A Christian reconsiders the Resurrection of Christ

Post from Kimbo:


The Christian faith, of its own admission, stands or falls on the bodily resurrection of Christ. As per the words of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians chapter 15, if Christ did not rise again the Christian faith is “useless”, “false witness”, “futile” and “pitiable”. You maybe have a whole host of doubts, objections and flat-out dismissals concerning the resurrection of Christ. Fair enough, but as a Christian I’ll explain what I find the number one challenge to believing the fantastical claim that a man rose from the dead.

To put my challenge in its necessary context, I’ll first outline what I think is fairly certain about the wider Jesus story. The interests of brevity do not permit a detailed explanation why, but I think by the reasonable standards of historical inquiry and inference from the written record of the New Testament Gospels, and the discernible oral traditions from which much of them were derived, the following is likely factual:

  1. There was a Jewish man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in 1st Century Palestine.
  2. He had an itinerant ministry in Galilee and Judea, which attracted a following, with a core group at the centre.
  3. Central to the message of that ministry was the Jewish apocalyptic expectation of the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom on earth, with Jesus at the centre in some way.
  4. Jesus’ ministry culminated in a dispute with the Jewish authorities who administered the temple in Jerusalem, and who concluded Jesus was, among other dangerous activities, a blasphemer.
  5. As a result, Jesus was put to death by means of crucifixion at the hands of the occupying Romans, whose involvement in his demise was aroused by the additional charge of sedition.
  6. At the time of Jesus arrest and detainment before death, one of Jesus’ followers, Cephas/Simon Peter publicly denied any association with him.
  7. Another of Jesus’ followers, Judas Iscariot, was alleged to have played a part in that arrest.
  8. After Jesus’ death some women attached to his group claimed his body was no longer where it was left after had died.
  9. From that beginning the belief quickly arose among the group that Jesus had risen from the dead, then appeared to them, before ascending to heaven. Also, he was Israel’s long-hoped for Messiah who would one day return to usher in the kingdom of God.
  10. A few years later, Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jew and former persecutor of the Jesus-movement claimed Jesus had appeared to him in a vison. As a result, Saul became a believer and eventual leader within the Jesus-movement, and he played a key role in expanding the movement beyond Jews to Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire.

You’ll notice I said that the group believed Jesus rose again, not that he necessarily did. For us, who are expected according to Scripture to believe their account, the primary weakness in taking that additional step lies in the nature of that group. First, with the death of their leader they would have been struck with a combination of fear, confusion and grief.

Everyone remember the Kubler Ross grief cycle? First comes denial, then comes anger, then comes bargaining. Whatever else the early church may have been, it was indisputably a first Century Jewish apocalyptic sect. History is full of examples of similar sects whose hope in the end of the age was dashed, and due to a combination of denial and bargaining, they rationalised and recalibrated to keep the hope and movement alive. What became the Seventh Day Adventists are one example, and what became the Jehovah’s Witnesses are another. Both expected the return of Jesus in 1844-45 and 1914 respectively, and when he failed to show up both resorted to “invisible heavenly” actions by Jesus to explain the failed prophecy.

Indeed, from the perspective of orthodox Judaism that’s what Christianity looks like – a sect that put its eggs in the basket of a false Messiahship-claim. Why don’t Jews believe in Jesus? Among other reasons for many Jews the idea of a dead Messiah is an oxymoron. Messiahs don’t die, much less on a cross which is a sign of God’s curse according to Mosaic law. Instead the Messiah ends death by ushering in the resurrection at the end of the age. So, from the Jewish perspective, the purported resurrection of Jesus looks like the denial-and-bargaining process of an apocalyptic sect, trying to rationalise away the fact that they got it wrong…and then they suckered a gullible bunch of Gentiles, too ignorant to know what genuine Judaism was.

The second feature of the original Jesus-was-resurrected group was that they were precisely that – a group. We are, of our very nature, social beings. There is a reason that the New Testament counsels believers to fellowship together, teaching, encouraging, strengthening and rebuking one another as required. That’s how groups, all groups operate to some extent. They keep one another in line so they can fulfil their function or purpose. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the pejorative “group-think” of George Orwell. However, the reality is that to fit in with the expectations and culture of the group and maintain tolerable social comfort levels, people will, in the right circumstances, tow the party line. Like, say, when some of the women come telling the rest of the group that Jesus’ dead body was not where it was left. And then another mentions that a bystander confirmed to them that Jesus wasn’t there. And then another says…Jesus appeared to her. And then someone thinks, what would it mean if Jesus did rise again, how would that fit with the possibility he was the Messiah, and then…

The third feature of the religious group that seems to have genuinely believed in the resurrection story in contradiction to normal expectations is, yet again, they were precisely that – a religious group. I’ve heard Christian apologists make the blanket claim that there is no way that the purported post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John can be psychotic episodes because psychosis is a personal, not a group phenomenon. Ok, but even if that is so, what about phenomena that does affect groups that doesn’t fit the diagnosis of psychosis but involves the distortion of ordinarily-accepted reality?

Leaving aside John Marco Allegro’s now generally discredited magic mushrooms theory, maybe there was some ancient Palestinian version of LSD that lead them off on a group resurrection-trip. But more likely is that if you look for group-induced distortions of reality that mirror some of the elements of psychosis, they aren’t too hard to find. Especially among the religious. I mean, come on! How many suicide bombers getting in early for their 72 virgins, or Jonestown suicide pacts do you need to confirm the fact that, in the right circumstances, especially in a group setting religious people will believe and do anything! I’ve seen it, indeed to my embarrassment I’ve at one time done it – religious people full of zeal who claim to see and drive out demons, lengthen legs and straighten backs. Or worship, or clap or howl at the Pavlovian prompting of a shyster using all the usual party tricks of clairvoyant cold readings, group hysteria and carefully crafted-group pressure.

So, is that what happened with the original Jesus-group? Or is it at least a reasonable possibility. I’d say, yes. From the perspective of New Testament critical scholarship, it solves some problems, like how the thus-far observed laws of nature were contradicted in Jesus’ alleged resurrection. However, it would also raise some others. Including and especially how the likely very primitive confessional formula that Paul recited in I Corinthians 15: 3-8a came to be:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born…

Not just one, or a small group, but over five hundred? The quick-and-easy “the Bible is just made up and was written years after the events it records” is too simplistic in the case of I Corinthians 15, but again space prohibits explaining why here. Suffice to say, it seems that irrespective of whether Jesus rose again or not, the belief he was seen by over five hundred of his followers is genuine. So how did that work? Maybe there could have been someone who looked like Jesus, standing at a distance from the crowd (The Life of Brian, “Blessed are the cheesemakers”, anyone?). Add in denial-bargaining, group-think, religious hysteria and rationalising that the movement has to carry on, and maybe that’s the answer. Put it this way – contrary to the assurances of Christian apologists, I don’t think it can be easily dismissed.

So yeah, it’s a real possibility the resurrection of Jesus was genuinely-believed but mistaken by his original followers. But is it the most likely? Well, from the perspective of modern scepticism, which via the scientific method has rid the world of small pox, sent human beings to the moon and made an assortment of discoveries that would amaze the Iron Age inhabitants of 1st Century Palestine, it is indeed probably the best explanation. So am I rationalising and seeking to work back from my desired conclusions to a method that will furnish them if I note that scepticism is not the only valid starting point? Or that I’m not yet ready to give up my faith?

Leave a comment

54 Comments

  1. Griff.

     /  21st April 2019

    faith
    /feɪθ/
    noun
    noun: faith

    1.
    complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

    2.
    strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

    If you lose your faith you will lose your religion Kimbo.

    Beside that good to see your long winded and convoluted comments here.
    Not saying I read them.
    Hope your health is good …..

    Reply
  2. Ray

     /  21st April 2019

    And there is the rather strange thing that people who saw the actual “risen Christ” didn’t recognise him but had to be prompted.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  21st April 2019

      Not really strange…if you saw someone alive after you’d been to their funeral, wouldn’t you think that it couldn’t really be them ?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  21st April 2019

        In 1984, the bishop of Durham announced that he didn’t believe in the resurrection or virgin birth.

        Next time he preached in the Cathedral, the spire was struck by lighning and the building went up in flames.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st April 2019

          God was a week late late getting a report of this? Wouldn’t the best time to have whacked him one with a lightning bolt been immediately after the very time he made that announcement?

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  21st April 2019

            It would be a lot more effective a week later when he wasn’t expecting it.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2019

              Yes, but a skeptic like me can look at that event & go:
              “Jeez – what terrible aim God has. Totally missed the Bish & burned down the bloody church everybody else was using to to praise him!”

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              Well, they could have chucked the bishop out.

            • Kimbo

               /  21st April 2019

              Well, they could have chucked the bishop out.

              As per the alleged response of Louis XVI when an especially-bad candidate was nominated: “No, no! The Bishop of Paris must, at the very least, believe in God!” 😀

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              Hmmm…would ‘Louis the 16’ (as someone online calls him) have had the quick wit to say that ? His grandfather might have.

              I have an excellent book about the Diamond Necklace Affair (how to ruin a queen)

              Do you remember ‘All Gas and Gaiters’ ?

            • Kimbo

               /  21st April 2019

              Yes, Louis XVI, like Tsar Nicholas II was a good honest pious family men, but in terms of temperament and intellect they were both in the wrong place at the wrong time to address the urgent crises that eventually overwhelmed them, their respective families and nations. Charles II of England and Scotland was probably cut from the same cloth.

              No, “All Gas and Gaiters” was before my time.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              It was one of those that was repeated at intervals because it was so good.

              Nicholas II was a decent man, but he let his wife (and by extension Rasputin or the other way around; you know what I mean) interfere in things that were beyond her ken. How I wish that I had had the courage to ask old Princess G about them all, but perhaps not Rasputin. That would probably have killed the conversation then and there and made sure that I was not included in future invitations to the house in Chiswick.

              Charles II let his dogs sleep in the bed with him; another reason to like him. He was a blimmin sight sexier than Nicholas II. I love the story of Nell Gwynn putting her head out of the carriage when the mob thought that it was Louise de Keroualle’s carriage and saying that she was the Protestant whore.

              I have a really good bio of Charles II, thanks to Uncle Lye (Uncle Lye Berry) and his sales table.

            • Kimbo

               /  21st April 2019

              Sorry my typo, I meant Charles II’s ill-fated father, Charles I. And yes, is a good story about Nell Gwynne. Gotta love her. The Merrie Monarch, despite a secret conversion to Catholicism and a secret treaty with Louis XIV, was far more adaptable and shrewd than his idiot father. From whose mistakes he learned….unlike his idiot brother and Charles I’s other son, James II…

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              I have a bio about him and his daughters, too. (James II)

              It was a surprise to read the letter from Charles I to his mistress, saying that he felt like a good, er, time.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              Both were convinced of the absolute right of monarchs, of course. Both can be said to have brought their fates on themselves, what a tragedy.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              I think that merrie was archaic by then, and merry in use.

              Don’t you hate ‘ye olde’ (pron. ye, of course) and ‘shoppe’ ???

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              Have you seen Richard II’s recipe book ? I mean in the original form, not the one modernised for today’s cooks.

    • Kimbo

       /  21st April 2019

      Yeah. The Gospels, like all the Scriptures are primarily “proclamation” designed to persuade, rather than dispassionate history (if there is such a thing). Doesn’t mean one should then rule them out automatically as sources of history, but like any genre or piece of writing, it’s important to keep their primary purpose in mind when seeking to ascertain meaning and likely veracity. So I’d suggest the accounts of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke, Mary Magdalene at the tomb in John, and the disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee, all of whom initially fail to recognise the risen Christ, are there to assure the reader of one thing – these people were not looking for or expecting the already-crucified and buried Jesus to appear, indeed in the former two cases they were convinced he was and remained dead.

      The Ancients may not have had the formal psychological category of Freud’s wish-fulfilment, or the Kubler Ross grief cycle I mentioned in my original post. However, they were astute enough about human nature to know that people can be swayed by emotions to believe things about material reality that are not true. Hence they knew the phenomena that Gezza has posted in this thread, of seeing something you want to be true anywhere within non-exceptional events and places such as in the fire of Notre Dame Cathedral, or at Lourdes, or on a piece of toast…

      So the Gospel writers/editors chose and then reworked (or maybe crafted out of whole cloth) the original oral (and/or written?) stories of non-recognition to dispel the notion on the part of the reader that over-eager expectation was the reason for the resurrection eyewitness accounts. Hence Luke and John , compared to Matthew, then have much more detailed further appearances by the risen Chris. In them Jesus does a number of tasks – he eats, invites them to touch his body, greets them and prepares a fire for a breakfast meal and then engages in extended discourse. Part of the reason is that, having introduced the idea that some eyewitness initially mistook the risen Lord for an ordinary passerby, they then have to dispel the notion that the original impression was right. So that’s what redaction criticism would suggest.

      But three different accounts with the same “initial non-recognition” motif indicates that it seems like an authentic part of the original post-resurrection tradition. As per above, if you have eyewitnesses failing to recognise the person on first sight and encounter, then it raises doubts about the veracity of the appearance. In which case, if you are part of a movement seeking to persuade others to join you, stories like that tend to get discarded if possible. But if the troublesome details are later acknowledged by Luke and John it’s because they are already so well known and embedded in the existing oral and/or written church traditions, they can’t be ignored. So Let key and John then have to turn a problem into a strength in their already-stylised works. So that’s what source and form criticism of the existing accounts that Luke and John used indicates.

      So maybe that’s all it was. A distraught grieving follower of Jesus who saw a passer-by who looked like him, and from there, along with the existing Jewish doctrine and expectation of a resurrection of the dead at the end of the Age, the thing gathered its own momentum. Or, against all expectations, the first of a number of appearances of increasing detail and intensity, and widening geographical location that confirm to the Jesus-group the ncredible news that their leader had indeed risen.

      Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  21st April 2019

    I have no difficulty in believing that Jesus was a good man.

    Reply
  4. Corky

     /  21st April 2019

    If you want a different perspective on the same issues, try ”Autobiography of a Yogi.” The Christ like central figure is Babaji.. the deathless guru of gurus.

    From a metaphysical viewpoint the resurrection of Christ is easily explained. But from a rational scientific viewpoint it is an absurdity.

    However, maybe we should study the word ”faith” in more detail. To most it’s a word with an abstract meaning. But what if faith was a living force?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st April 2019

      Ok, so if it is a living force, how can we detect & prove it from a rational scientific viewpoint?

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  21st April 2019

        You can’t. You can only experience faith by growing it. What you can manifest with faith is depends on how much it’s cultivated That’s what all the new age bs is based on. But they go about things the wrong way.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st April 2019

          I don’t disagree with your notion, but doesn’t that raise the possibility that perhaps it’s all just in your mind? And doesn’t really amount to anything more than what you want to think & believe, but it’s not actually real. Just a mental construct?

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st April 2019

            And what is the right way to go about it?

            Reply
          • Corky

             /  21st April 2019

            Yes, spot on, I think..believe? Faith is a product of the mind, not the brain. It is animated by the mind and can alter the collective mental construct we call ”the world.” for the simple reason your consciousness is part of that construct.

            The physical laws of our material world cannot be directly altered by our consciousness (faith). Faith and consciousness must work indirectly on those laws and bend them to our will.

            Maybe some people intuit there is more to faith than just a word – ‘blind faith,’ and ‘faith can move mountains’ comes to mind..although the former is usually used in a disparaging way.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2019

              The physical laws of our material world cannot be directly altered by our consciousness (faith).

              Faith and consciousness must work indirectly on those laws and bend them to our will.

              Isn’t that a contradiction? First you say consciousness is (faith) – that they are the same thing. Then you say both must work on the physical laws to “bend” them to our will.

              Do you want to restate those in some way?
              And can you give an example of where you have personally used your mind to bend the physical laws to your will?

            • Corky

               /  21st April 2019

              ”Isn’t that a contradiction? First you say consciousness is (faith) – that they are the same thing. Then you day both must work on the physical laws to “bend” them to our will.”

              As I can’t quantify faith, and you raised what I personally believe to be the major mechanism in the practice of faith, I used the two together.
              I didn’t mean to mislead you.

              ”And can you give an example of where you have personally used your mind to bend the physical laws to your will?”

              Maybe reality would be a better term in my case. In this example I used a small ritual handed down to me to increase faith and change the world.

              Riding out of Matata on an early morning bike run, I decided to open my bike up on the long straight leading to TePuke. I was just getting past 160km/h when I saw a grey car skid out of a lay-by and start flashing his lights. Crikey, so I opened the bike up and sped away. Knowing I couldn’t outrun him because my bike wasn’t run in, I headed for the only cover I could find ..a shop on a slight curve. The curve created a momentary blind spot allowing me to skid to the side of the shop and allow the cop to go past. I did the ritual and repeated..Invisible..Invisible…Invisible. I rode from the shop knowing there probably would be a road block up ahead because the chasing cop would have radioed ahead. Then a funny thing started happening..I looked in my rear mirror and there were three motor bikes behind me. Then by the time I looked ahead again there were bikes ahead of me. All up 8 bikes I counted. As our convoy approached the road block I had anticipated ( two police cars on each side of the road-4 cops) a farmer on a quad with three sheep on a trailer exited a paddock.
              He waved to the cops and suddenly the trailer crate opened and the sheep did a runner. Two cops gave chase. The other cops started looking intently at us. The lead rider in our convoy started to slow down, but the cops waved him and us through. I just rode straight through. No problems. I started musing on whether that was real or just dumb luck.
              Or maybe I really had become invisible? Anyway after mulling this over in my mind, I started concentrating on the road again. NO BIKES WERE IN SIGHT..GONE.

              I have other examples.

            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2019

              That’s an uncheckable claim you somehow conjured up some apparitions that a cop saw. I meant, can you give us an example of how you used your mind to bend the physical laws of the universe. Like, I dunno, moved an object without physically touching it, or caused some object to change or behave in a way that defies known laws of physics, or chemistry. for example.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              Something that can be proved ?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  21st April 2019

              If the cop had raced past, why didn’t you just stay where you were and sneak back in the other direction ?

            • Corky

               /  21st April 2019

              ”I meant, can you give us an example of how you used your mind to bend the physical laws of the universe. ”

              The example I gave was a great example. But maybe it was a little too exotic.

              ”Like, I dunno, moved an object without physically touching it, or caused some object to change or behave in a way that defies known laws of physics, or chemistry. ”

              ”Telekinesis.” I can’t give you examples of that because my experiences are personal to me and obviously you won’t accept them.

              So, let’s make a psi wheel. That’s about the only thing I can think of where you can prove something to yourself. They are very easy to make.

              http://telekinesism.blogspot.com/p/n-this-lesson-we-will-focus-bit-on.html

              Once you have made one, check online as to why some people think its a fraud.

              Then experiment yourself. The wheel will turn on it’s axis to whatever direction you ‘will’ in your mind. Next put it inside a jar. Things get harder. Once you master that. Stand a couple of metres away and just use your mind. Took me three months to master that.

              .

            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2019

              @ Corky

              I might actually check that psi wheel out sometime. You’ve got me curious.

              Tell me, just out of interest, where do you think your mind is located?

            • Corky

               /  21st April 2019

              ”Tell me, just out of interest, where do you think your mind is located?”

              In another dimension…but anchored to the body during its life time. Mind is like the brain..it is shed at death according to most metaphysical teachings.

              Both are servants of consciousness..but are not the conscious entities making up a person as is currently believed. This again is only the metaphysical perspective.

  5. Gezza

     /  21st April 2019

    Really pleased to see this, Kimbo. And an apt choice for today.

    Some might see that as long-winded, I guess, but I see that as an opening argument – a statement of your case, & an open invitation to have the “evidence” you rely & your conclusion that Jesus’s Resurrection really did occur – examined & intelligently critiqued.

    You haven’t flooded us with screeds of Bible verses that, on their own look & sound like pointless rote recitals from some ancient collection of scripts whose language, “stories” & even concepts look almost quaintly out of date in this day & age & don’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t been raised in the Christian religion & has an understanding of the world & human behaviour that relies on what we know today that the ancients didn’t.

    Although I’m sure you can pull in some relevant verses if they think they bolster your case for believing in the Resurrection.

    So am I rationalising and seeking to work back from my desired conclusions to a method that will furnish them if I note that scepticism is not the only valid starting point? Or that I’m not yet ready to give up my faith?

    Yes, I think, at bottom, you are. But I also concede that while I don’t see anything in the Bible as anything like the strong enuf, convinving proof (the extraordinary evidence required to “prove” extraordinary claims) – from the standpoint of testimony provided to, say, a court or a tribunal, it is EVIDENCE.

    So examining it is possible, & can proceed from any viewpoint anyone holds as to whether, and why, it should be considered relevant, reliable, credible & sufficient, ” to justify anyone else believing in the Resurrection & thus the divinity of Jesus. As you state, if Jesus is not god, the very basis of Christianity is invalid.

    But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a real man, a philospher, a teacher, & that his teachings are of no use to humanity.

    This is what I currently think he was. And that his teachings have been crucial in the development of our current society (and seemingly’ perversely, in the decision of many former believers – to reject Christianity & the divinty of Jesus, & the Bible – the whole idea of the Abrahamic God – as true).

    But I also think that, on the whole, despite periods of darkness, bigotry, wars, inquistions – all the unsavoury baggage that Christianity has picked up & then opened up & spread everywhere at different times in history – & in spite of the thousands of different interpretations of scriptural verses that, to me, indicate 2,000 years of confusion that I find irreconcilable with the notion of a wise God – Christianity has contributed hugely to the betterment of our current society.

    So, that’s my opening statement.

    And I now want to spend some time today thinking about why I don’t believe the Bible accounts of Christ’s Resurrection, the Empty Tomb, & the “appearances” of Jesus to the apostles – and St Paul. And see if I can confine my own critique to that. No probs if you tell me I’m taking my eye off the ball. Happy to see if I agree. Easy enuf for me to do that.

    Paul’s reference to Jesus’ appearances to the “five hundred”, I have to say, seem to me to be the least useful evidence of appearances. As far as I know, that Bible passage you cite in your post is the only evidence.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st April 2019

      *if YOU think they bolster your case

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st April 2019

      But as an opener, and an explanation of how an apparition or appearance of Jesus can be seen by someone, perhaps dozens of people, who are psychologically primed by a wish to believe – nourished by earnest reports from other believers, who they trust, that he has appeared to them, this caught my eye the other day.

      https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1115339/Bible-news-jesus-christ-in-notre-dame-cathedral-fire

      I CAN see Jesus there. And it’s not a hallucination. It’s just an optical illusion.

      Reply
    • Kimbo

       /  21st April 2019

      Yes, I Corinthians 15:6 is the only New Testament source for the claim that the risen Jesus “appeared to over five hundred…at the same time”.

      I’ll hold back on discussion now, in anticipation of your examination of the resurrection accounts, Gezza. However, I briefly note that despite the lack of corroboration elsewhere in Scripture, or a more-detailed account of the circumstances of that alleged appearance to those 500+ in I Corinthians 15, due to other circumstantial factors it is maybe the strongest evidence of all.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  21st April 2019

        Mark 16 – Jesus has risen
        https://biblehub.com/niv/mark/16.htm

        Luke 24 – Jesus has risen
        https://biblehub.com/niv/luke/24.htm

        Matthew 28 – Jesus has risen
        https://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/28.htm

        I’m assuming the consensus of most scholars is still that the Gospel of Mark probably dates from c. AD 66–70, Matthew and Luke around AD 85–90, and John AD 90–110. Despite the traditional ascriptions all four are anonymous, and that none were written by eyewitnesses.

        And that Mark was the first gospel to be written, using a variety of sources, including conflict stories (Mark 2:1–3:6), apocalyptic discourse (4:1–35), collections of sayings, & various other material. And that the authors of Matthew and Luke, acting independently, used Mark for their own narrative of Jesus’s career, supplementing it with additional material unique to each as well.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-Resurrection_appearances_of_Jesus

        The above from Wikipedia seems a reasonable & not overly long summary of the Bible evidence for the Resurrection – i.e the only written reports on the event, & also summarises some differing predominant views on how to interpret these Bible reports, none of which are direct first-person witness accounts, and notes that the Gospel versions have notable differences in the narrative, some contradictory.

        But after reading these I still find it hard to credit that such an important event contains so little in the way of supporting detail for the claims, can have such conflicts in the accounts of the crucifixion, & go on to lead to so much confusion, debate & argument throughout the succeeding centuries, when Jesus is supposedly God’s most important communication EVER to ALL of humanity, can or should be believed today.

        That an all-knowing, wise God realising that this would happen (supposedly) – knowing that all of humanity, 2,000 years later, still wouldn’t have even heard, or understood, or believe in Jesus & the Abrahamic God, & that given that time is presumably immaterial to God, & that being all-powerful, he is capable of doing anything, anybtime, including choosing NOW to be time to communicate to all humans, when now is the time the empirical evidence of his manifestations could be so widely captured on video, for example, everywhere, & be critically examined – this wouldn’t have been a better time to communicate with humanity in an unmistakeable way.

        It still makes no sense to me that God started off with a tiny audience in an small corner of the world over 2 millennia ago by getting Jesus to come & show himself to a handful of people who would then allegedly tell others, & finally a decade after he died someone would then start to write down & translate what was basically, by then, legends. Making a human sacrifice, in a time a place when people mostly all still believed in sacrifices to gods to explain all sorts of things that we now know have perfectly natural explanations for, as opposed to now, when fewer people with a broad education, see any reason to.

        And still nobody has really explained to my satisfaction exactly what his message was except to acknowledge Jesus as God & thereafter be nicer people, because if you don’t, you’ll go to hell, & if you do, you’ll end up living forever in a paradise on earth that presumably will never change because e.g. the geological & weather processes that have made it such a neat place but also regularly kill millions will just stop happening.

        It also basically means most of humanity to date was and is redundant to God’s plan, completely surplus to his requirements, & I find that sort of wastage appalling tbh. And pointless.

        Why create humans with the potential for misunderstanding, conflict & generally doing bad shit, but also the potential for learning & understanding & not dong these, & then just not tell them all how it is & what you expect, individually, at a certain age or make a worldwide announcement to everyone at a time when it can be reliably reported & a few widely observed, evidentially examinable, incontrovertible miracles should clinch it for everyone?

        I’m probably not as cynical a skeptic as Blazer in maintaining my rejection of Jesus as God, & of the Abahamic God theory in total, but I still find it incomprehensible that after all this time, when examining what little foundational “hard evidence” there is for the truth of Jesus’s resurrection & divinity, we are all, still, reduced to speculation, which gets harder, not simpler, as time goes on, to justify God’s existence.

        Reply
        • Kimbo

           /  21st April 2019

          Seems your original post has now arrived. Am happy to engage in a detailed discussion, although do you think this is the best place, or, as you are (with good reason) broadening out my original doubts concerning the potential reliability of the original Jesus group, it is best done as a separate post?

          So on the assumption your discussion points maybe belong elsewhere, and to further hone your next presentation of them, I note the following:

          As per the implication in my response to Ray, the post-resurrection appearances in the “long-ending” of Mark,16: 9-20 is, with good reason, usually acknowledged by scholars as not an authentically-derived tradition. Not really a problem because there are valid stylistic reasons Mark may have chosen to end his account in what we now designate as 16:8. Especially as he already had an assertion of the resurrection within his Gospel at 8:31, just after the very significant confession by Peter at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is the Messiah (and not a naughty boy! 😂) of 8:27-30.

          Yes, as per recent scholarship, you may be in the right ballpark with those likely dates for the composition of the four canonical Gospels. One thing though, as per the “two source hypothesis”, there may have been an additional written source that Matthew and Luke each used independently, and in addition to Mark, referred to by scholars as Q (short for the German Quelle/Source). Contrary to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Carrier who at points betray their ignorance by referring to Q as a “(lost) Gospel”, if it existed it was a grab-bag of thematically disparate purported sayings and incidents of Jesus.

          Also, very important to note, the Jesus-story arose in a highly sophisticated oral culture, where memorising rabbinic sayings was cultivated and practised. Resorting to the “Chinese whispers” analogy is, in the first instance at least, overly simplistic. As such, and unlike other pseudo-Christian faiths that claim to succeed it like Islam and Mormonism, there was no initial need to produce a canonical record. It was likely the passage of time, and the ongoing demise of many of the original witnesses, and differing contexts with their own pastoral needs, that prompted the production of written sources like Q (if that indeed existed), and then the canonical and later pseudepigraphal Gospels.

          As to your peripheral objection (and I paraphrase), “why revelation then when they were so ignorant, and not now when we are more knowledgeable and have better tools to verify?”, if one is determined to be skeptical enough, there would never be sufficient evidence no matter when the alleged resurrection occurred.

          Cameras wouldn’t do it now, as you can doctor tapes. There is likely always not-entirely implausible reasons for a plot theory. In many ways we will likely seem like technological pygmies and intelllecual primitives in some 200 years, so why privilege our generation with “if it had just happened now, we could have properly tested it”? Deal with the alleged phenomena and accompanying data in the context in which it occurred is how history, including study of the Ancient World works. At best, your objection is a secondary appeal to the possible superstition of the original Jesus group skewing their perception. Yes, that is a real, maybe even likely possibility as my original post acknowledged.

          As such, your comments about your lack of understanding about “exactly what his (Jesus’) message was” are not surprising. Whenever you take any piece of communication from it’s original context and seek to explain in in another time and place by means of new illustrations and explanations, you gain something and lose something. You choose to reject as primitive the idea of vicarious animal sacrifices. Fair enough. But I’d suggest that unless you take the steps to understand that world, and as I mentioned in my original post, the understanding and expectation of a 1st Century Jewish apocalyptic sect, you will likely continue to have no idea what Jesus’ message was. As before, you don’t have to believe it, indeed you are entitled to view it with your existing skepticism. But might I humbly suggest there is a lot more spade work you can do before throwing your hands up and dismissing it with “I can’t figure this thing out”. You’ve said previously you are wanting to know more about the origins of the beliefs concerning the Abrahamic God, especially the more-developed Christian version. Ok, well now’s your chance…

          And another benefit if you do – you might see that some of your own current objections to the Gospels aren’t necessarily objective timeless logic, but could be generated from your own subjective cultural biases. Again, doesn’t make them right, but, as with any piece of literature from another time and place, it is a bit silly to be demanding in the first instance of someone else some 2,000 years ago in a very different culture “why didn’t they tell us X, Y and Z?” Especially as, in some 2,000 years time from now, others could be looking at your priorities and complaining, “those are irrelevant”. “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”.

          As such, and as before, your real problem with the idea of divine revelation is that it is, in canonical books anyway, fixed and not continually updated. Ok, but other religions do have ongoing oracles or allegedly authoritative prophets. But I doubt, likely for very valid reasons, you’d accept those either. Ultimately your objection, “why can’t I examine and confirm God now by (for me) definitive means?” may be a valid one, but it is still secondary to the issues I raised in this post.

          Indeed i”why not?” may be a circumventing of an equally valid and sufficiently thorough consideration of the evidence for canonical written revelation. Bottomline, no matter what Is asked, “Why not?” sounds very much like the logical fallacy of an appeal to ignorance.

          So much for a brief reply from me! 😂

          Reply
      • Gezza

         /  21st April 2019

        For reasons presumably known only to the Almighty, he seemingly expects you once again to wait for the time of his choosing, to see the further comments I have posted & which have disappeared for now into the maxtrix.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st April 2019

          Drat. *matrix

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st April 2019

            All good. They’ve now appeared above.
            Thank you Jesus. 👍🏼

            Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st April 2019

          However, I briefly note that despite the lack of corroboration elsewhere in Scripture, or a more-detailed account of the circumstances of that alleged appearance to those 500+ in I Corinthians 15, due to other circumstantial factors it is maybe the strongest evidence of all.

          However – I hasten to add, Kimbo – you’ve certainly piqued my interest with that one – & I’m looking forward to the killer case you can make for that one. 🤔

          Reply
          • Kimbo

             /  21st April 2019

            “Killer case” is your words and expectation. As per my suspicion that Christian apologists, along with evangelists, are the used car salesmen of the church, I make no such assertion. Nor any other over-excited descriptors such as “compelling”, “irrefutable” or “undeniable” evidence. 😀

            To repeat, Paul’s claim that the resurrected Jesus appeared to over 500 eye witnesses at one time, many of whom were allegedly still alive when Paul recounted that statement to the church in Corinth a generation later (but almost certainly before the writing of the four canonical Gospels), may be the strongest evidence from within the New Testament that the resurrection occurred.

            And as per my comments above, I’d suggest a new post, maybe after some preparatory research on your part, may be the next best step.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2019

              “Killer case” is your words and expectation. As per my suspicion that Christian apologists, along with evangelists, are the used car salesmen of the church, I make no such assertion. Nor any other over-excited descriptors such as “compelling”, “irrefutable” or “undeniable” evidence. 😀

              That’s just tongue in cheek. Should have added at winking emoji probably. I’m well aware of your contention that no evidence can be compelling or irrefutable or undeniable for the existence – or absence – of the Abrahamic God, since the claim is that he is a transcendent (or supernatural) being & therefore obviously undetectable by any means by which we can currently test the objects & processes of the observable physical world & universe.

              You’ve taken the stance that the evidence in the Bible, seen in the proper context of its time & other relevant factors could – or can – amount to pointing to the Resurrection having actually occurred. That, as I understand our previous exchanges, it shows that it is more probsble than not?

              I don’t understand how you can conclude that this small reference to Jesus appearing to the over five hundred may be the strongest evidence from within the New Testament that the Resurrection occurred.

              (I don’t necessarily think there was any contrived “plot” in the conspiracy sense by Jesus’s followers to make Jesus divine. But all we know is that the body went missing from the tomb, that a group of women claim to have been informed by an apparition that he had resurrected, and that thereafter a small number of other people, apostles and disciples were reported to have believed they had seen him.

              There is also Ray’s point above, that it is curious that he wasn’t at first recognised. People who claim to have seen the ghost of their dead loved ones, or to have had a ghostly visitation at the very time of their death, generally seem to be reported as being very emphatic that they recognised them, instantly.

              Whether they actually saw them not is open to conjecture for me as I din’t know anybody who has had this experience although I do know two people, both Christians, who are adamant they had vivid very visions. One, of Jesus. The other, of a flaming entity with a sword, which she took to be angel, warning her not to go down a dangerous corridor late at night in a hospital in a poor area in South Africa where the pharmacy was & where drugs had been taken after break ins.

              I also one aftenoon, in my 20’s got called to come and try & help keep a former flatmate at home in the house while his brother dedperately tried to get an ambulance or the police to come because he had been doing & saying dome strange things & he was was now really flipping out.

              When I got there he was pacing about restlessly & the police were on thrir way but he decided he had to get out of the house & I went with him while his brother stayed to point out to the fuzz where we’d gone when they arrived. It was scary. The saints were talking to him, he kept saying. They were telling him his name was was not the one he was using. That he had to stop using his name. Among other strange stuff. I had no idea what he was going to do next, he was very agitated and potentially violent if contained. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia the next day.

              I’ve had my own, thankfully once only, 3 days of a demon talking to me in my head. Really strange. I subsequently got a medical explanation for this event. But it nearly sent me religious again.

              So, provisionally, I do think there are possible alternative explanations for claims Jesus appeared to some individuals, in their heightened state of emotion. I wondered if my late wife was warming me on a cold night the night she came home in her coffin, before her funeral, because I was talking to her & suddenly I felt warm all over.

            • Kimbo

               /  22nd April 2019

              If I said the resurrection was the most probable explanation, then on reflection I may have misspoken and unwittingly parroted the hyperbole of the Christian apologists of whom I am wary. Of course the most obvious objection should always be, as per David Hume, the observation of all known events indicate resurrection is highly unlikely.

              Unlike many skeptics including probably yourself, I have little real doubt about the existence of Jesus, and the other nine details I mentioned in my original post. Nor that the canonical New Testament reflects the experiences and beliefs of the primitive church, including and especially those resurrection accounts. So for me issues of authorship, are we dealing with primary, secondary or false sources, etc., or your concerns about the alleged paucity of resurrection accounts are not much of a worry for me. I am confident we have access to their original beliefs.

              I fully realise that that does not mean they were right, as belief, even when sincere, proves nothing in and of itself. I’ve explained what I think is their inherent weakness which could have given rise to a sincere delusion – they were a first Century Jewish apocalyptic sect. So if you want to dismiss the resurrection account on that basis, I’m not going to say you are wrong, much less that your judgement is not the most likely…even if you put Enlightenment skepticism aside and work from the premise that miracles are a reasonable possibility. For example, even with my belief in divinely inspired Scripture, I have little problem dismissing the Koran and Book of Mormon as entirely-uninspired-by-God works.

              But I think there is still a case, perhaps a reasonable one (at least I think it is reasonable) that the resurrection occurred. The reason for that is the problem of the actual and specific mechanics of how the delusion arose and then remained. In my original post I painted in broadbrush strokes how religious hysteria may have arisen. But even then, there is still the problem that at any time reality can kick in among the original Jesus-group especially the likes of Cephas, as it did at Jonestown, as it did with some of Muhammed’s and Joseph Smith’s original followers, and they refuse to go along anymore with the delusion by blurting out the obvious rebuttal, “yeah, but dude, he’s dead!”

  6. Blazer

     /  21st April 2019

    good post there Kimbo.

    Very balanced and open to critique.

    We know the powers of group think,propaganda,and marketing can induce people to have faith in a myriad of products.

    Religion is both powerful and profitable.

    My views are those of a cynical,atheist.

    Reply
  7. harryk

     /  21st April 2019

    ‘it’s a real possibility the resurrection of Jesus was genuinely-believed but mistaken by his original followers’

    There were alternative perspectives from the very beginning – early Christian movements like the Nestorian, Arian and Monophysite among others were strong in the ME and Near East. Some denied the dual nature of Jesus, objected to the elevation of Mary and to the Trinitarian trend which they considered to be Polytheist. Islam arose from these early Syriac Christian movements as a rational response and correction, and spread so rapidly because of the Christian clergy who gave intellectual and political support.

    Mumammad’s first wife Khadija was either Christian herself or moved within Christian circles, some of her family were Christians involved with these debates and encouraged Muhammad to develop a clearer Monotheism. A much more robust and impressive role model for feminists than the Christian alternatives, she was a successful businesswoman who first employed then financed her husband. There would have been no Islam without her. It was only after she passed away that Muhammad moved to Medina and the direction of his life became altogether more confrontational.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khadija_bint_Khuwaylid

    Reply
    • Kimbo

       /  21st April 2019

      Yep, some good comments there, harryk, especially about how Muhammed came to understand a non-orthodox version of Christianity. Put it this way, as a Christian I don’t think it was via divine revelation that Muhammed recounts what original Christianity believed. Indeed, Muhammed denied Christ was crucified, which, on the basis of the New Testament tradition that has come to us from verifiable archaeological textual records, is practically impossible. Muslim apologists are reduced to a plot theory in spite of that textual evidence, that the New Testament has been doctored to make a liar of Muhammed.

      Either way, and from the perspective of my doubts concerning the veracity of the New Testament resurrection accounts, the written teachings of a Bedouin caravan trader, living hundreds of miles away, and some 600 years after Jesus aren’t in my initial scope of relevant evidence. Nor are they likely to be.

      But yes, the various quasi-gnostic objections to Christ’s bodily resurrection maybe need to be factored in as and when they arise. But, and perhaps I’m betraying my bias, they weren’t “from the very beginning”. Instead, even with the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, I’m working on the traditional assumption those are formal developments that gather pace in the Second Century onwards.

      Put it this way, the docetic (Greek: dokeo/“seem”, i.e., Jesus “seemed” to have risen bodily but it was really just as a disembodied spirit) was an easy-out and culturally fashionable option for the original church. Indeed, modern heretics like the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that is what occurred. So no need for the fantastical claim that the dead physical body came to life. But Paul in I Corinthians 15 argues against that Hellenistic Platonic bias, and assets the original Hebrew Old Testament expectation – our future resurrection will be physical, because Jesus’, the first fruits of a later upcoming harvest, was too.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st April 2019

      harry, you seem quite well informed but I don’t think I’ve seen you state whether you’re a believer in any particular religion. Are you? And if so, which one, if you don’t mind me asking?

      Reply
      • harryk

         /  22nd April 2019

        Gezza. I have already written that I’m an atheist and remnant ‘cultural Catholic’ for my wife’s sake – she’s an uncritical believer – having lost my belief at a young age. I’m not an aggressive secularist, faith brings happiness and hope to those who have it and I don’t recommend atheism to anyone. I don’t even recommend it to myself. It took me many years to finally admit to myself I was atheist not agnostic. My eldest son once claimed to have seen the Easter Bunny and described it as a ‘white flash.’ So, with Santa, I’ve tried to keep the panto going for the kids. My wife says she’s seen ghosts and woe betide anyone who teases her.

        My professional interest in Islam began with my first posting in SE Asia and to those who ask I often recommend a discussion with Bahais re the future prospects for reform of Islam. Their unique perspective comes from lived experience, having begun as a Shia reform movement and rapidly developed into something new.

        I think I have written that I regard the demise of the 10th cent Mutazila rationalists as the end of open-minded Sunni Islam, while Shia retains an open window to reform with a more flexible interpretation of the Seal of the Prophet, whereby Muhammad remains the ‘final prophet’ but others are predicted to follow who will shine a light on his ‘revelation.’ That was the window Bahai used to exit the old strictures and retain what they thought to be timeless while declaring a new interpretation relevant to the times. However I’m altogether less optimistic about the potential for Sunni reform.

        While I understand the reluctance of Bahais to adopt a higher profile, I know there are Australian and NZ Bahais – including journalists – with the experience and knowledge to inform the public debate on Islam. I wish they would.

        I’m atheist but there are no atheists in a foxhole. True one eh. Who knows why Folau REALLY sent that tweet. Perhaps someone in the family was sick and he made a bargain with God to do it. He probably wouldn’t tell us anyway. We’re human and do silly stuff like that.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  22nd April 2019

          You just rang a bell in my mind, harry. I’m sorry. You did say you were an atheist a while back.I feel like I’ve I’ve been down a few religious & atheist debate rabbit holes since then & got busy reviewing a lot of stuff that needed checking out & and/or thinking about, but mostly just needed rejecting, or accepting as all very well, but if doesn’t tell me anything new that is particularly relevant or useful to me or probably other atheists, personally.

          I see Christianity as most likely ro continue to decline in the West as I see evidence that younger people don’t think it’s true, even think it’s just weird, & cetainly not worth their spending time drilling down into it to the nth degree that theologians & philosophers like to to continue to find reasons for still believing in it.

          They just file it in the ancient history department of their mind & get on with gaming & social media & whatever the latst fool fad is.

          I wouldn’t like to see another religion supplant it, particularly if it leads to intolerance & disharmony.

          As to whether I’m an atheist, an agnostic, or whatever. I don’t much mind how different folk categorise me. I’m just me. And I see no convincing evidence that the Abrahamic God really exists. Nor that any other gods who have supposedly communicated with humans in the distant past, & which religions have grown up around as ways to try and answer things people didn’t know or didn’t understand about the universe & themselves – except that at the very least some general rules or laws are needed & should be enforced by some means (including post motem reward or punishment).

          And I’d like to see more people drift away from these old religions as time goes by, but retain the best of their religions values & traditions that benefit all communities without excluding, or marginalising or dominating or hating others, including members of their own families & communities who want to break free of them and just be nice people who still embrace whatever universally good aspects there are in their ex-religion.

          Reply
  8. scooter74

     /  28th April 2019

    I’m really pleased Kimbo’s commenting on this blog. I don’t share his politics or religion, but he was by far my favourite commenter on Kiwiblog, with his much-needed nuance, back when I used to visit that site. I don’t know if you’re still looking at stuff from this thread, Kimbo, but I’d be curious to hear your opinion on the simulation thesis, and the arguments for god that can be based on it. I wonder whether, as the 21st C goes on, the simulation thesis will become a part of theology, and a popular reason for believing in a god, even if the god in question is a spotty-faced alien spending too much time on the computer in his basement bedroom… https://hackernoon.com/religion-and-the-simulation-hypothesis-is-god-an-ai-part-i-e2ac0016ca1e

    Reply

Leave a Reply to scooter74 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s