Wednesday, January 18, 2006

William Lane Craig's defense of the resurrection

This is Craig's defense of the resurrection.


Jason Pratt said...

To be just a bit more specific (... okay, rather more specific... {g}):

This is one of WLC's presentations of his defense for Paul's belief in the resurrection of Jesus' physical body (i.e. the one that was buried in the tomb was transformed and raised; a new superphysical body was not simply created to replace it.)

Now, I have a lot of respect for the vast majority of this article. Indeed, I've argued much the same thing in the past, and still would today--but his argument is better because it's more detailed than mine. {g} (I could add some details, but I fully expect he could add them just as well.)

_At the same time_: it isn't really a defense of the Resurrection per se. It's a defense of Paul's belief, along with the early church, about the Resurrection, including about what he claims to have witnessed.

Near the end of the article, and scattered throughout, WLC makes a couple of jumps which are unjustified as they stand within the context of the argument as presented. (Not absolutely--just that what's presented _here_ doesn't strictly lead to those conclusions.) He should have been a bit more qualified, and not try to make this argument _of itself_ go all the way to a conclusion that the physical resurrection itself is a historical event.

Other than that minor stumble--which for an opponent won't be nearly so minor, and which they would be right to call coup on for technical reasons--I have nothing but admiration for the article. It's interesting that it was written back in 1980; it _still_ stands as a definitive answer to loads of hypothesizing about the beliefs of Paul and the early church, which simply don't fit the existant data.


Edwardtbabinski said...

Well spoken Jason!

Let me add a few comments regarding Craig's statement:

"Many scholars have stumbled at Luke's 'a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have,' claiming this is a direct contradiction to Paul. In fact, Paul speaks of 'flesh and blood', not 'flesh and bones.' Is the difference significant? It certainly is! 'Flesh and blood,' as we have seen, is a Semitic expression for mortal human nature and has nothing to do with anatomy."

The "stumbling" Craig mentions in his initial sentence is a bit more obvious and extensive than Craig would have his readers believe. Paul NOwhere mentions people touching or eating with the raised Jesus, NOR does Paul say that Jesus ate fish and then led the disciples out of Jerusalem, and afterwards Jesus physically ascended into heaven within sight of [only] the twelve. Paul only mentions "appearances" not physicality, and even the appearances he mentions don't match stories found in the Gospels which were written later, because Paul mentions such things as a separate appearance to Peter, a separate appearance to James, and an appearance to over 500, none of which are mentioned in the Gospels.

We don't even know whether the whole list of "appearances" in 1 Cor. (or part of them) might not have been later interpolations. One list might have begun with a separate appearance to Peter followed by an appearance to the 12, then someone might have added a rival list of Jesus appearing to first to James and then to the 12, implying a bit of rivalry in the early church, or even later, someone might have added the tale of the appearance to "over 500."

Even if the earliest list of resurrection "appearances" in 1 Cor. is authentic Pauline writing, it still doesn't mention the physical stories that go beyond "appearances" as found in the Gospels which were written later. Speaking of which neither does Paul mention an "empty tomb," or even a "virgin birth."

I'm not even sure that when Craig insists that the expression "flesh and blood" meant only mortality that it necessarily had nothing to do with physical flesh nor physical blood. After all, wasn't Paul speaking of the "flesh" of various animals in the same chapter (1 Cor. 15)? "All flesh is not the same flesh. There is one flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds."

And compare the fact that Paul also wrote that "mortal flesh" "wasted away" or was "destroyed," and he looked forward to receiving a "spiritual body," an "eternal dwelling which comes from heaven" not from earth. (2nd Corinthians, chapters 4-5)

Therefore Paul was eager to receive something that came down from heaven a new spiritual body that didn't come from the earth at all. How exactly does that fit in with ancient Hebrew views? Maybe Paul's Judaism had some semi-Hellenistic mysticism mixed in?

Paul further explained, "What you sow [in death] is not the future body but a bare grain, whether of wheat or of some other variety." (1st Corinthians 15:37) This verse has proven a topic of endless debate. But surely the fact was not lost on Paul (nor on anyone who has ever seen a seed sprout) that after a "bare grain" is split open by the emerging plant, the seed LEAVES BEHIND its husk or shell? I've seen seeds do that, and I'm sure the ancient world did too.

Paul even added that the "spiritual body" lacked a stomach: "Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will DO AWAY with both of them." (1st Corinthians 6:13)

And, then of course, the verse that Craig tries to shoo all doubts away from:

"Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 15:50)

Is this last verse really only supposed to mean something as obvious as that mortals die? Or is Paul actually trying to say something about the nature of the new "spiritual bodies?" Well whatever Paul says, it all sounds relatively unconvincing.

Here's my exchange with another Christian resurrection apologist, Gary Habermas. I have yet to see either Craig, Habermas, or Wright deal with the HISTORICAL PROGRESSION of the resurrection stories in the Gospels and the questions that arise from studying the question chronologically. Such question are of the most obvious nature, for you can see evidence of resurrection legends growing right before your eyes:

To quote another writer, speaking about Paul's arguments concerning the resurrection:

"The doubtful jargon ascribed to Paul in 1 Corinthians xv... explains nothing to the understanding, but leaves the reader to find any meaning if he can. 'All flesh,' says he, 'is not the same flesh. There is one flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.' And what then? Nothing. A cook could have said as much.

"'There are also,' says he, 'bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial; the glory of the celestial is one and the glory of the terrestrial is the other.' And what then? Nothing. And what is the difference? Nothing that he has told.

"'There is,' says he, 'one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars.' And what then? nothing; except that he says that one star differeth from another star in glory instead of distance; and he might as well have told us that the moon did not shine so bright as the sun.

"All this is nothing better than the jargon of a conjuror, who picks up phrases he does not understand to confound the credulous people who come to have their fortune told. <...>

"Sometimes Paul affects to be a naturalist, and to prove his system of resurrection from the principles of vegetation. 'Thou fool' says he, 'that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.' To which one might reply in his own language, and say, Thou fool, Paul, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die not; for the grain that dies in the ground never does, nor can vegetate. It is only the living grains that produce the next crop. But the metaphor, in any point of view, is no simile. It is succession, and [not] resurrection. The progress of an animal from one state of being to another, as from a worm to a butterfly, applies to the case; but this of a grain does not."

Jason Pratt said...

(yeesh... and I thought _I_ wrote long rambling posts... I bet this one doesn't get described as "well-spoken"... {wry g})

"All this is nothing better than the jargon of a conjuror, who picks up phrases he does not understand to confound the credulous people who come to have their fortune told."

That, unfortunately, is a pretty good description of Ed's flailing around for any stick he can beat the texts (and/or WLC et al) with. It's amusing that Ed quotes this from someone whose whole point later hinges on noting that Paul's analogy of plants from seeds in 1 Cor 15 would describe succession (not resurrection); yet elsewhere Ed marshals a load of out-of-context quotes and purely hypothetical questions, to have us believe that Paul _even in the seed passage_ (and related ones nearby) has _no_ intention of meaning that the spiritual body is raised _in succession from_ the physical body.

The only thing needed to reconcile the seed passage with what follows it (and despite the rhetorical invective of Ed's quoted author, something _does_ follow it), is a bit of skill at actually reading a text for contexts. The seed analogy is not supposed to do anything more than illustrate (not argue) the succession between natural and spiritual bodies in the resurrection (which progression Paul has already linked to the raising of Christ earlier in the chapter); Paul moves right along once he's made the illustration, to a claim which corrects the limitations of the illustration, but which shares its theme of successive results (combined with the theme of distinct differences, introduced by the analogy of different "sarxes" for different species).

The theme of successive results in the raising of the resurrection body (i.e. _this_ body, sown as a perishable body will be raised imperishable, sown as a natural body shall be raised as a spiritual body, etc.) is important, because there were people in the Corinthian church who were using a doctrine that God will provide a completely and distinctly different body (i.e. the sort of doctrine Ed would have us believe Paul believed, except when it looks more convenient to him to point out that obviously Paul wasn't preaching that...), as their justification for doing whatever they wanted with the body they had, even if it would be considered sinful.

This is the point of 1 Cor chps 5 and 6: Paul is quoting _his opponent's justification_ in 6:1-2, and then replying to it with the doctrine that God will raise our bodies as He raised Jesus; thus God cares for these bodies (even though they are 'sarx', which normally entails a negative moral element, though not always as WLC points out in his essay), and intends to transform them not simply replace them.

The topics link together quite well. After agreeing that if the dead are not raised, then we might as well do whatever we want to now, Paul was evidently reminded of the similar proto-gnostic Epicurian justification being used by his opponent (for why that man could do things like sleep with his father's wife); and so in 1 Cor 15:33ff he is returning to that man (and any of his coterie) as a topic--one which overlaps his discussion of the Resurrection starting back at the beginning of chp 15.

Paul isn't calling any-general-disbeliever-in-the-resurrection a fool; he's calling _that_ man a fool: a man who believed (or at least promoted) that the new body would merely replace the sarx-y one to be left behind in complete disassociation.

Really, it doesn't even require believing in the resurrection of Jesus to follow the topical threads. It just requires some cogent thinking. (Granted, I wish I had a dollar for every time a clueless evangelist has blindly plopped out the "You fool!" verse as some sort of evidence-against-all-doubters. But there is such a thing as a galactically inept sceptical use of such verses, too.)

All of Ed's various flailings can be answered by careful scholarship; or even simple reading in some cases. (To take a handful of _very_ simple instances: yes, the appearance to Simon _is_ mentioned in GosLuke, despite Ed's claim otherwise; there are two or three accounts of appearances to groups which could easily include the 500; the Acts version of the Ascension _does_ specifically say there were more than the surviving eleven as witnesses, and the GosLuke version--which might or might not be intended to be the same scene--begins in a Jerusalem house where specifically more than the eleven are hiding out.) None of his supposed points are any great revelation or challenge which pro-apologists routinely ignore--except to the extent that after a while they get tired of explaining the same things over and over again to people who persistently refuse to listen and who weren't asking with any serious desire for answers one way or another in the first place.


Steven Carr said...

Jason says Paul was battling people who believed that a spiritual body was resurrecte after the natural body.

Strange that Paul says that the Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

To illustrate who cogent Ed's arguments are, I can do little better than quote NT Wright, who cannot totally spin away what Paul actually said, despite 2,000 years of Christians attempting to do so.

'Though Moule is no doubt right that Paul can envisage here the possibility of 'exchange' (losing one body, getting another one) rather than 'addition', as in 1 Corinthians 15, we should not lose sight of the fact that even if such an 'exchange' were to take place the new body would be more than the present one. (N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 2003: p. 367)'

Far from being obviously wrong, the idea that Paul *could* mean 2 bodies is 'no doubt right'!

In 'Resurrection of the Son of God', N.T.Wright explains how these 2 bodies come to be.

Richard Carrier commentates as follows :-

Wright thus admits that Moule's understanding of what Paul could mean (which corresponds to mine) is no doubt right, and then fully allows that 1 Corinthians 15 can indeed be interpreted that way, though he does not assert it should be.

Hence Wright concludes that even if that's what Paul meant, our "new body" would still be "more than the present one."

That is absolutely clear and unambiguous: Wright is saying point blank that this interpretation is acceptable even if not certain, and that even 1 Corinthians 15 can mean 'exchange'.

All Wright wants to add is that even if we accept this, Paul is still saying the new body will be substantially better than the one we have now, which is exactly my view.

Thus, Wright clearly comes as close to conceding my argument as he can without actually endorsing it.

That Wright appears to assert entirely contradictory things elsewhere in his book (e.g. Wright, p. 358) only demonstrates that his book was not coherently written and lacked a competent editor.

For there is no other way to interpret his words on p. 367 than as accepting Moule's (and my) argument as potentially correct.

On the very next page he confirms this attitude when he says that Paul "looks forward to eventual bodily resurrection, to a new body which will have left behind the decay and corruption of the present one, and which will function in relation to present life like a new and larger suit of clothes to be put on over the existing ones" (Wright, p. 368).

A new body, leaving the present one behind.

Wright does not challenge or criticize this conclusion, but practically affirms it.

In fact, not only does Wright grant this as a live possibility (Wright, p. 367) and even arrive at almost the same conclusion himself (Wright, p. 368), he actually adds his own speculations as to how this 'exchange' of bodies would take place:

Did Paul, perhaps, believe that Jesus' new body, his incorruptible Easter body, had been all along waiting 'in the heavens' for him to 'put on over the top of' his present one?...[Either way] Paul probably believed that, at Easter, Jesus' 'mortal body' was 'swallowed up by life', a new bodily life in continuity but thus also discontinuity (immortality instead of mortality) with the previous one. (Wright, p. 371)

And then:
The creator will therefore make a new world, and new bodies, proper to the new age. From one point of view the new world, and the new bodies, are the redeemed, remade versions of the old ones; that is the emphasis of Romans 8. From another point of view the new world, and the new bodies, are 'stored up in heaven'...[though that may only mean] that they are safe in the mind, plan, and intention of the creator God. (Wright, pp. 372-73)

Wright repeatedly waffles between the idea of an entirely new body and a new "outer body" enclosing our old "inner body" (a view that makes little sense--on whether "putting on a new garment over an old one" would allow retention of the old body, see the relevant question below). But he clearly agrees that the resurrection body is a new body newly created by God, and not just the old body refurbished.

He even hints (twice) that Paul may have imagined these new bodies as already 'stored up in heaven', waiting for us, which would make Paul's view almost identical to that of the modern day Heaven's Gate cult, whose members also imagined their new bodies as already waiting for them "in heaven" and their old bodies as mere "containers" to be left behind.

Wright allows that maybe this only meant the idea of these new bodies was 'stored up' in God's mind, which is how I would interpret 2 Corinthians 5, but the difference is not that great.

Wright still allows that it could be an entirely new body, and not a mere restoration and improvement of the old one.

Steven Carr said...

Paul claims that both stomach and food would be destroyed. Clearly he denigrated the flesh, because he did not think that fleshly things, even things as totally unsinful as eating, would enter the Kingdom of God.

Eating is not sinful, yet such fleshly things would be destroyed.

Paul writes 'Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God'.

His disparaging of even the most mundane and un-sinful aspects of the flesh mean that he could not have believed the resurrected Jesus had flesh,blood or bones.

'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.'

The resurrected Jesus was not of dust, which would remain dust. The Corinthians were idiots for thinking that dust would be resurrected. Restore the body which had been corrupted by sin? What idiot would want that?

Paul writing to the very same Corinthians

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I'm sure the Corinthians could see dead bodies.

How puzzled they must have been by Paul claiming that those dead bodies would be eternal, while also telling them that what they saw was temporary, and only the (presently) unseen would prove to be eternal.

Paul regards us being composed of ‘spirit’ (pneuma) , ’life’ (psyche) and body ‘soma’. As many have pointed out, there is no idea of a soul in Paul’s thought. God breathed life (psyche) into a body (as he did with Adam) and this body is then alive. Before then it was dust. After death, when it has lost its life or ‘psyche’, it will return to dust.

A natural body will lose its life (because of sin). When you die, your body no longer has ‘psyche’ - no longer has life.

People who rely on the ‘psyche’ - life -, have a psyhicon, or natural body, and that will perish. There is no hope in a natural body. Such people are not in Christ and have no pneuma – spirit.

However , those with spirit (pneuma), also have a spiritual (pneumatic) body, and this will be given to us at the resurrection (2 Cor. 5 explains that it is already prepared for us in Heaven). This is what Paul has hope in. Not in the visible body , which will perish, but in the invisible, which is eternal.

Our visible bodies are dominated by ‘psyche’ – life, and life will be lost.

But there is also ‘pneuma’, and this cannot be lost , as it is already in Christ.

Just as ‘psyche’ cannot exist by itself, and needs a body, ‘spirit’ cannot exist by itself and needs a body. Paul says again and again that a spiritual body is a body.

Hence all of Paul’s talk of 2 bodies – a natural and a spiritual body, and his berating the Corinthians for not realising that there was no problem in the decay and rotting of natural bodies, as that was to be expected.

Steven Carr said...

To answer one specific point of Jason, he writes '...because there were people in the Corinthian church who were using a doctrine that God will provide a completely and distinctly different body .... as their justification for doing whatever they wanted with the body they had, even if it would be considered sinful.'

Jason has not one shred of evidence that the Corinthians were using such arguments.

Presumably, according to Jason, the Corinthians should have learned from Paul that they couldn't do anything they wanted with their body, for example getting nails stuck in their hand and feet, or spears stuck in their side, or getting very heavy floggings, because they would need that body in the resurrection.

Jason Pratt said...

Oy. I ended up with a 40K reply to Steven's comments. (Could be worse; I originally drafted a 108K reply to Ed's massive missive, just to keep in practice.)

I will say, that in most instances you _do_ present your case far more cogently than Ed does (possibly because you have an actual positive case you're trying to make--you need to be aware that Ed wasn't trying to make any positive case so much as to make any and every argument he could fling against a particular positive case. There's a big difference.)

I also think you were being needlessly snarky in your final paragraph. I can see where you're coming from, which is why I'm not altogether upset by it; but there's also such a thing as trying to accurately represent the contentions of your opponent (even in attempts at reductio ad absurdum). Which I don't think you were even trying to do there. Or are you seriously saying you see no moral distinction between someone sacrificing his own body to his enemies in order to help them, even though it means being tortured to death by them; and someone doing whatever he happens to like doing with his body (up to and including sleeping with his father's wife)?

I still hold to the compliment I gave you a moment ago. I wish _you_ would hold to that standard.

According to me (since it makes a good enough summary I suppose), the Corinthians were learning (most probably from stepmom-sleeping-guy) that they could do whatever they wanted because the body was just sarx and didn't matter to God. The Corinthians (definitely, according to me) should have learned from Paul that they couldn't do anything they merely wanted to with their body, because the Lord paid an awfully high price for their bodies, through the sacrifice of His body--which body of His was raised by God, which raising Paul used as evidence that God cares for the bodies which the Corinthians might be using _now_ for joining to prostitutes, so don't _do_ that, etc.

There would be no point whatever for Paul to make that argument at the end of 6, unless he was drawing a real connection (as his wording implies in any case) between the bodies they're abusing now, and the abused body of the Lord which was raised.

That's hardly all my reply, but it's the one most pertinent to the snarky conclusion.

Posting the other 36K-or-so seems unweildy. um... anyone care if I do it in waves? Or, would you care to receive it via email, Steven? (It's a bunch of what-will-probably-be-very-boring textual/contextual analysis. I _do_ respect your attempt, Steven, so I've tried pretty hard to keep my own inherent snarkiness to zero. {self-critical g})

Steven Carr said...

Jason claims that in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul is telling the Corinthians that their current body will be renewed, no matter what physical damage has been done to it after death by worms or fire etc.

1 Corinthians 6 'Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will destroy both one and the other.'

God will not restore our stomachs after death - He will destroy them.

Paul thinks our bodies are a temporary gift from God. That hardly means that we have the right to defile them.

Do we have the right to destroy any bit of God's creation just because it is not permament?

Mike Darus said...

There are a ton of issues in this discussion. The one I find most intriguing is the relationship between the physical body and the resurrection body. Craig argues for physicalism – that Christ’s body has physically raised, that he possessed a body with physical characteristics at his post-resurrection appearances, and that the resurrection of the dead will be physical. He affirms a dramatic transformation of the physical body to have new spiritual characteristics. But he cautions against spiritualism that denies the physical characteristics.

The spiritualism alternative can be traced through a relatively new (possibly recycled) cultural trend that impacts popular theology -- the adoption of Eastern thought that true reality is spiritual not physical. I blame the Beatles. It explains the explosion of cremation over burial. For centuries burial was a way to testify to belief in a future physical resurrection. The body was positioned face up with the feet to the east to meet Christ “face to face.” With the adoption of Eastern spiritualism, the body can be burned and scattered “because the real person is the spirit, not the body.” This is coupled with the (true) position that cremation poses no difficulty for God to do a physical resurrection.

I also sense that many Christians believe that heaven is a totally spiritual place. They are a little mystified why Revelation would mention a new Earth. Whatever could this be needed for? We will be in Heaven. The belief that eternity is totally spiritual is based more on some kind of American-cultural-Hinduism-Platonism than it is on careful biblical study. I suspect that the attempts to biblically justify a spiritualism perspective are eisegesis, not exegesis. One of the strengths of Judeo/Christian thought is the affirmation of both physical and spiritual realities at the same time even when they seem to contradict each other. The error of thought comes when you want to deny one to affirm the other. Craig’s argument is an important contribution to correct a culturally driven drift away from biblical anthropology.

Steven Carr said...

I think the spiritual aspect comes more from Paul 'The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.' and 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

And many people are reluctant to think of Jesus as being in an indestructible, physical, localised body, because they feel that this puts a crimp in his ability to be omni-present.

Some early Christians referred to the stars as being 'spiritual bodies'.

They certainly thought of the stars as physical, but naturally had no idea they were made from the same elements as found on earth.

Doesn't Paul also use the analogy of celestial bodies , with the clear inplication that he did not think spiritual bodies were made from flesh and blood , as the Gospels claim.

For Paul, 'flesh and blood' were synymous with mortality, surprising for somebody who had supposedly recently been overwhelmed by the news that Jesus's very flesh and blood were immortal.

Rather as if somebody was startled to learn that oxygen was actually not what was keeeping us alive at all, and then said that this news must be given the oxygen of publicity.

'Flesh and blood' would not be an obvious metaphot for mortality for somebody whose whole world-view had been totally shaken by the discovery that a resurrected immortal body would have flesh and blood.

Jason Pratt said...

{sigh} (okay, trying a different tack... I'm temporarily skipping over commenting on Paul's notion of mortality in regard to the physical, though I could comment extensively on that--I wrote this before seeing you and Mark D had had an exchange. FWIW, I think your position _is_ an old one; the fact that it has been experiencing a resurgence in recent decades is, I think, irrelevant. I wouldn't judge against it on that ground.)

We _both_ agree that 1 Cor 6:13a is important. We both agree Paul wrote it. We both agree that the sentence means basically what it says. (Our disagreement is over _why_ Paul wrote it.) We're _both_ accounting for its existence in our claims.

I'm _also_ going on to use 13b, though--the rest of the verse. And the other verses through the end of the chapter. (Actually, I'm pulling together all the material from all first six chapters into a coherent progressive whole and noting the transition into chapter 7. But for the moment I'm willing to stay focused on the end of 6, if you want.)

So, I've said how I'm using those immediately subsequent verses (6:13b through the end of the chapter) in relation to 6:13a. They're obviously about 'soma' (the body), and the risen Lord, and moral use of the 'soma', and what God cares about how people use their 'soma'.

Paul's continuation there is clearly relevant, and clearly linked to 6:13a.

So, since I've told how I read those verses, in relation to 13a, now you should have your turn (in a fair discussion) to relate how _you_ read those verses. How do _you_ put them together with 13a?


Jason Pratt said...

Oh, and I've noticed the thread is about to go off the bottom. Shall we continue up in the new post linking to Craig's arguments about the empty tomb?


Edwardtbabinski said...


Paul's word-go-rounds are what I would define as "flailing around."

Neither have you studied the Gospel stories chronologically:


The Gospel stories flail around in time. If the Bible is the work of a perfect God, that God doesn't seem very concerned about having landed his perfect savior right in the middle of an era of apocalyptic and visionary language, and beliefs in miracles galore, including charismatic figures, and neither does this God appear concerned over leaving literary evidence of the obvious accretion of legends as can be seen right before your eyes as you study and compare all four Gospels:


I might even have added to my Habermas discussion the tale in Mark (arguably the earliest Gospel) of the "young man" who fled naked at Jesus' arrest, the last to leave Jesus that night, while another "young man" is the first to be seen inside the empty tomb, fully clothed. Is the term "young man" necessarily an "angel?" Could it be the same "young man" in both instances in Mark? Perhaps the author of Mark was trying to convey a story about how we should follow Christ and have faith?

The later Gospel writers all omit Mark's story of the "young man" who fled at Jesus' arrest, and they all change the "young man" at the tomb into one or even two shining angels and/or have one of those angels move the stone away from the tomb. The story kept growing.

Or you can compare the words spoken to the women at the tomb. Luke rejects Mark and Matthew's prediction that "He has gone before you into Galilee, THERE YOU WILL SEE HIM."

Luke says, no to running off to the country and instead has the raised Jesus command the apostles to tarry in Jerusalem, and then adds stories about appearances near or in Jerusalem, and even goes so far as to say that Jesus appeared and ate with the apostles, convincing them he was not a spirit but flesh and bones, and then he "led them out to Bethany." So the story changes from Jesus going on before them to Galilee and "There you shall see him," to Luke's story about the raised Jesus being seen first in Jerusalem and convincing them he was not a spirit, but flesh and bone and eating with them, then "leading them out to Bethany," near Jerusalem. A WALK WITH A RAISED JESUS FROM THE CITY OF JERUSALEM TO BETHANY. The story has grown tremendously. Luke as I pointed out even has to change the message at the tomb to accommodate the story's growth.

The story of the "raising of the many" that Matthew added is also classic legendary growth. Matthew even added two earthquakes to his telling! One when Jesus died, that "opened the tombs of the many raised saints," and a second earthquake when Jesus's tomb was opened. The funniest part in Greek according to Strauss is that the literal Greek states that the saints had their tombs opened and were raised at Jesus' death, but didn't "enter the holy city" until "after Jesus' resurrection." So the literal Greek has the saints being raised and not doing anything until "after Jesus was raised" a day and a half later.

Apparently the other Gospels writers also forgot about the "many raised saints," and both earthquakes, though a later Gospel writer, in the non-canonical Gospel of Nicodemus later named some of the "raised saints," who apparently included, "Adam, Eve, Isaiah, etc."

There is apparently little that was not considered "believable" back then. And I sincerely doubt that one sect among many in Jerusalem that went about preaching about "a raised Jesus" seven weeks afterwards, was going to convince followers based on physical evidence, but rather they worked like cults do today, they tell stories. How those stories originally grew up is anyone's guess. And we have far from a complete portfolio of all the various sects and beliefs of first century Judaism. We do know that enthusiasm and/or preaching continues to draw people into different religions and sects the world over. Christianity began preaching Jesus's resurrection seven weeks after Jesus's death according to Luke-Acts. Maybe even that statement isn't true, maybe it was longer even than seven weeks? Obviously some "thinking" went into the origin of the new sect as its leaders convinced themselves to try and carry on the work Jesus had begun. Anyway, the Romans and Jews probably felt no need to arrest the new sect leaders since Jesus was dead, and he as the main crowd drawing figure. So they didn't go around Jerusalem policing every apocalyptic or religious sect's statements during Pentecost, a holy day when the city was probably filled to overflowing and probably every other street corner had some sort of preacher. Yet that's the atmosphere in which Christian preaching began.

As for the empty tomb, there's no mention of a "tomb" at all in Paul's letters, just the word, "grave."

The "empty tomb" story apparently began with Mark, who had nothing to add about resurrection appearances, not a word about what Jesus said, just that the women fled away and "told no one." That could be taken as evidence that no one ever even head about an empty tomb story until some unspecified later date after the empty tomb story had been repeated enough times.

In fact the ending to Mark's Gospel was deemed to be so unsatisfactory by later Christian scribes that three or four different endings were later tacked on to Mark, trying to add some "luft" to the resurrection tale by adding a few meager words from the "raised Jesus." (By the way, the words of the "raised Jesus" continue to increase from Matthew to Luke to John. But still they are quite slim reading even then.)

Later Gospel authors like Matthew and Luke and John added more luft of course, making Jesus via their later descriptions, far more physical than Paul ever had with his merry go round of words.

Jason Pratt said...

Ed has forgotten, or doesn't care, that I'm not the sort of Christian who's advocating that "the Bible is the work of a perfect God" (i.e. some kind of strong inspirational character/authority to the scriptures). He neglects to remember this a lot; or is simply incapable of it. Either way, it's one reason I don't reply directly to him anymore. But since his own merry-go-round tends only to throw fog in needless directions, then I'll reply _about_ his recent comment, for the sake of anyone who, not knowing Ed already from long experience, actually bothered to read through it.

(Be warned that this reply itself runs about 24Kilobytes--which is significantly shorter than my original draft. If your eyes are already glazing over, take that as a sign and move along. It won't get any better.)

a.) Notice that Ed said nothing in retraction for the flagrant mistakes he'd made, or the corrections thereof. I don't mind mistakes, but I do mind people using claims as argument for unbelief (or belief, for that matter) who then won't even acknowledge correction of the claims. It means they weren't using them (despite surfaces appearances) because they cared about truth; they were only borrowing what they thought was loaded ideological weaponry.

b.) I admit the technical possibility that Paul's "word-go-rounds" are nothing more than similar flailing around by Ed. I didn't criticise Ed's (unnamed) author for making that judgment; or even at all (directly anyway). It _would_ be better to conclude Paul was contradicting himself in flipflops, than to simply ignore textual evidence in immediately subsequent half-verses-and-following. But there are other options, too. (Which Ed proceeded to neglect discussing, despite my having given such an option.) What I _did_ criticise was Ed's uncritical use of his own unnamed author.

c.) Even if one proposes to explain the huge difference between 1 Cor 6:13a and the immediately subsequent half-and-following verses, by mere flipflopping self-contradictions on Paul's part, their sheer existence as such still involves certain implications about what Paul considered to be non-negotiable for belief. Call it self-contradiction (and ignore attempts to explain it as being something else); it's still nonsense to go on to say that he didn't care about that doctrine and wasn't preaching it (even if along with something completely different at exactly the same time).

d.) I have in fact studied the Gospel stories chronologically, in both ways Ed means (as a question of which compositions preceded and/or used the others; and in terms of cross-document harmonization.) I've even written out a harmonization of several hundred pages, based on my studies of (among many other things) the use of time/place cues by the various authors.

I apparently have studied this sort of thing more than Ed has, since I know very well that there are still serious disputes (including among sceptical scholars) as to which texts precede and follow the others, which ones are using source materials/traditions/actual-texts of others, etc. Admittedly there is a marked tendency among proponents of legendary accretion to hew to what may be called the current baseline position (somewhat uncritically accepted and used by Ed) of Mark/Matt/Luke/John. But so what? If GosMatt and GosLuke were switched, legendary accretion theories could be (and have been) developed which work just as well (or not) based on the new order.

I've seen variations of pretty much everything; and my own current opinion is (in this matter) basically the same as J.A.T. Robinson's from back in the mid-80s (a scholar Ed ought to be quite familiar with as someone who definitely has no conservative axe to grind): at this late date, trying to figure out which text came first and was borrowing from which others (aside from the Luke-Acts order), is pretty much a losing proposition.

e.) The Gospel stories certainly do _not_ "flail around in time" during their Res scenes (which is all Ed discusses), any moreso than they do during their trial and execution scenes. GosMatt and GosLuke do jump around somewhat for topical rearrangement in their middle sections, with maybe one major chronological inversion in the middle of GosJohn. This is as standard for ancient biographical works, as is sticking to chronological order across the board, which GosJohn and GosMark mostly do. (GosMark may always run straight; I don't recall offhand.) GsMt and GsLk do, too, when the story really requires it.

Trying to harmonize _between_ the Res accounts in regard to chronology is very difficult (in some regards), but that doesn't mean the stories _themselves_ "flail around" in time at those sections--each of them moves directly straightforward. (Even when GosMatt's author mentions back at Jesus' death that 'holy ones' will rise with Jesus during the Res, that still isn't a chronological flip, since he makes clear this is something that will happen later.)

f.) Since I've passed near the subject; yes, I myself agree that the "risen holy ones" are a good candidate for mere apologetic accretion (if not strictly legendary). No, the Greek does not literally say that they were raised at the time of Jesus' death (Strauss notwithstanding); the grammar is phrased in such a way that the clause could equally well be grouped with the subsequent as with the antecedent. Context has to be the key (unless we're going to simply flip a coin, or else merely pre-decide the author's incompetence beforehand.)

In this case, it helps to know what the author was probably referencing: the only OT prophecy of the Lord opening tombs (graves more precisely, but 1st c. Jews very clearly understood that to mean _tombs_) and raising forth the dead holy ones in the days of the Messiah: Ezekiel's vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, Ez 37:12-13; not only widely regarded to be a Messianic prophecy of the day of the Son of David, thanks to subsequent verses 24-28, but _also_ interesting as being one of the possible sources of the (post-canon) Judaic theory of _two_ Messiahs: one the Son of David, and one the Son of _Joseph_--which two (in Ez) God declares to be one. (See any well-known Matthaean thematic there?)

It may be a sheer apologetic addition with a Jewish audience in mind (the audience GosMatt generally looks to have). But the fact is that a significant portion of that Jewish audience would not have considered a resurrection of the Messiah to be worth anything unless at least _some_ of _that_ prophecy had occured as well. And they would have considered a pre-resurrection before Christ (much worse one where nothing further happens until Christ catches up with them!) to have been as nonsensical as Strauss did (and Ed after him).

Matthew is already having to hoe a hard row (as did Jesus before him, by all reports) by teaching that the Messiah has to be resurrected at all. He would be trying to make his job _easier_, not _harder_. Consequently, we should conclude for translation purposes that the clause goes with its subsequent: the author means the holy ones were raised with Jesus (or shortly afterward), not during his death.

g.) The two earthquakes, on the other hand, show no sign of either legendary or (merely) apologetic accretion. They behave exactly like earthquakes in graveyard areas of that sort do (given the geography of the area): popping open the stones corking the tombs, and tossing out the ossuraries. (One could even propose Jesus' stone having been rolled back by that cause, on purely naturalistic grounds.) It's somewhat less likely that an earthquake would have rent both the curtains to the Holy of Holies (GosMatt only mentions one), even by snapping the hanging spindle(s), and even accounting for their construction (sewn in squares). Yet there are independent hints outside the Gospels of some kind of catastrophic portent in the Temple 40 years before the Romans squnched it. This is a case where the risen holy ones might be (even legendary) accretion _upon_ (as is usual in such cases) some kind of accepted fact (earthquake damaging the Temple; aftershocks for some time afterward.)

h.) Ed's notion of progressive development never looks very progressive (even on his own attempts to paint examples that way), except by sleight-of-mind perhaps. 'Vastly inept' seems the only accurate way to describe a claim that the introduction of two earthquakes and a raising of saints, and then their total absence from (proposed) subsequent works, counts as _progressive development_. (The introduction could count as _innovation_, but it develops from nowhere, and definitely progresses nowhere.) Ed has to rely on this sort of 'evidence' for the bulk of his case, though. Some instances:

h1.) A young man in clothes definitely _not_ described the way the similar author describes angelic-type clothing (and saying X), becomes a superpowered angel of the Lord in full lightning-garb rolling away a stone (though still saying much the same thing as X); who _then_ turns into two men in shining attire (two downgrades for one 'upgrade') who go back to doing nothing (another downgrade) except delivering a message which is completely different from X; who then become two somewhat spectral non-fear-inducing angels who also do nothing except ask a brief question completely different from the assertions of any of the others, which might as well (textual assertions notwithstanding) have been Mary mistaking Jesus' question behind her for _them_ speaking. (Plus first inside, then outside, then outside, then inside.) This would not count as "progressive development" in any other tradition-redaction study.

h2.) Relatedly, Mary starts as part of a large group of women; then becomes two women (with "the other Mary"); then becomes maybe part of a group again; then a single woman. Great "progression" there! The women start by saying nothing; then progress to... still saying nothing (so far as GosMatt records); then to saying something which none of the apostles believe (considering it oblivion-gush; the additional verse about Peter going to the tomb is regarded as spurious on external testimony); then to saying (as simply Mary) what would be the most obvious thing to say: "they've moved the body and we don't know where!" (Implying, btw, at least one more person with her at some point there.)

Examples of this sort of "progression" could be multiplied at length, as Ed himself has already tried to do; to take a final instance:

h3.) It should be patently obvious that whatever else a switch from meeting in Galilee to _not_ meeting in Galilee is, it _isn't_ a case of developmental progression.

The fact of the matter is that the stories in _topic_ (mostly irrelevant physical details aside, such as somewhat increasing physical length) do not for the most part demonstrate signs of legendary accrual. They demonstrate signs of independent tradition. Several non-historical hypotheses could fit with that (if that helps comfort sceptics any); but 'developmental progression' isn't one of them.

i.) Since Ed mentioned Strauss: I'm guessing this is David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874), perhaps most famous for his (popular) work _The Life of Jesus Critically Examined_. (1835; scholarly reviews at the time were mixed, and eventually he was savaged even by later sceptical critics. He renounced his mythicism theory per se in a two-volume work not long before he died, but couldn't find anything to really replace it with that he was willing to accept.)

The reference would certainly be telling: Strauss was the first major scholar (from putatively within a Christian culture) to attempt to declare the Gospels to be non-historical in (near?) totality. He was also self-avowedly _not_ a historian, and just as self-avowedly did _not_ judge the Gospels on such grounds. He was a philosophical Hegelian, and forthrightly brought that position to his work, interpreting the data thereby.

The only people I know of following Strauss in any regard right now, are the neo-Bultmanians. (Rudolph Bultmann revived Strauss' work from its critical obscurity and gave it a new flavor of defense.) Speaking of which:

k.) Jesus may have been preaching in a time and place which was agog (and Magog!) for apocalyptic motifs and visions; but being in a place where people are prepped to listen to him is no evidence he wasn't sent there (contra Ed's attempt at implying otherwise).

On the other hand, it ought to be manifestly obvious that people weren't just universally credulous about what he was saying, even on the accounts of the stories; his own disciples had trouble stomaching it, too (one apparently betraying him over such differences). Jesus himself is reported in all four canonicals to be telling people that they've drastically misunderstood the meaning of the kingship of God and the Messiah and what this means about judgment--i.e. a strong _anti_-apocalyptic motif, in comparison to the expectations of the time and place. (Bultmann hugely missed accounting for some relevant data in his analysis.) Which might only mean that Jesus was pretty effective at counter-positioning himself (in modern marketing parlance)--up to his crucifixion anyway. Which execution the Jews quite loudly and consistently took credit for, ever afterward.

l.) Which brings up the GosMatt polemic. Which blows out of the water any theory that the story of the empty tomb is only a late addition fadged up by the GosMark author. It seems the height of desperation to posit the empty tomb as being a creation of GosMark, _after which_ the Jewish authorities were so dismayed by this that they started telling their people that GosMark was basically right except there were also guards who fell asleep while disciples stole the body, to which 'strong' counterthreat the GosMatt author felt compelled to reply.

m.) Ed has apparently forgotten (from no more than a couple years earlier) that I actually _agree_ that the GosMark author meant a young man _and not_ an angel; and that the implications (taken in total) are that the author means the young man is himself (John Mark). Ed didn't bother to go through the gyrations necessary to explain why this person would sheerly invent a story about an empty tomb and then put himself secretly into the story to point toward the 'angel' at the tomb being only himself as a young man instead of the angel the women were clearly afraid of. I don't think Ed's going to be happy with that young man at the tomb, once he gets to know him better, though.

Ed probably wasn't thinking any further ahead than 'See! Not an angel!'; but having John Mark at the tomb doesn't even overwrite any of the other angel appearances/sayings in the reports, if the various women saw and heard various things which _he_ never did. (Not uncommon in angelic visitation stories.)

n.) In point of fact, we nowhere have records (including the canonicals) that the first Christians convinced followers based on physical evidence of the resurrection; they do it based on stories, just as Ed would expect in real-life (rather than what he apparently finds the Gospels saying instead. Or not saying, rather. He isn't real clear about this...) Even Peter's invitation to check the tomb of David (evidently not one of the risen holy ones, btw!) is made more for the rhetorical point than for practicality: he doesn't bother inviting them to go see the empty tomb of Jesus. (Nevertheless his speech requires the relevant distinction: David's still there; Jesus isn't.)

o.) Ed doesn't bother to explain why the apostles would have necessarily begun preaching a raised Jesus at some _other_ time than the next Jewish festival if the Resurrection story (even if only in Luke-Acts) had been historical. Conditions which would help facilitate such preaching, would only count as evidence against the veracity of such preaching, in the mind of someone flailing any stick he can find to even remotely thwap with.

p.) Back (in a leap) to Paul: it's true there is no mention of a "tomb" (per se) at all in Paul's letters; just the word "buried". (Actually, the word "grave" isn't mentioned either, _pace_ Ed.) This is the verb 'etaphe_'. Which in all other connotations (in the NT at least) involves a burial; which would normally involve a tomb, in 1st c. Palestine.

Or where else does Ed (and similar detractors) think a revered rabbi would _normally_ be buried: a compost heap?? Had Jesus' body been thrown in a common grave to be picked over by wild dogs and vultures (per Crossan and perhaps some others), would this shockingly _abnormal_ treatment of their rabbi not have called forth at least some retcon attempts to make it fit Messianic prophecy?? Hypothesizing it to be a scandal they shied away from (per Crossan again) is silly, _especially_ in Paul's case: he opens 1 Cor (same epistle) talking about how the preaching of the cross (a far worse scandal) is necessary, even though foolishness to the pagans and a snare to the Jews. Since Paul thinks it's necessary to affirm that Jesus died a death cursed by God, and to affirm that Christians follow someone as Lord who was executed by the Roman Empire as a rebel (in what was regarded to be the most painful execution), it's difficult to see why he would suddenly become so touchy about Jesus being raised from a compost heap: he's already insisting that Christians have to proclaim something that will get them stoned and crucified (maybe both!)

Come to think of it, I could imagine pretty easily how being buried with malefactors would fit right into Paul's notion of Jesus being reckoned with them!--it would be something for him to boast about, just like Jesus having been crucified with criminals; _not_ something to cover up. And being thrown in a criminal's grave is the only serious alternative I've ever heard of.

One could suppose, perhaps, that Paul latched onto a _normal_ burial, and emphasized that (against the facts he knew as Sanhedrin prosecutor?), because the fiction served his apologetical purposes. The only feasible purpose for such a fiction, though, would be so that the body could thereby be established as _missing_ (hard to do from a common compost heap being picked over by scavangers), so that he could make a claim of resurrection _of that body_: a claim he believed was important enough to lie about (on this theory) against the facts he previously knew. A charge of knowing falsehood on Paul's part, though, had better have an extremely strong accounting of the extant evidence to back it up.

"Buried", for a person like Jesus (i.e. for _most_ Jewish persons who had any family and resources at all) involved a tomb. It might be a common tomb instead of a private one, with bones shared in a family ossurary (or even a mere family pile!), but it would still be in a tomb. Which, if Jesus was raised from as well as buried in (can't have a burial without an implied burial _in_, whether compost pile or borrowed tomb), still counts as raising. And that's what Paul considers theologically important. Jesus was buried (in), and he was raised (from). Why would an early kerygmatic formula go out of its way to mention that someone lent the tomb to him? It's completely irrelevant to the point Paul is making.

I find it more than a little amazing that sceptics harp on the lack of the word 'tomb' so much; as if 'buried' could mean being put in a tower to have his bones picked clean by vultures, or burned so that his ashes could be scattered, or some other way of normally dealing with the dead which _wasn't_ done in 1st c. Palestine (especially by Jews.) It's even more worthless than Christian evangelists promoting the 500 witnesses as if the mere fact someone wrote that counts as being a direct witness to us today. (Or even to the Corinthians in their day.) Really, the insistence on this looks like sheer desperation. Ed would be better off trying to parley the implication of a tomb (implied de facto since no _unusual_ burial is mentioned instead) into a story _about_ a tomb: _that_ might count as legendary development! Except insofar as such legendary development would have to reckon with any original tomb tradition--which Paul, as former prosecutor for the Sanhedrin, would have known about _before_ becoming a Christian; before it even counted as tradition yet.

Was buried _in_ (a tomb); was raised _from_ (a tomb--or a compost pile even): there's obviously an important story in there for the Christian community, and Paul as their former opponent would have been familiar with it.

Trying to deny the empty tomb is a losing proposition: the denial just doesn't fit the extant data, whether from Paul or from GosMatt's polemic (much less from John Mark's stealthy claim to be an eyewitness with corrective _downgrading_ info!)

q.) Ed ends his own merry-go-round of words, arriving back where he started--or not quite, since Ed started by tacitly _agreeing_ with me that Paul must have (at least also) been talking about a physical body (thus Paul was engaging in word-go-rounds which Ed would regard as "flailing around"); but ends by trying to position the later descriptions of the Gospel writers as being "far more physical than Paul ever had [been] with his merry go round of words."

Well, perhaps there are people somewhere who think scenes of eating fish and pointing to holes in flesh, count as being "far more physical" than a body sown in corruption and raised in incorruption. (Same word, 'soma', even where we might have expected Paul to use 'sarx' instead. Same body.) All I can say, is that they must be rather shallow and unreflective people.

To which I add, once again (returning a little more precisely to my own beginning), that it would be better to believe Paul was simply flailing around in his own contentions, than to ignore what at least one of those contentions was: the raised physical body of Jesus. If the same man was really advocating this _and_ something entirely else, then we would seem justified in looking for a proportionately interesting explanation for the self-contradiction.

r.) Which in turn brings me back around to my own contention, which Ed neglected to even try touching: that the question of what Paul means (whether consistently or in abrupt self-contradictions) about the resurrection body, hinges pretty much on what his intentions were in writing 1 Cor 6:13a. If he meant to advocate that _too_, then at best we can only say he was being radically self-contradictive in his (even immediately) following claims. That certainly isn't impossible; I can think of some respondents who regularly do the same thing--when they want to protect a belief (or disbelief) of theirs which they're willing to sacrifice their own cogency to protect.

But I can think of another explanation, too, which fits into Greek punctuation rules (or rather the lack thereof) in that day; which ties together all the first six chapters of 1 Cor into a developing unity of topic; and which allows us to exercise analytical charity (instead of simply insisting Paul must be rabidly inconsistent even from one sentence to the next).

All of which look to me like advantages for a hypothesis. None of which the competing hypothesis can provide. (My explanation is even safe for sceptics to accept--taken by itself, anyway. {g})