Sunday, March 27, 2005

Jesus was resurrected: historical fact

The uniqueness—one could say oddity, or implausibility—of the story of Jesus' resurrection argues that the tradition is more likely historical than theological. Either from a "revelation" from the risen Jesus or from the reports of the earliest followers, Paul "received" a tradition that the resurrection was the hinge of history, the moment after which nothing would ever be the same. "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain ..." Paul writes. "Lo! I will tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet."

From Newsweek.


At 1:14 PM, Blogger Brant said...

I haven't read the whole article to which you link, might be misunderstanding the quote, and am not sure if you're posting this sincerely or tongue-in-cheek, but isn't this similar to the idea of intelligent design that some religious groups want taught in high school instead of or with Darwinism?

The way I understand it, intelligent design says that the universe is too complex for anything less than a greater power to have created it. And this quoted material seems to say that Jesus' resurrection is too complex an idea for man to have thought, so it must have happened. It's not saying that truth is weirder than fiction but rather that truth MUST BE weirder than fiction. Right? Which seems like a faulty principle upon which to rely and opens up the floodgates for being able to define other books, previously thought fiction, as fact because it's too hard to believe their authors actually thought of their stories rather than experienced them.

Which in turn leads to the idea of where DO stories and ideas come? Do writers create them or are they realities collectively floating in the ether waiting to be discovered?

Having said all that, the idea of religion in general and Christianity in specific, which without the resurrection or at least the idea and belief of the resurrection would not exist, can definitely be seen as a "hinge of history." I don't feel confident saying THE hinge of history since I'm unable to see all of it.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts, Joe.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Joe Rice said...

That's not exactly the point of the article. The article says it's virtually impossible for anyone of the time to think of a resurrection as possible. The Jews of the time didn't believe it, even in a Messianic figure. Messianic figures, at the time, were believed to be conquering David types, not sacrificial and weak. The Greek and Roman pagans didn't believe in resurrection. The jews of the area and time didn't (they believed in a one-time ALL-GET-REVIVED but not a one-shot deal). Even the disciples didn't believe in it. They believed Jesus had been defeated and that he wasn't the Messiah. However, so many people saw him after his death, both disciples and previous non-believers, that there are few, if any, explanations of how this story became so widely believed so quickly.

The onus, then, on the non-believer, is to find a historically possible alternate explanation for the early church's success and fervency.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Joe Rice said...

As for "opening the floodgates" to other fictional books, the problem is when Hemmingway wrote his books, he didn't BELIEVE that they had happened. Euripides didn't BELIEVE his plays, and neither did the people who watched them. The fact is, dozens and then hundreds then thousands of people believed completely in something that went totally against everything they had believed before. People don't tend to switch like that without good evidence.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Dubin said...

Joe, that argument is shaky. Because they didn't believe in ressurection, and there's record of a ressurection it must have happened?

First of all, I think that for us to pretend to have a handle on how people back then lived their lives is a major leap. To make grand sweeping statements about how a people think, is to simplify things until they mean nothing. I'm sure some Jews believed that people got ressurected every day. Other probably couldn't even understand the concept. But that's neither here nor there.

The article doesn't say that the Jews didn't believe in ressurection. In fact, it says just the opposite. "And while Jews believed in a general resurrection as part of the Kingdom (Lazarus and others raised by Jesus were destined to die again in due course)."

All it says is that there's no record of it ever actually happening before Jesus. So it doesn't seem such a stretch to me that if you're building up a messiah, you say that he was resurrected, which was believed in but had never actually been seen.

It makes no difference if the disciples believed it or not. Some may have and some may not have, but if they're trying to spread the man's teachings, then the hook of ressurection is an awfully good way to get the word out there.

The quick spread of the religion is not evidence in itself of anything. The Mormons, who have only been around for a couple hundred years are the fastest growing religion in the world, and surely you don't believe that an angel came down and gave John Smith a set of plates, do you? Winning followers does not equal righteousness of cause. It just equals a good sales pitch.

Finally, to say that all of this somehow puts the onus of proof on the non-believer, as if the pile of circumstantial evidence and conjecture presented in that article should be taken as fact and gospel (no pun intended), is a little galling.

Faith is based on just that... faith. Either you believe it or you don't. There's no proof of Noah's Ark, no proof of the Red Sea parting, no proof of Mohammed ascending to heaven, no proof of any of it. To try and ground religion in facts is to miss the point. Ultimately, the burden of proof isn't on anyone. One should be able to believe (or not believe) without facts. That's what it's all about.

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Joe Rice said...

Interesting points.

I should have mentioned before, I'm not just working with the article. My pastor, Dr. Tim Keller, has been working with this same material for a couple years. He's the one that seems to have the info on beliefs in ancient times, I believe that was his doctorate.

Now, while I do believe this, I don't see the argument as absolute as he does. I can see your points, especially vis a vis Mormonism and such. The problem with that, though, is that by the time Smith came around, people WERE predisposed to believe in that sort of thing. Not usually to that sort of extent, but the precedent was set.

The precedent for a one-shot resurrection, especially by a seemingly failed messiah, had not been set at that time. The evidence seems to point to the literal fact. Paul, for instance, would probably (big word, I know) not have insisted people check up on his story and given name after name, if other people had not seen the risen Jesus. Paul himself is kind of evidence in favor of it: here's a man that completely disbelieved. Why would he change?

People say drugs, hallucinations, etc., but Occam's razor would point to the simplest solution. He changed because he saw, just like he said.

At 6:11 AM, Blogger Alvin Miller said...

My Inaugural Address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions!


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End of days,Day of the Lord,Endtime,Judgment Day


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