Monday, September 15, 2008

Spong on the Resurrection

That should stir things up.


Anonymous said...

No commentary on this yourself, Victor? To me it sounds like Spong is admitting that something tremendous occurred just after Christ's crucifixion, yet somehow doesn't believe it was resurrection. Oddly, the view comes across as more awkward than simply admitting that Christ was apparently resurrected.

Anonymous said...

Spong is famous for his radical reinterpretation of Christianity, but should not be famous for his second rate New Testament scholarship.

For instance, he says, "The Easter story appears to have grown rather dramatically over the years." Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 seems to clearly disagree with this statement by Spong:

1. Paul claims that Jesus' death and resurrection were according to the Scriptures thus showing that Christians at the time of making this creed did not view Jesus' death in an ordinary fashion (as Spong implies in the article), but believed these historical events had strong theological meaning.

2. Paul claims that Jesus' death was "for our sins" showing a clearly theological understanding.

3. Paul claims that Jesus was raised, not that he healed and walked out of the tomb, or that he gave the disciples a warm feeling in their hearts as they pondered what his life meant, but that "he was raised," thus suggesting something supernatural since it is clear that he assumes God raised Jesus.

4. Paul ties this supernatural understanding of the resurrection to actual events of Jesus appearing to individuals and groups, even very large groups.

These are radically bold statements by Paul and show a high Christology with a clear understanding of Jesus' death and resurrection in a theological light.

So did this very high view of Easter develop "over the years" as Spong suggests? Considering that these statements are an obvious creedal formula that was handed down to Paul (as Paul says at the beginning of the chapter), it clearly developed earlier than Paul's recounting of it in the 50s AD. In fact, it is almost unanimous among New Testament scholars that this creed developed in the 30s, anywhere from 2-7 years following Jesus' death. Even the extremists in the Jesus Seminar (of which Spong is a 'fellow') suggests that this creed came about a mere three years following Jesus' death.

In other words, Spong may be an interesting writer and may inspire people with his reinterpretation of Christianity, but he is a poor scholar and a terrible historian.

Edwardtbabinski said...

Is there a single first hand account of meeting the raised Jesus anywhere in the Bible?

Every story about people meeting the raised Jesus that I've read is second hand.

If Jesus appeared to Peter, where's Peter's first hand story of such a meeting?

Mark's Gospel allegedly based on Peter's story, lacks a post-resurrection meeting with the raised Jesus and ends instead with merely a promise of a sighting of Jesus in Galilee.

The story in Acts of Paul's meeting with Jesus is likewise second hand since Paul didn't write Acts.

And in none of Paul's letters do we have a description in first hand fashion of what he saw when he met Jesus, and he speaks about everything else having to do with the resurrection in a vague fashion, philosophical musings rather than sharing a first hand account.

Same for the rest of the N.T. The Gospels themselves are unnamed documents. We have only later second hand stories as to who allegedly wrote them.

I'd like instead of second hand list of names to whom the raised Jesus allegedly 'appeared' at least one first hand account of meeting the resurrected Jesus. Just one.

And I'd like to know why the stories grew over time beginning with a mere second hand list of people to whom Jesus allegedly "appeared" in Paul's 1 Cor. -- the word "appeared" being vague, even used of visionary appearances in the O.T. It doesn't say Jesus "spoke," or "ate," just that he "appeared."

And Mark the earliest Gospel has no accounts, just a promise of an appearance in Galilee.

Then in Matthew a second hand account says Jesus appeared and spoke a few sentences, that's all that was recorded or could be recalled for that Gospel, of an alleged meeting with the raised Jesus, and even that is second hand info.

Then in Luke-Acts and John -- the lattermost written Gospels lying further than Paul or Mark from the original historical Jesus -- we have far lengthier post-resurrection stories, the addition of a bodily ascension tale in Luke-Acts, the addition of many more words allegedly spoken by the raised Jesus, including tales about the raised Jesus eating fish, and the addition of tales that claim the raised Jesus spoke on "all the Scriptures that mentioned the Christ" on the road to Emmaus, and that Jesus per Acts was on earth for weeks prior to his bodily ascension, meeing with and presumably speaking with the disciples, yet those post-resurrection words and lectures were forgotten (compared with even incidental pre-resurrection sayings and doings preserved in the Gospels). I guess all those post-resurrection sayings and doings as alluded to in the lattermost Gospels were "lost," just like the last chapter of Mark.

Reckless Divinity said...


What's wrong with a second hand account, or a third hand account? Granted it may lose some of it's accuracy, but does it really negate the whole truth? I first hand tell people hey I spoke to Edward today and he had a really good blog entry that said this and that - and they pass it on - is it really unreliable as a whole what they pass on? If so, then we have to assume they are lying, and if that is the case we could still assume the first hand account is a lie as I remained unconvinced of your argument, not saying it's wrong, nor am I saying you need to convince me, just simply do not find it convincing....

Edwardtbabinski said...


I personlly doubt that God would do all those things and neither leave behind nor preserve a single first hand account of them. No court of law would even begin a case without first-hand witnesses, so every time you see a book with the title, "The Case for Christ, Christianity, Faith," there is no "case" legally speaking.

And the case worsens from Paul to Mark to Matthew to Luke to John and Revelation during which the story continues to grow. Simple experiment, just trace the growth of the number of words allegedly spoken by the raised Jesus from Paul to Mark to Matthew to Luke to John, which is the chronological order accepted by most biblical scholars of the composition of those books.

Also check the way stories about alleged lectures delivered by the raised Jesus arose later on, and also how the words of such lectures were not preserved but incidental comments of the pre-raised Jesus were. I would think the reverse to be true in reality, namely that the words and lectures of a man raised from the dead were memorable, more memorable in fact than the words he spoke before being raised from the dead. But instead they are alluded to and then promptly lost to history.

As for eyewitnesses to such things as the resurrection, nobody saw Jesus exit the tomb. We have only later "appearances." And when the late story of a bodily ascension arose that story says only the apostles saw this miracle of heavenly rocketting upward, though Luke alludes to a raised fish eating Jesus who "led" the apostles through the streets of Jerusalem a mightly big city, out to a nearby mountain and rose up from there.

So all in all, Jesus leaves town quietly indeed, unlike the crashing of waves upon Pharoes soldiers, unlike seeing the glory of Yahweh's backside or the glow around Moses's head, Jesus' after death miracle is only one of appearances to devout believers including the ascencion which might have been seen for miles around since it involved going straight up past the clouds and the apostles staring up into the sky. These stories appear to me to be made up just like the story of the ascension of Moses which Josephus says was popular in his day.

I really don't respect the idea of so many of Jesus's miracle tales in the Gospels merely paralleling those of Elijah and Elisha, multiplying food, raising the dead, healing, even the walking on water incident is comparable but grander than one the ancient Hebrew prophets above who was able to make an axe head float on water.

But in Jesus's case, miracles like the "transfiguration" and "walking on water" and the resurrection and bodily ascension into the sky are seen only by the apostles.

Also, when I used the phrase "second hand" I meant at least second hand. Some of these stories obviously are many more hands away than that. The Gospels were composed in Greek, probably among Gentile and Jewish/Gentiles churches. The stories spread by that time one can only guess as to their origin.

And of course the most agreed upon solution to the synoptic problem is that the Gospel of Mark came first and was subsequently added to by Matthew (perhaps with Q or just Matthew himself adding material that we call Q), and then Luke adding to Matthew. Over 90% of Mark is preserved in Luke and Matthew including Greek incidental phrases. Yet Jesus spoke Aramaic. There's much more to Markan priority and literary redaction of the Gospels, one building up on another, than that of course.

Reckless Divinity said...


Thanks for the reply if the reply was meant for me.

Keep in mind I said "does it negate the whole truth", meaning there could still be SOME truth in it even if there are some embellishments.

If there is a God, I don't pretend to know the mind of God, so saying you doubt God would do this or that really isn't an argument, it is merely your expectations not being met.

Well I thought it was known that the gospels were build around JC's sayings, that is why scholars proposed a Q document, which is something similar to the Thomas Gospel.

Lectures not being as memorable as you stated, again, expectations do not negate whether something is true or not.

I was responding to your blog entry by reading one paragraph at a time and responding to each one. I realized the key statement in your whole entry was "it appears to be made up". Which just seems to me that it didn't me your criteria for truth. So it made me realize that I really have no place arguing this with you even if I remain unconvinced.

I am not a scholar, but I am aware there are scholarly opinions that address your concerns, you seem like someone who would read those opinions so if you remained unconvinced by them, then obviously there is no hope for me to saude you nor is there hope for you to saude me. Nor am I a Christian so it is probably better to let Christians address your argument that seems too be built on expectation. I also thought the alleged transmission line between John the Apostle and Polycarp was the strongest case to say there is some truth in the story, but hey what do I know. But, I do appreciate you taking the time out to lay out your points of contention and they are valid concerns you bring up, but concerns are not always strong indicator of truth and do not always prove or disprove something, but anyway, have a good day!!!