There was no profit to the disciples of Jesus to profess his resurrection (financially). Would men like Peter and Paul continue preaching that Jesus had appeared to them after his death, and spend the next 35+ years walking, riding and sailing all over the Roman Empire in hardship and persecution? Would they go to Rome (the source of much of their persecution), where they both would be executed by the Romans for their belief, unless they actually saw the risen Christ? My conclusion was no. The disciples truly believed what they had seen and touched with their own hands, and that was the risen Jesus Christ!

[/quote]

There are other ways of looking at it, other possibilities, but I would agree that a glib dismissal is out of the question.

In answer to the question, "why would they be willing to die for their beliefs?" it is not amiss to point out that they would be following the example of their lord and master, Jesus. Martyrdom had in itself become an ideal, as had love of neighbor and resist not evil. All of these values, as taught by Christ, are exemplified by the behavior of the apostles, even if Jesus had not risen from the dead. So it might not be a case of, "why bother dying for something that isn't true?" The very truth that Jesus taught, the very values that he promulgated, were that of love one's neighbor, turn the other cheek, and being willing to die for love. Their willingness to do it, even absent a resurrection, would a testimony to the power that this idea had to them. And if they believed in eternal life -- which they may have, even if Jesus did not resurrect physically -- and if they believed that he would come again -- which they may have, even if Jesus did not resurrect physically -- and if they believed that he lives and is seated at the right hand of the father -- which, again, is not contradicted by the idea of a Christ that resurrected not in flesh and blood, but in spirit, then there would not be the feeling that Christ's teaching died with him on the cross. They would very powerfully be convinced that his teaching still lives.

The same could be said about the extraordinary power and impact that the living Christ had on their lives -- that memory of the living Christ would have been stronger than his dead. Indeed, the idea of Christ would have survived his death. This idea that, "you can kill the body, but you cannot kill truth." The human psyche has "magazines" of conceptualization that are seemingly infinite, and there is a resilience and hope that can prove un-quenchable.

A Christian does not believe this -- or, rather, believes all this, and also believes that Jesus rose from the dead -- but I don't think it is convincing to say that, if Jesus simply died, it would be impossible or even unlikely for his followers to retain any loyalty to his teachings or values, or even be willing to die for them, or to be on fire with his teaching, convinced that he is glorified with God, and that he will return to them one day. A simple belief in eternal life is an energizing enough idea, making any prospect of a physical death pale in comparison.


#5

I think your theory would make a lot more sense if the apostles believed as you have stated and went to their death for this charismatic leader, within a year or two after his death. But these apostles spent over 30 years traveling the dusty roads, growing older (and wiser to the ways of life) and for what, a lie? I think the theory of Jesus just being a charismatic leader fades with every year of hardship toil and persecution.

If this involved one man (which in my opinion is still implausible over the time period) your theory would have a little better chance, but this involved many disciples men and woman, who not only witnessed what Jesus said, but also the miracles that he performed. Then they claimed that they saw and met with him after his death, and were willing to die for that belief.

Then one must take into account how this faith spread. A faith started by a Galilean carpenter and a dozen or so other fishermen and laborers. A faith that spread through the mighty Roman Empire, and within 300 years became the favored religion of that same empire that originally persecuted and killed them! And that faith would continue to grow and out last the Roman Empire. Two thousand years later it has transformed western civilization and is truly a global faith, with over two billion Christians who profess that Jesus of Nazareth is the risen Christ!

I don't play the Powerball Lottery because the odds are so astronomically against me. What do you think the odds were against the Christian faith in its humble beginnings to expand as it did to its present status in the world???

The only explanation in my humble opinion is, the Jesus of Nazareth is who he said he was to that small group of hard working Jews, two thousand years ago. Only the working of the Holy Spirit explains to me the growth of this global faith!

I was an Agnostic for 47 years, and I came to be a Catholic Christian not through tragedy, nor prompting from another person asking me to come to church, everything was going along well in my life. I would have thought that I didn't need God, but his Spirit though otherwise! This longing for his Church started slowly and lasted over 3-4 years, but I finally gave in to his will!

It obviously takes faith to become a new Christian today (in this skeptical world), but it is the Holy Spirit that leads us to it, even despite our best efforts to resist it. Nothing else in your life fulfills your needs as much as faith in God, his Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. If you spend the rest of your life looking, you won't find it, everything else fades away!


#6

The resurrection is vital to the Christian faith as St. Paul stressed in one of his letters. Without the resurrection our faith is in vain. One thing that must be considered which Mr. Stroebel probably doesn't defend is how specific articles of faith was passed on and defended passionately by the Apostles successors, such as the resurrection, that that alone is powerful evidence. Had the Christian faith dissappeared for any time and then picked back and reinvented itself as some Protestants seem to assume then that would be grounds against certian doctrines. But when the resurrection and other vital doctrines have been taught and defended from day 1 and never missed a beat at any point at all then that's a powerful testimony to its authenticity.


#7

I have difficulties with the concept. Certainly as an Anglican I do not believe in it. I am trying to understand the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject. Obviously it’s a bit different, even in the most conservative readings, because of the authority of the Church to interpret Scripture. I certainly don’t accept the Protestant version–or rather I think that it’s either meaningless or leads Protestants to have an ever-changing faith, because their belief in what the divine meaning of Scripture is will vary with every new scholarly theory.

One evangelical scholar, Robert Gundry, has argued that parts of the Matthaean birth narratives were not intended to be historical narratives and thus one can reject their historicity without questioning inerrancy. However, the Evangelical Theological Society, which requires belief in admission for membership, did not accept this argument and expelled him. I respect Gundry very much (and in fact he’s far from a liberal–in fact one of his books was called A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto) but it seems to me that his case highlights the problem with “Protestant inerrancy.” How does Gundry, or anyone else, really know what the author’s intention was? And who counts as the “author” anyway?

Obviously, inerrancy – even in terms of inerrant historical transmission – is something that no historian would grant to any text, whether it be Plato’s Dialogues or even Caesar’s Gallic Wars, written in his own hand. So, obviously, to grant the same benefit of the doubt to the biographers of Jesus, as to the bigraphers of Alexander, still would not get one to ascribing to it no factual inaccuracies whatsoever.

Right. And that’s the basic problem I have with inerrancy. But there are many models of “inerrancy.” It’s a much more flexible concept than it may appear, and in both Catholicism and evangelicalism it continues to be developed and debated.

The basic theological claim is that God is the author of Scripture (although in a manner that doesn’t replace human authorship), and God does not speak falsehood or make mistakes. Vatican II further said that “whatever is asserted by the human authors is asserted by the Holy Spirit,” which frankly is a claim I have trouble with. However, I think it’s possible to qualify the term “asserted.”

There are plenty of Catholic scholars who have a more liberal approach to the Bible than mine, so I’m probably being overly “scrupulous” in worrying about whether my view of Scripture fits Catholic teaching (I hope to become Catholic in the near future). But the teaching is what it is, and it’s probably a healthy corrective to my tendency to cut the divine meaning of Scripture loose from the human.

Both the glory and the frustration of Christianity is the way it ties us to a particular, concrete, human story. Any view of Scripture that lets us off the hook is too easy. But at the same time, I can’t accept conservative interpretations that simply deny or trample on the serious difficulties.

Edwin


#8

I think I agree that Protestant inerrancy is a paradoxical concept, given that there is no belief in an inerrant institution that can decide what that inerrant Biblical message is, and what its implications would be in terms of conduct.

My point of view, if I were to reoncile myself with (a presumably liberal) Protestantism would be that the gospels are guides, written by fallible human beings; and that the human beings interpreting them – whether individuals, or institutions - are themselves fallible, as well (albeit, if seeking in good faith, with sources of help and guidance). It’s not ideal to be fallible and to have no guarantees --and to have no immunity to confusion or misinterpretation – but, alas, “that’s life.” One has the guidance of the Holy Spirit and, through the grace of God, does good *enough. *

I’m personally not convinced by arguments that would say, “God wouldn’t leave us without an infallible form of guidance on this earth; he loves us” because that overlaps with speculations having to do with the problem of evil. Having a form of guidance, but a fallible one and one that is prone to error – thus requiring humility and caution, and the willingness to consider that one is mistaken – would not necessarily prove that God does not love us. To be human is to err; it is the nature of the human to “see through a glass, darkly” (the errors of interpretation happened even in the company of Jesus, as when he said, “I have bread you know not of” and his apostles – the founders of his church – said amongst themselves, misinterpreting his words, “has someone brought him some food?”) The helper at Pentecost would be a source of guidance, but no guarantee of perfect knowledge, because “perfection” and human beings do not go together on this earth, even when the object that human beings are contemplating, discussing, and seeking is a perfect God.

This would be my point of view, in any case. Protestants cannot point to anything in the Bible that says “this text is inerrant” (as has been pointed out elsewhere, Sola Scriptura is self-refuting) yet a belief in Catholic inerrancy, as I see it, is itself based on an interpretation – of what it implies to bind and loose; of what it implies to build one’s church on a solid foundation; of what it implies for the gates of hell not to prevail against that church. Nowhere is the word “inerrant” explicitly mentioned in these words of Christ, but the Catholic would argue that it is implied in Christ’s words – or perhaps that it necessarily, logically follows, and would have to follow – though this itself is an interpretation, and not without its attendant dangers (of a Socratic sort, in terms of the dangers inherent in a denial of even the possibility of ignorance, of errors in understanding).


#9

[quote="Portofino, post:8, topic:350195"]

I'm personally not convinced by arguments that would say, "God wouldn't leave us without an infallible form of guidance on this earth; he loves us" because that overlaps with speculations having to do with the problem of evil.

[/quote]

Indeed. This is a terrible argument. I approach infallibility from the opposite direction entirely: the claim of infallibility exists, and the Christian communities with the best claim to continuity with the historic Church make it. Furthermore, given the importance of both doctrinal orthodoxy and unity in Christianity, infallibility is certainly useful. Indefectibility is surely necessary, and infallibility serves indefectibility. This is a much weaker, a posteriori approach than the misguided one many Catholics use.

Edwin


#10

[quote="CalCatholic, post:5, topic:350195"]
I think your theory would make a lot more sense if the apostles believed as you have stated and went to their death for this charismatic leader, within a year or two after his death. But these apostles spent over 30 years traveling the dusty roads, growing older (and wiser to the ways of life) and for what, a lie? I think the theory of Jesus just being a charismatic leader fades with every year of hardship toil and persecution.

If this involved one man (which in my opinion is still implausible over the time period) your theory would have a little better chance, but this involved many disciples men and woman, who not only witnessed what Jesus said, but also the miracles that he performed. Then they claimed that they saw and met with him after his death, and were willing to die for that belief...

[/quote]

A few years ago Charles Colson was asked what was the most important message from Watergate. He replied that "Christ is truly risen." This of course left the reporters completely confused so he explained. He recalled sitting in a room with several of the most important men in government immediately after the break-in. They all agreed on a story of what had happened. Within a month or so they were all changing their story to make a deal with the prosecutors. If such prominent men could not hold to a story for more than a month, how did a bunch of fishermen hold to a story for decades and die professing it under more vigorous prosecution?


#11

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