Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why do Conservative Christians believe that William Lane Craig wins all his debates with Atheists and other Skeptics?

It is amazing how people can watch the same debate and walk away with completely different perspectives of who won.  I have watched at least four William Lane Craig (WLC) debates and I believe that he has failed every time to present viable evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.  So why do conservative/orthodox/evangelical Christians believe that he "demolishes" his atheist and agnostic opponents?  Read here:  William Lane Craig   Make sure to read the comments below the post!
 

Monday, September 29, 2014

DagoodS and Pastor John Bombaro's discussion re: Evidence for the Resurrection

If you are regular reader of this blog you are aware that DagoodS, an ex-evangelical Christian, now avowed atheist, is debating Pastor John Bombaro, LCMS pastor and theologian, regarding the evidence (or lack thereof) for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, under a previous post.  Since I am not allowing anyone other than DagoodS and Pastor Bombaro to comment under this earlier post, I thought I would create a separate post here, in which I will copy and paste each subsequent comment by DagoodS and Pr. Bombaro on the referenced previous blog, and allow readers to comment here on their discussion.  We will begin with Pastor Bombaro's first comment and DagoodS' first reply:

From this post:  LCMS pastors address atheists on the Resurrection

For an update on this debate, click:  here

 
Dear DagoodS,

It appears that the conversation has stalled on the term "spiritual", where it seems the assumption is that "spiritual" equals that which is non-corporeal, immaterial, altogether non-physical, etc., Limiting our discussion to Pauline epistles, we find him employing the Greek "pneumatikos" (spiritual) not uniformly, but with great variation and different associations. It is a high-level word with a spectrum of meaning and use. Indeed, this is not only the case throughout this written corpus, but within 1 Corinthians itself. This is important because it mitigates against (1) a reading horizon that categorizes anything associated with being "spiritual" with things that are just immaterial and (2) setting in strict juxtaposition things material with things immaterial, for example: earth vs heaven, matter vs spirit, time vs eternity, visible vs invisible, nature vs grace. You get the point.

Okay, so how does Paul use the term spiritual in 1 Cor? In many different ways, e.g., in 9.11 it is fairly obvious that its used as it that which pertains to the soul as distinguished from the body; in 12.1 and 14.1 ta pneumaticka modifies the noun "gifts" (hence the rendering: "spiritual gifts"). And several more uses could be discussed, but let that suffice for now. 1 Cor 15.44 is different because he does not use the exact same word as 9.11 (which is in the plural) and certainly not in the same way. He uses a masculine form in the singular, where word, sentence structure, and topic provide a meaning agreeable to pertaining to the nature of the Spirit. As we would say, e.g., humanly, but he says Spirit-ly. Put slightly differently, as we would say anthropological (of or from man), Paul says Spiritual (of or from the Spirit).

Significantly, Paul is saying that the human body is acted upon by the Spirit so as to render it of or from the Spirit. In other words, the object (a human body) comes now under the domain, not of oxygen and glucose--the laws and principles of established physics--but the domain and power of the Spirit where it cannot die a future death (and needs neither oxygen or glucose, being suitably fitted for the future state of existence.

Since Wright is the leading authority on this point I'll reproduce what he write here: "In verse 44 Paul contrasts the two types of bodies, the present one and the resurrection one. The words he uses are technical and tricky. Many versions translate these words as 'physical body' and 'spiritual body', but this is highly misleading . . . If you go that route, you may well end up saying, as many have done, that Paul is making a contrast simply between what we call a 'body', that is a physical object, and what we might call a ghost, a 'spiritual' object in the sense of 'non-physical'. But that is exactly what he is not saying. The contrast he's making is between a body animated by one type of life and a body animated by another type. The difference between them is found, if you like, in what the two bodies run on. The present body is animated by the normal life which all humans share. The word Paul uses for this often means 'soul'; he means it in the sense of the ordinary life-force on which we all depend in this body, the ordinary energy that keeps us breathing and our blood circulating. But the body that we shall be given in the resurrection is to be animated by God's own Spirit. This is what Paul says in a similar passage, Romans 8.10-11: the Spirit of Jesus the Messiah dwells within you at the moment, and God will give life to your mortal bodies through this Spirit who lives inside you." 1 Corinthians (SPCK: 2003), 220-21.




  1. [here's the rest of my response. It was truncated due to a word limit]

    Is Paul referencing a physical body with respect to Jesus' resurrection. Yes. That is exactly what resurrection means - transformation (not annihilation) of the physical human body; and it is that paradigm (Jesus being the paragon) that sets the stage for the discussion in 1 Cor 15.

    It is important to remember that, just as Prof Colin Gunton (KCL) has explained, for the Jews of the first century, there was no Platonic worldview of upper and lower spheres of reality. There was one reality with two interlocking, interpenetrating dimensions. And those dimensions comprised what it means to be a human being. Death dehumanizes. Resurrection re-humanizes. Jesus, Paul has been saying, is the future of humanity in the here and now. We were not meant to be buried under the Earth but to rule on it.

    Paul is bearing early witness to multiple encounters with the same Jesus of Nazareth that was once thoroughly and certifiably dead who he says was manifest in the future state of humanity - transformed through a process called resurrection, so that this same Jesus could not die anymore precisely because his body was not comprised the same way as ours but rather empowered, if you will, by God's own Spirit.

    I hope this is helpful to advance the discussion.
    Kind regards,
    John Bombaro


  2. John Bombaro,

    Thank you for the discussion. I am not entirely sure what Gary is looking for here, so if you don’t mind, I would be happy to bounce some ideas, concerns and questions with you. I am not looking for a debate, nor some declared “winner”—more like two people talking over coffee. I am sure to state facts and concepts you already know—I am covering ground for any lurker.

    Focusing on whether Paul meant a spiritual or physical resurrection (in broad terms, as even those words come with qualifiers) in 1 Cor. 15.

    1 Corinthians is a letter to the Church in Corinth where Paul addresses numerous doctrinal issues. I would generally date it 50 CE +/- 5 years. One can almost see Paul checking off each subject as he covers it—divorce, eating, church worship, gifts, etc. Paul uses various devices in arguing doctrinal points, including the authority of God (7:10), Nature (11:14), Israel’s history (10:1-5), the Tanakh (10:7), Jesus events (11:23-27) and, of course, his own presentation of arguments. In short, Paul freely uses whatever means necessary to make his point.

    In 15:3-7 he reiterates a tradition he previously provided to the Corinthians, listing appearances of Jesus post-mortem, concluding with Jesus’ appearance to Paul. He provides no details as to when, where, how, what time, what was said (if anything) other than a chronological order. He does not record a Damascus road experience. When Paul indicates he saw Jesus (9:1), he gives no indication of Jesus’ form. Was it a vision? Was Jesus a physical body? Was it even on earth, or was it when Paul was transported to heaven? (2 Cor. 2:12). As you know, a theme in Jewish writing of the time involved heroes travelling to heaven, such as the Book of Enoch.

    The lack of detail and vagueness results in our still discussing, 2000 years later, what Paul meant by Jesus’ appearances in his letter!

    First Paul argues there must be a resurrection (15:12-34). It would appear some Corinthians were following the Sadducee (or other pagan) principle of no resurrection at all, otherwise, why would Paul spend the time on the topic? Raising the interesting question as to what WAS being declared in the early church regarding resurrection if…20 years after Jesus death…there was this divide on such a foundational doctrinal point. Additionally, vs. 29-30 indicate Paul encouraged people being baptized for the dead, and this ceremony would be useless if there was no resurrection, giving more insight to how little we know about the initial teachings and practices of Christianity. (Additional questions—how big was the Corinthian church? 5? 50? 100? Was it made up of Jews, God-fearers, Gentiles? Slaves, landowners, merchants? We simply do not know.)


  3. Then we come to the heart of our issue—Paul’s description of the Resurrection body. Vs. 35-58. Of course one can argue this was a physical resurrection. The Pharisees held to a physical body that would be revived and live again (Josephus Antiquities 18:14), and as Paul followed Pharisee philosophy, one would naturally assume he continued or transferred this belief into his Christianity. Paul appears to follow a belief in general resurrection in vs. 23, again similar to Pharisees. And in vs. 52 Paul talks about the dead being raised, as if their bodies would be a conduit for whatever happens in the next age.

    But…one could equally argue this was a spiritual resurrection—where the soul or spirit transports to heaven, while the body remains in the ground. He talks about the body being a seed, which becomes another kind of flesh. (vs. 37-38). The seed doesn’t remain; the seed doesn’t “transform” into another seed—it becomes an entirely different thing. As equally different as—to Paul—birds and fish and animals are different. Likewise Paul contrasts whatever body is in heaven with what is on earth. (vs. 39-41). It initially a natural body, when resurrected, it becomes a spiritual body. Just like Adam came from the dust (nature), Jesus is of Heaven (spirit.)

    The natural body is not the one to inherit heaven. (vs. 50). I have read N.T. Wright’s argument as presented, and it is not persuasive. It comes across as justification to avoid Paul’s forthright statement. What is the difference between a “spiritual resurrection” and a “completely new and different body provided by God in the afterlife animated by God’s spirit”? Isn’t this saying the same thing? Additionally, Paul indicates even if the natural body is completely destroyed, there will still be a spiritual body in heaven. (2 Cor. 5:1).



  4. At best…to Paul…the natural body is a seed or husk left behind to grow a new spiritual body. This is closely related to the Essene belief in the afterlife. A quote from Josephus:

    “For their [Essene] doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue forever; and that they come out of the most subtle air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward. And this is like the opinions of the Greeks, that good souls have their habitations beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain or snow, or with intense heat, but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathing of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean; while they allot to bad souls a dark and tempestuous den, full of never-ceasing punishments. And indeed the Greeks seem to me to have followed the same notion, when they allot the islands of the blessed to their brave men, whom they call heroes and demi-gods; and to the souls of the wicked, the region of the ungodly, in Hades, where their fables relate that certain persons, such as Sisyphus, and Tantalus, and Ixion, and Tityus, are punished; which is built on this first supposition, that souls are immortal; and thence are those exhortations to virtue and dehortations from wickedness collected; whereby good men are bettered in the conduct of their life by the hope they have of reward after their death; and whereby the vehement inclinations of bad men to vice are restrained, by the fear and expectation they are in, that although they should lie concealed in this life, they should suffer immortal punishment after their death. These are the Divine doctrines of the Essenes about the soul, which lay an unavoidable bait for such as have once had a taste of their philosophy.” War of the Antiquities, II, 8, 11.

    (I included this lengthy quote, as I have often heard the claim how Jews did not believe in a spiritual resurrection, and this demonstrates how Jewish and pagan beliefs varied extensively in the First Century.)

    1. Here is the real sticking point for me. Paul demonstrates throughout his letter he is willing to use numerous tools to make his point—including events in Jesus’ life. Paul indicates he received the 1 Cor. 15 tradition and it is often argued (and been argued in this blog) he received it from Peter and James when visiting Jerusalem. Gal. 1:18. And…it has been argued…they MUST have discussed the resurrection appearances.

      Now if Paul knew of the resurrection accounts as recorded in the gospels—why ever would he not mention them here? You want to know what a resurrection body looks like? “Why,” says Paul, “Let me tell you what Jesus was like.” Then Paul could describe how Jesus’ post-mortem resurrection body could walk, talk, teleport, retain knowledge, touch, see, hear, be touched, eat, float, breath, retain scars, make a fire and cook.

      Under my methodology, it would be more convincing to a neutral determinate that in 50 CE, Paul was required to make an argument for why resurrection had to exist at all, and then a convoluted (and still controversial) argument for what a resurrection body would be. Subsequently the belief it was a spiritual resurrection morphed into a physical resurrection, and the legendary elements surrounding the claimed physical resurrection developed through the chronological gospels. It is why the differing accounts exist.

      It is not convincing to claim Paul would know of the canonical gospel appearances, and completely ignore them in arguing for resurrection and for what a post-resurrection body would be like.
  •  
    1. For clarification: Dagood asked what I am looking for. This is it:

      1. Is there sufficient evidence to convince a non-biased person (or group of persons, such as a jury) of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth or is it really just a leap of faith?

      2. If there is sufficient evidence, does the bodily resurrection of Jesus validate Jesus as God and validate that his message, contained in the Bible, is true?

      You do NOT need to debate if the printed Bible or the existing manuscripts are inerrant. Orthodox Lutherans only hold that the "autographs" were inerrant, and since those autographs no longer exist (or have not yet been found), there is no means to prove or disprove that position.

      For orthodox Lutherans, Christianity rises or falls on the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, not on an inerrant book.

     


    1. Concerning the first section of your post above (and I apologize that I will not have time to respond any further than that for today, but will re-engage tomorrow): Your assessment of the dating of 1 Corinthians is in keeping with scholarly consensus and there is no point of discussion there. Let's call it 50 AD. And, yes, Paul utilizes various things to make points regarding sundry topics.

      Indeed, 15.3-7 is a reiteration of a tradition (elsewhere, "the" tradition) he previously provided to the Corinthians - which is important in this discussion, viz. "previously provided." For, although he provides, as you note, "no details as to when, where, how, what time, and what was said" in this place, it is important to note that he spent considerable time with the Corinithians: eighteen months (Acts 18.1, 5, 11). Though an argument from silence, it would be unreasonably to assume that all of the aforementioned details, not present in 15.3-7, were rehearsed time and again over his tenure in Corinth. Indeed, he intimates as much since he passed onto them what was received in the technical creedal formula of transmission. What is more, several of these details are rehearsed elsewhere, in Galatians for instance.

      Even then, Paul is not tied to what we, post-Enlightenment analytical thinkers, would expect from conventional recapitulation. Women, for instance, are entirely omitted from his litany of witnesses. Certainly the Corinthians were aware that Jesus appear women. The point is this: this highly condensed, technical and formulaic recitation is confessional, not comprehensive. It does not function that way and it would be an imposition for us to expect it here. The Corinthians are being prompted, in a larger discussion about our anticipated participation in the resurrection, to recall the total teaching over Paul's tenure on the resurrection from a reductionistic creed.

      More important are your questions: "When Paul indicates he saw Jesus (9.1), he gives no indication of Jesus' form. Was it a vision" Was Jesus a physical body? Was it on earth, or was it when Paul was transported to heaven?" To these questions we'll turn when I return. (I have a 7 year old celebrating a birthday tonight!)

      Kind regards,
      John
    2.  
    1. Gary, there should be two parts to my post: One about our conversation itself (referencing Myron Penner) and another starting a conversation about 1 Cor 15.3-7. Please let me know if they both were received because the blog made announcement concerning approval after the first "publish".



     

     

     
    1. No, the one referencing Penner was not received. Please send again.

      If you are having trouble posting your comments, send them to me in an email, and I will post them on the blog.

     

    1. While we wait for Pastor Bombaro to continue the discussion, I will post an article written by DagoodS several years ago on the website "Debunking Christianity". In this article, DagoodS addresses the core question for which I am seeking resolution: Is there good evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, specifically, is the willingness of the disciples to die for their faith strong evidence for the Resurrection?:


      DagoodS:  One of the arguments that Jesus was physically resurrected is that he appeared to his Disciples, and they believed it to the point they died for it. If it were a “hoax” they would not have “died for a lie.” For many Christians, this is the anchor of the argument for a resurrection. We can discuss empty tombs, and swoon theories and wrong tomb theories, but many keep coming back to the fact that the disciples believed it to the point of dying and cannot get around it.

    2. It is not as strong an argument as Christians believe, and few have actually researched the area. In order to explain why the argument is frail, we must understand what exactly is being claimed first.




      The claim is composed of five elements. It requires:

      1) A group of individuals;
      2) Specifically named;
      3) Who saw a physically resurrected Jesus;
      4) Willingly dying for this belief; (key issue)
      5) And not for any other reason.

      In the back of our mind, it must be remembered that the events surrounding the early church were not recorded contemporaneously, but after they had happened. These are not daily reports, nor newspaper headlines. Paul recorded certain events, then the Gospels were written, and finally Acts was written.

      Whether one holds that these were written only a few years, or many decades after the event, either situation provides ample opportunity to add, remove, or modify events with just the flick of a pen. We should keep a careful and cautious eye investigating these events.

      The longer the period of time from the happening to the writing, the better the opportunity to introduce legend, or hyperbole, or myth. Many Christians do not accept books written after 100 CE as being too late. Too far after the event. This argument has the same problem.


    3. Let’s review each element.

      Group of Individuals Certainly a most significant force of this argument is that not one, or two, but many of those persons claimed to have seen a physical resurrected Jesus.

      If all we had were one or two disciples, it is very possible they saw a vision, had a dream, and deluded themselves. One? Very possible. 12? Not so likely, is how the argument goes.

      In fact, we can tragically recall the events of Heaven’s Gate, in which one person, Marshall Applewhite became convinced there was a spaceship traveling behind the Hale-Bopp Comet. We all agree this man was delusional (he had a history of mental instability), yet was firmly convinced of an untruth. So convinced, he not only died for this belief, but managed to convince 37 others to die as well.

      Equally, one disciple could possibly convince other disciples of seeing a physically resurrected Jesus. In order to make this case powerful, the proponent would like to state every disciple, each from their various beliefs and walks of life, uniformly confirms as to what they saw. In short—they need a group.

      And is that what we see? Well….not exactly. During Jesus’ life he had many followers. But primarily he had Twelve Disciples. Of the Twelve, he displayed a preference for Peter, James and John. (Mark 14:33) Traditionally, even of these three, John was slightly closer. (Jn. 21:20)

      But following the resurrection, it is Peter that assumes the leadership role among the Disciples. He preaches the first sermon. Although he is walking with John, it is Peter that heals the cripple on the way to the temple. (Acts 3:6) John, the beloved disciple, receives cursory mention, and then is heard no more. In fact, when counting separate instances in the Acts of the Apostles, John Mark is referred to as many times as John the Disciple, and John the Baptist is referred to more! What happens to John is not recorded in Acts.

      Philip, another disciple, also receives cursory mention. Assuming he was one of the Seven (Acts 6:5) a story is recounted about his witnessing to an Ethiopian eunuch. (Acts 8) What happens further to Philip is not recorded.

      Peter is the most talked about disciple in the early church. The first part of Acts is replete with his tales. By Herod (died 44 CE) his tales start to peter out (sorry) and he is only mentioned once more in the Council of Jerusalem. (Acts. 15:7) What happens to Peter is not recorded.

      The rest of Acts focuses on Paul’s ministry.

      The only disciple noted as killed is James, the brother of John (Acts 12:2) and even then it is merely an introduction into a story about Peter. More on James in a bit.

      The inspired Bible does not record all Twelve of one accord. It does not mention what each one did separately. It does not indicate they were not “dying for a lie.” While referred to as a group, the events recorded as history do not include information as to their death.

      The concept of an entire group is not laid out specifically in the Bible, and must be read, in between the lines. The Bible does not provide us very much information at all for this argument. It begins to smell of speculation.

      Specifically Named. There are other people recorded as having seen Jesus physically appear after his resurrection, but are not specifically named. Without even knowing who they are, attempting to lay any claim as to their mode or reason for death becomes mere speculation.

      The argument for silence cuts both ways—if one can speculate that these unknown persons are some that died, it is just as credible to speculate they are not. The problem with silence is that it doesn’t tell us anything.

      Remember, this is not the silence of “the Bible says it, but history does not record it, so it still could have happened. Just because History is silent doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” No, here we have history AND the Bible not recording it. The silence has graduated to nobody stating it, but it still could be true.
       


    4. In fact, to some extent, these unknowns hurt this claim. Paul, writing first about them, claims Christ appeared to more than five hundred at the same time. (1 Cor. 15:6) Matthew admits that some actually saw this resurrected person but doubted. (Mt. 28:17) Doubted about whether it was he, whether he had died, or whether it was a vision or not is unclear. The author of Acts, writing last, concedes within a few months of this appearance, there were only 120. (Acts 1:15)

      Simple math tells us 500 seeing –120 believers = 380 believers that doubted! In other words, on this argument, 3 out of 4 believers would not die for the lie—they did not believe in a physical resurrection!

      As we shall see, we have problems enough confirming what happened to the few actually named, let alone starting to guess over people we do not know, as to how they possibly died, and the possible reasons why.

      The Gospels record various women having seen Jesus. Their deaths are unknown and unrecorded. Paul, of course, does not even mention their existence. While they are named, I do not recall ever seeing their deaths as being reason to prove the resurrection of Christ, and will not address them.

      We have exactly twelve named individuals—the eleven disciples and James, the brother of Jesus. Again, Paul gives us James as a witness, but the Gospels do not. (As a side note, I am presuming “The Twelve” is a title in 1 Cor. 15:5, and does not include Judas. If Paul was including Judas, that becomes an interesting story, but committing suicide does not help this particular argument any.)

      We know we are looking for the events surrounding twelve individual men’s death. The searching narrows.

      Saw a physically resurrected Jesus You may have noticed I did not include Paul in the list of named individuals. That is because Paul saw Jesus in a vision, not within the 40 days prior to Jesus’ ascension. Paul’s vision (or the vision of any other) does not confirm or deny a physical resurrection and provides us no new information on the subject.

      Proponents of this argument occasionally indicate Paul as one of those that wouldn’t “die for a lie.” They forget what they are arguing. This is a claim that Jesus physically resurrected, with a body that walked, talked, ate fish and touched people. That people saw this body, and because of the miraculous implications, went to their death. It is not a claim about what visions people have at a later time.

      If Jesus died, and his soul was taken to heaven (a spiritual resurrection) Paul could still have a vision of Jesus. If Jesus died, and physically re-animated, and then ascended to heaven, Paul could still have a vision of Jesus. Paul’s vision provides no information that mandates a physically resurrected Jesus.

      Paul, in recounting his interaction with Jesus, refers to it as “God’s son revealed in me.” (Gal. 1:16) Paul indicates that Jesus appeared to him, just like Jesus appeared to the other apostles. (1 Cor. 15:8) [Is Paul arguing that Jesus appeared as a vision to the other apostles? Hmm….]

      But Acts makes it very clear this is a vision. Paul is recorded as only seeing a flash of light and hearing only a voice. (Acts 9:4; 22:7; ) Paul records later seeing Jesus in a vision. (Acts. 18:9; 22:17; 23:11) Paul tells King Agrippa this is a vision. Acts 26:19

      Paul speaks of getting information directly from Jesus. (1 Cor. 11:23. 2 Cor. 12:9) Every encounter of Paul with Jesus is in the form of a vision. This does not even remotely promote a physical resurrection.

      I wonder if any Christian that claims Paul is helpful in this regard consistently maintains that method. We have visions of the Virgin Mary today. Is this evidence that not only Jesus, but also Mary was physically resurrected from the dead? Of course not!
    1. This is belief that Mary, living in heaven, occasionally graces us with a ghastly apparition, or a ghostly appearance left on the incidental grilled cheese sandwich. It has absolutely, positively nothing to do with her physically resurrecting. (Although it is confirmation of a spiritual resurrection, perhaps.)

      Any visions, or appearances of a spiritual Jesus do not qualify for this particular argument. While they may be interesting in other discussions—not here

      Why they died The crux of the matter.

      You can die. You can be a Christian. You can even die because you are a Christian. You can be a martyr. But all that does not mean you had a choice as to whether to “die for a lie.”

      In order for this argument to work, the proponent would need to demonstrate that the disciple (or James) had an opportunity to avoid death by claiming, “It is a hoax,” and did not take it. Simply dying because they are a Christian, (while making them a martyr) is not enough for this argument.

      Let me use a few examples to emphasize this point. Imagine I decided to go on a killing rampage. I decide, for whatever inexplicable reason, that I will kill all Christians whose name starts with “X.” The extent of depth of the person’s belief, whether they actually saw Jesus or not, makes no difference on my violence. They will die, because they are Christians, and even be martyrs, but they had no choice in the matter. It was my picking out Christians, not what they believe.

      Or another. Tacitus recounts Nero blaming Christians for the burning of Rome (64 C.E.) and then persecuting them. Whether the Christians recanted, or did not would not make a whit of difference. They were being the “fall-guy” for the blame of a crime. Traditionally Peter was killed during this persecution. How would that provide him an opportunity to absolve himself, and avoid dying for a lie?

      Imagine Peter leading a church service at that time, and Roman Soldiers bust in:

      Soldier: All right. Who is in charge here?
      *Everyone points to Peter*
      Soldier: You, and your entire group here are charged with the crime of arson. You will be tried, found guilty, and executed, and not necessarily in that order.
      Peter: But it is all a hoax. Jesus wasn’t physically resurrected. I don’t want to die for a lie.

      Now, is the Soldier going to apologize for bothering Peter, and then leave, chuckling how he single-handedly eliminated Christianity? Of course not. He will proceed with his orders, and, regardless what Peter says, Peter will die. Yes, he is a martyr. Yes, he died for being a Christian.

     
     


     

     DagoodSMay 31, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    1. But that does not address the crux of this argument—did he voluntarily assume a risk that by claiming it was a hoax could be avoided? According to Acts, the Disciples were the first vocal supporters of the new Christian Church. Any persecution that would focus on the leaders would center on these disciples. They could not “avoid” it by recanting. By then it is far too late.

      King Herod, having killed one disciple, arrests Peter because it would please the people. (Acts 12:3) Whether Peter would have died or not at this point was dependant on what the people wanted, not what Peter would or would not say.

      A more modern example would be the Salem Witch Trials. A young woman would be accused of being a witch. After various accusations, cross-examinations and times of imprisonment, she may “confess” to being a witch.

      Does anyone believe this confession would be accurate—they really were a witch? Nope. It would be felt the confession was extracted out of them by violence. According to Christianity’s own claimed history, the methods of torture and persecution would be as bad. If someone even overheard Peter say it was a lie, would they record it as a truth? Not at all, in the same way, they would assume he was coerced into the statement.

      Some of the accused women insisted they were not, nor ever were witches—yet they were still executed! When a persecution cycle begins, what the accused say will neither save them, nor damn them. They will be killed, regardless.

      Some of the accused women offered up others, in the hope of saving themselves. It only brought in more martyrs and saved none. If 10 or 15 people all accused a disciple, regardless of whether that disciple decried it was all a hoax, they would still die.

      According to Acts, the Disciples were at the forefront of the Christian movement. They would be well known, and acknowledged as the leaders of the church. If the persecution was as widespread, and involved literally the death of Christians, the Disciples would be singled out. They would be marked for death, despite any trial, any statements, anything they might claim. The person that argues, “would not die for a lie” forgets that the impetus of persecution, for whatever reason, would not stop simply because the Disciple recanted. That is not what persecution was about! It was about stopping the movement through threat and application of violence.

      In order for this argument to be persuasive, the proponent would need to show how and what manner the named individuals died. We have no facts, no history, no Biblical support. It is here this argument crashes.

      Before we briefly look at four specific examples, the last requirement—

      Not for any other reason Although Christians may not like the materialistic side to it, there would have been a great deal of wealth and power as the leaders of this new movement. Perhaps they were in it up to their necks, before realizing it might mean their necks, and could not extract themselves from it in time.
      Delete


    2. We have twelve disciples and the brother of Jesus all from Galilee. Some had houses, some had family, but in a word—they had roots. After the Pentecost, the most natural place to begin this new movement was at home, in Galilee. But what do they do? Stay in Jerusalem. How are all twelve (not a one returns to Galilee) able to afford and survive this move? Even the family of Jesus comes along. Acts 1:12-14.

      A simple question—what are they living on? They had either given up their jobs, or only worked part-time for three years. Funds must be low. The answer becomes apparent; they are living off the funds of the new converts.

      People were selling their possessions, and giving to those in need. (Acts 2:45) As the Disciples had little or nothing, they needed the most!

      Ever research First Century Economics? Not much is known, of course, but it seems that landowners tended to live in towns, and have managers work the tracts of agricultural land in the country. The landowners may have houses both in the country and the city. If one did not read Jesus’ penchant for the poor, in reading Acts it would seem that Christianity attracted the rich!

      Acts 4:33 says the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of Jesus. Is it just coincidence that the very next sentence notes that all who possessed land and house(s) sold them and brought to the proceeds to the apostles’ feet? Barnabas is mentioned as having done so. (Acts 4:37) And, obviously, our very famous couple, Ananias and Sapphira. They provided a portion of the sale of their land, but lied about giving all of it. God killed them. Great fear spread through the church. (Acts 5:11)

      One could apostatize, preach against Paul, and cause division in the church, and be forgiven. But lie about money? That was a capital offense, causing fear among the constituents. Proponents of this argument might need to face the fact that the reason the disciples and church was persecuted, and the reason what they said would not matter, is that it was a wealthy competitor to other religions.

      Now for our examples:

      James the Disciple Killed by Herod for reasons unknown. Acts 12:1 says Herod was “harassing the church” and killed James with a sword. We can speculate that James was given a chance to recant and save his life, but that is pure guesswork. Not in the text, not in the history.

      This argument is supposed to validate the physical resurrection. How strong is it to be based on pure opinion? Further, Stephen’s death was exemplified as being a martyr’s. (Acts 7:59) If the author of Acts felt that James’ death was as well, would it have received more than a mention?

      More importantly, it was not recorded that Herod couldn’t get James to break, so he went after Peter. He went after Peter for political reasons—because it would please the Jews. Herod wanted a public trial! Why hold a public trial, if James had held true to a physical resurrection? That would hurt Herod’s position. More likely Herod was to put on a “show” trial, and then execute Peter, without Peter even having a chance to say anything at all.

      We can opine that James could have saved his life by recanting, but it is presuming the very argument the proponent is trying to make.
      Delete


    3. Per chance the next one will fair better.

      James the Just The only named individual we obtain our information from an extra-Christian source, Josephus. Here, though, it would seem that James was killed for political reasons, and, again, had nothing to do with what he could, or would not say.

      If you read the passage, without the identifier that James was the brother of Christ, there is nothing here to indicate James was a Christian, no Christian activity for which he would have been accused, nothing specific as to why he was even targeted. Without that identifier, we would not even be looking at this section!

      Ananus, a Sadducee, decided to flex his political muscle, assembled a Sanhedrin without consulting the Pharisees, formed an accusation against James, and had him stoned. The Pharisees, upset over this breach of their law, have Ananus deposed.

      There is nothing here about James being questioned, what James could or would have said, or even if James had said, “It was all a hoax” that Ananus would have let up. James was merely a safe pawn of a rival belief, which Ananus used to show he was boss by killing him.

      Just like the other James, the only way to claim he voluntarily did not “die for a lie” is to read it into the story. Make it up.

      Peter Really the best shot for martyrdom. Whoever wrote 2 Peter wanted to tie it into Peter himself, and writes as if it was prepared within a short time period prior to his death. (2 Peter 1:14) This demonstrates knowledge of his death, and a connection to bolster the validity of the book.

      Whoever wrote John 21:18 presumes his audience has knowledge of the fact not only that Peter is dead, but how he died. (While it certainly could be read as crucifixion, it is not exactly clear.) Again, indication of general knowledge of Peter’s death

      1 Clement 5:4 designates Peter as a martyr. Unfortunately, none of these accounts tell when, where, or the circumstances of Peter’s death. Yet again, we are left with speculation as to the ability of Peter to avoid death by virtue of any claim about the physical resurrection of Christ.

      The problem with 1 Clement is that the author only lists Peter and Paul as martyrs. No James the Disciple. No James the Just. No Philip. No Simon. No Thaddaeus. After listing Paul, the next biggest names he can come up with are Danaids and Dircae. You remember them, of course, from….from…..well, no we don’t remember them.

      Even placing 1 Clement as early as 95 CE, there should be more of these disciples well known for being martyrs. Yet strange silence.

      The most famous of all—Peter—and as of the end of the First Century, we have no information as to how he died. More speculation.

      And that is it for information within the Disciple’s lifetime. After this, it becomes information from someone who heard it from someone else. Dangerously introducing a high likelihood of myth making, and lack of reliability.

      Bartholomew Those that have read the Gospel of Mark, with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, know he is one of the Disciples. If one only read the Gospel of John, one would ask, “Who?” But, Mark, Matthew and Luke do not record a Nathaniel as a Disciple, but the Gospel of John does.

      As always, the resolution proposed is that Bartholomew had two names, and the Gospel of John only knew him by Nathaniel. As that may be, the last individual record the Bible gives of Bartholomew is prior to the Pentecost. (Acts 1:13) Nothing is stated as to how he died.

      Nothing in the Second Century. Nothing in the Third Century. Not until the very beginning of the Fourth Century do we hear the tale of Bartholomew’s ministry and death. Not until Eusebius records that Pantaeus heard from other converts that Bartholomew had preached in India. Sounds a bit like “I heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, who heard a rumor about it.”

      Even then, there ARE conflicting legends, as to his name, how he died, and where he preached. Since one legend claims he was flayed alive, he can be depicted as holding his own skin. Yuck.
      Delete








    1. These legends are too removed in time from the events to be of any value. If Christians today can see the usefulness of having a disciple die a horrible death in support of Christianity, it should be no surprise that others thought of it as well.

      In reviewing these claims of how the Disciples would not die for a lie, we begin to see that the tales of how they did die did not emerge until more than 100 years after they lived. Far too long a time to develop a legend to be of any use. Of course I am assured this is not legend, but “Church Tradition.” What I see is a shifting of methodology: when it is convenient to be too late, it is considered invalid information, when convenient, it is “tradition.”

      Don’t believe me? Look at the developing legend of Jesus. With Paul we start on bare-bone facts. A Jew that was betrayed, crucified, buried and resurrected. No ministry, no miracles, no sermons, no parables, no quotes of any kind (The Eucharist comes directly from Christ.) Mark begins to flesh out the tale, giving us one year of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew and Luke add even more, giving us birth narratives, resurrection stories and more sayings. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and Gospel of Thomas give us even more history and statements of Jesus. As time develops, we get more and more and more fantastic stories, and even of Letters back and forth between Jesus and a king!

      The Christian often rejects anything dated after 100 CE as being “too late.” Too much time for legend to be written. No verification, since those that would have seen it are dead.

      But when it comes to the disciples’ death, faced with the lack of information, the same Christian will claim that traditions would have been valid, even though they were not recorded for 200 years!

      A bias is showing, here.

      When faced with the question, “Would the Disciples die for a lie?” I reply, “When did they die, how did they die, and what were the circumstances of their death?” Upon review, we see that it is a guess, pure opinion that they had a chance to recant and save their lives.

      History does not record it. The Bible does not record it. The church does not record it until so long after, it cannot be considered reliable. The proponent of this argument, through all the claims, and statements and cute catch phrases, is really saying, “I guess they wouldn’t die for a lie, but I have no facts to demonstrate otherwise.”

    Sunday, September 28, 2014

    Early Christians never claimed that a Human Being rose from the Dead

    I had a very surprising "epiphany" while reading, The Resurrection of the Son of God, by conservative New Testament Christian scholar, NT Wright:  Early Christians never preached that a human being had been raised from the dead.  Early Christians preached that a god, in human form, had been buried, and three days later, that same god walked out of his grave in a god-like, supernatural, human-in-appearance-only form.

    Jesus was never truly human, if we are to believe what the Gospels tell us about him.

    Christians can claim that Jesus was fully human and fully God but there is a problem:  human beings do not walk on water.  Human beings cannot command the raging sea and winds to be still.  Human beings cannot raise the dead.  Jesus was never a real human being.  He was a god in the form of a human, or at a minimum he was a demi-god; half human from his mother Mary and half god from his father Yahweh. 

    For Christians to claim that no one in the first century, pagan or Jew, would have believed that a human being could be raised from the dead, without seeing this resurrected dead man with their own eyes, is a false argument.  Christians never claimed that a man rose from the dead.  Christians claimed that a god rose from dead.  People living in the Roman World in the first century had all kinds of wild, superstitious beliefs about what gods and demi-gods were capable of doing. 

    And here is another "epiphany":  Would Christians ever state that God was dead for those three days while the human body of Jesus lay in the tomb?  Of course not.  So if Jesus is God, as Trinitarian Christians claim, then Jesus, the Son of God, eternal as the Father and one with his Father, the Creator God of the universe, never died.  The human form in which he chose to abide for 33 years "died" and was placed in a grave...and disappeared...ceasing to exist.  That human form did not walk out of the grave and appear to witnesses, did it?  The "body" that did walk out of that tomb was not human.

    A god walked out of that grave.  A god who is eternal.  A god who is incorruptible.  A god who cannot be killed...if the Bible story is true.

    So Jesus never died.  Jesus was never resurrected.  A god in human form went into that grave...alive, as the Trinitarian God of the Bible cannot die, and the same god in god-like human form walked or teleported out of that grave.  The Christian claim that a dead man rose from the dead on Easter Sunday is completely false.

    Saturday, September 27, 2014

    Revisiting the Debate: LCMS Pastor John Bombaro vs. Atheist "DagoodS", Part 3

    Earlier this year LCMS pastor, Dr. John Bombaro, kindly agreed to debate atheist blogger "DagoodS" here on this blog at my (desperate) request.  DagoodS and other Bible skeptics were making a brutal online, frontal assault upon my orthodox Christian faith...and were close to victory.  I called out for reinforcements.  Pastor Bombaro agreed to come to my aid.  Unfortunately his kind assistance was too late...my faith collapsed within just a few short days, before the debate had really had a chance to fully develop.

    However, I want to go back over the discussion between Dr. Bombaro and DagoodS and see if we can learn any more from their discussion:


    (Click here to begin reading at Part 1)


    DagoodS:

    At best…to Paul…the natural body is a seed or husk left behind to grow a new spiritual body. This is closely related to the Essene belief in the afterlife. A quote from Josephus:

    “For their [Essene] doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue forever; and that they come out of the most subtle air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward. And this is like the opinions of the Greeks, that good souls have their habitations beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain or snow, or with intense heat, but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathing of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean; while they allot to bad souls a dark and tempestuous den, full of never-ceasing punishments. And indeed the Greeks seem to me to have followed the same notion, when they allot the islands of the blessed to their brave men, whom they call heroes and demi-gods; and to the souls of the wicked, the region of the ungodly, in Hades, where their fables relate that certain persons, such as Sisyphus, and Tantalus, and Ixion, and Tityus, are punished; which is built on this first supposition, that souls are immortal; and thence are those exhortations to virtue and dehortations from wickedness collected; whereby good men are bettered in the conduct of their life by the hope they have of reward after their death; and whereby the vehement inclinations of bad men to vice are restrained, by the fear and expectation they are in, that although they should lie concealed in this life, they should suffer immortal punishment after their death. These are the Divine doctrines of the Essenes about the soul, which lay an unavoidable bait for such as have once had a taste of their philosophy.” War of the Antiquities, II, 8, 11.

    (I included this lengthy quote, as I have often heard the claim how Jews did not believe in a spiritual resurrection, and this demonstrates how Jewish and pagan beliefs varied extensively in the First Century.)

    Here is the real sticking point for me. Paul demonstrates throughout his letter he is willing to use numerous tools to make his point—including events in Jesus’ life. Paul indicates he received the 1 Cor. 15 tradition and it is often argued (and been argued in this blog) he received it from Peter and James when visiting Jerusalem. Gal. 1:18. And…it has been argued…they MUST have discussed the resurrection appearances.

    Now if Paul knew of the resurrection accounts as recorded in the gospels—why ever would he not mention them here? You want to know what a resurrection body looks like? “Why,” says Paul, “Let me tell you what Jesus was like.” Then Paul could describe how Jesus’ post-mortem resurrection body could walk, talk, teleport, retain knowledge, touch, see, hear, be touched, eat, float, breath, retain scars, make a fire and cook.

    Under my methodology, it would be more convincing to a neutral determinate that in 50 CE, Paul was required to make an argument for why resurrection had to exist at all, and then a convoluted (and still controversial) argument for what a resurrection body would be. Subsequently the belief it was a spiritual resurrection morphed into a physical resurrection, and the legendary elements surrounding the claimed physical resurrection developed through the chronological gospels. It is why the differing accounts exist.

    It is not convincing to claim Paul would know of the canonical gospel appearances, and completely ignore them in arguing for resurrection and for what a post-resurrection body would be like.


    Pastor Bombaro:

    Concerning the first section of your post above (and I apologize that I will not have time to respond any further than that for today, but will re-engage tomorrow): Your assessment of the dating of 1 Corinthians is in keeping with scholarly consensus and there is no point of discussion there. Let's call it 50 AD. And, yes, Paul utilizes various things to make points regarding sundry topics.

    Indeed, 15.3-7 is a reiteration of a tradition (elsewhere, "the" tradition) he previously provided to the Corinthians - which is important in this discussion, viz. "previously provided." For, although he provides, as you note, "no details as to when, where, how, what time, and what was said" in this place, it is important to note that he spent considerable time with the Corinithians: eighteen months (Acts 18.1, 5, 11). Though an argument from silence, it would be unreasonably to assume that all of the aforementioned details, not present in 15.3-7, were rehearsed time and again over his tenure in Corinth. Indeed, he intimates as much since he passed onto them what was received in the technical creedal formula of transmission. What is more, several of these details are rehearsed elsewhere, in Galatians for instance.

    Even then, Paul is not tied to what we, post-Enlightenment analytical thinkers, would expect from conventional recapitulation. Women, for instance, are entirely omitted from his litany of witnesses. Certainly the Corinthians were aware that Jesus appear women. The point is this: this highly condensed, technical and formulaic recitation is confessional, not comprehensive. It does not function that way and it would be an imposition for us to expect it here. The Corinthians are being prompted, in a larger discussion about our anticipated participation in the resurrection, to recall the total teaching over Paul's tenure on the resurrection from a reductionistic creed.

    More important are your questions: "When Paul indicates he saw Jesus (9.1), he gives no indication of Jesus' form. Was it a vision" Was Jesus a physical body? Was it on earth, or was it when Paul was transported to heaven?" To these questions we'll turn when I return. (I have a 7 year old celebrating a birthday tonight!)

    Kind regards,
    John


    Gary:  And, unfortunately, dear Reader, that is where the debate ended.

    Revisiting the Debate: LCMS Pastor John Bombaro vs. Atheist "DagoodS", Part 2

    Earlier this year LCMS pastor, Dr. John Bombaro, kindly agreed to debate atheist blogger "DagoodS" here on this blog at my (desperate) request.  DagoodS and other Bible skeptics were making a brutal online, frontal assault upon my orthodox Christian faith...and were close to victory.  I called out for reinforcements.  Pastor Bombaro agreed to come to my aid.  Unfortunately his kind assistance was too late...my faith collapsed within just a few short days, before the debate had really had a chance to fully develop.

    However, I want to go back over the discussion between Dr. Bombaro and DagoodS and see if we can learn any more from their discussion:


    (Click here to read Part 1)


    DagoodS (former conservative Christian, now atheist):

    John Bombaro,

    Thank you for the discussion. I am not entirely sure what Gary is looking for here, so if you don’t mind, I would be happy to bounce some ideas, concerns and questions with you. I am not looking for a debate, nor some declared “winner”—more like two people talking over coffee. I am sure to state facts and concepts you already know—I am covering ground for any lurker.

    Focusing on whether Paul meant a spiritual or physical resurrection (in broad terms, as even those words come with qualifiers) in 1 Cor. 15.

    1 Corinthians is a letter to the Church in Corinth where Paul addresses numerous doctrinal issues. I would generally date it 50 CE +/- 5 years. One can almost see Paul checking off each subject as he covers it—divorce, eating, church worship, gifts, etc. Paul uses various devices in arguing doctrinal points, including the authority of God (7:10), Nature (11:14), Israel’s history (10:1-5), the Tanakh (10:7), Jesus events (11:23-27) and, of course, his own presentation of arguments. In short, Paul freely uses whatever means necessary to make his point.

    In 15:3-7 he reiterates a tradition he previously provided to the Corinthians, listing appearances of Jesus post-mortem, concluding with Jesus’ appearance to Paul. He provides no details as to when, where, how, what time, what was said (if anything) other than a chronological order. He does not record a Damascus road experience. When Paul indicates he saw Jesus (9:1), he gives no indication of Jesus’ form. Was it a vision? Was Jesus a physical body? Was it even on earth, or was it when Paul was transported to heaven? (2 Cor. 2:12). As you know, a theme in Jewish writing of the time involved heroes travelling to heaven, such as the Book of Enoch.

    The lack of detail and vagueness results in our still discussing, 2000 years later, what Paul meant by Jesus’ appearances in his letter!

    First Paul argues there must be a resurrection (15:12-34). It would appear some Corinthians were following the Sadducee (or other pagan) principle of no resurrection at all, otherwise, why would Paul spend the time on the topic? Raising the interesting question as to what WAS being declared in the early church regarding resurrection if…20 years after Jesus death…there was this divide on such a foundational doctrinal point. Additionally, vs. 29-30 indicate Paul encouraged people being baptized for the dead, and this ceremony would be useless if there was no resurrection, giving more insight to how little we know about the initial teachings and practices of Christianity. (Additional questions—how big was the Corinthian church? 5? 50? 100? Was it made up of Jews, God-fearers, Gentiles? Slaves, landowners, merchants? We simply do not know.)

    Then we come to the heart of our issue—Paul’s description of the Resurrection body. Vs. 35-58. Of course one can argue this was a physical resurrection. The Pharisees held to a physical body that would be revived and live again (Josephus Antiquities 18:14), and as Paul followed Pharisee philosophy, one would naturally assume he continued or transferred this belief into his Christianity. Paul appears to follow a belief in general resurrection in vs. 23, again similar to Pharisees. And in vs. 52 Paul talks about the dead being raised, as if their bodies would be a conduit for whatever happens in the next age.

    But…one could equally argue this was a spiritual resurrection—where the soul or spirit transports to heaven, while the body remains in the ground. He talks about the body being a seed, which becomes another kind of flesh. (vs. 37-38). The seed doesn’t remain; the seed doesn’t “transform” into another seed—it becomes an entirely different thing. As equally different as—to Paul—birds and fish and animals are different. Likewise Paul contrasts whatever body is in heaven with what is on earth. (vs. 39-41). If initially a natural body, when resurrected, it becomes a spiritual body. Just like Adam came from the dust (nature), Jesus is of Heaven (spirit.)

    The natural body is not the one to inherit heaven. (vs. 50). I have read N.T. Wright’s argument as presented, and it is not persuasive. It comes across as justification to avoid Paul’s forthright statement. What is the difference between a “spiritual resurrection” and a “completely new and different body provided by God in the afterlife animated by God’s spirit”? Isn’t this saying the same thing? Additionally, Paul indicates even if the natural body is completely destroyed, there will still be a spiritual body in heaven. (2 Cor. 5:1).

    Gary:

    This is the point I made in my recent post reviewing NT Wright's work, The Resurrection of the Son of God.  Early Christians were not claiming that a resurrected human being walked out of Jesus' grave.  Early Christians were claiming that a god, in the visual form of a man, but with a supernatural corpus, walked out (or teleported out; the Gospels do not tell us) of Jesus' tomb.

    Stories of gods and demi-gods taking different forms and doing all sorts of supernatural wonders would not have been a surprise to first century pagans.  It would have been to devout Jews.  And that is why the overwhelming majority of Jews did not believe this supernatural tale.


    A Layman's Review of NT Wright's, "The Resurrection of the Son of God", Conclusion

    Ok, I have finished the book.  Here is my overall review:

    Wright spends chapter after chapter, page after page, building the case that no first century pagan or Jew would believe in the report of the bodily resurrection of a deceased human being.  This concept would have been unheard of and unimaginable in the first century Roman world.

    Wright also makes the shocking statement that the historicity of some of the more odd/fantastic details in the four Resurrection accounts could be "embroidered" theological statements meant to deepen the readers sense of the profoundness of this event, not necessarily to be taken literally.  He specifically points out the fantastical assertion by "Matthew" that dead saints were raised from the dead at the moment that Jesus died, but remained in their graves for three days, to come out and walk the streets of Jerusalem once Jesus had exited his grave.

    I am shocked that inerrantist conservative Christian pastors would recommend that I read this book...but they did!

    NT Wright quite obviously does not believe in the strict inerrancy of the Bible.  It is irrelevant to him whether dead saints were shaken awake by the earthquake or who actually came to inspect the tomb.  What is important to Bishop Wright is that first century Jews and pagans would buy the story that a dead human being had been restored to life after being truly dead in his tomb for three days.

    But...a dead human being was not restored to (human) life, was he?  The Jesus who needed food and water to stay alive, was susceptible to sickness and death, whose bodily functions required urination and defecation...etc...did not come out of his grave.  What came out of his grave was a "transformed body" that looked like Jesus, talked like Jesus, and acted like Jesus in a very general sense.  But the "Jesus" who walked out of that tomb was not a human being!  He was a god; some would say a demi-god.  He was a god who took the form of a human, lived 30+ years in the body of a human, and then after the death and burial of that body, left his tomb as a god...with a god-like body in human form.

    One only has to read all the superstitious tales of the Greeks to see gods and demi-gods taking the forms of humans and then reverting back to their divine forms.  The tale of the "resurrection" of Jesus is not too far a stretch from this Greek legendary tradition.  So the assertion that it would not be believable to first century pagans is false.

    However, the assertion that this tale would not be believed by first century Jews is mostly true.  The fact is that the overwhelming majority of first century Jews did not believe this supernatural tale.  The overwhelming majority of Jews for the last twenty centuries have not believed this supernatural tale.  The fact that a small minority of Jews, mostly from the uneducated, superstitious, lower classes bought this tall tale is not really surprising at all. 

    The Resurrection stories are contradictory.  NT Wright chooses to ignore this glaring problem by claiming that these discrepancies do not matter.  However, without verifiable, corroborating eyewitness testimony, the belief in this supernatural tale boils down to whether it was possible that a  few first century Jews would buy this story.

    Most Jews?  No.
    Half of all Jews?  No.
    A significant minority of Jews?  No.
    A small group of lower class, uneducated, superstitious Jewish fishermen and peasants?  Yes.

    This supernatural tall tale was not believed by the overwhelming majority of Jews in the first century for one very good reason:  everyone knew that this supernatural event did NOT really happen.

    Mormons and Conservative Christians are being Fooled by the same Delusion

    What are the reasons that orthodox/conservative Christians give to prove that the Mormon supernatural claims are wrong, and how would a Mormon counter?

    Christian (C): The Bible clearly teaches that the teachings of Mormonism are not from God.

    Mormon (M): Did God create a committee to determine which denomination/Church follows His doctrine properly and which do not? The interpretation of the Bible is open to individual interpretation assisted by the Holy Spirit. Conservative Christians have no proof that the Holy Spirit does not direct our Mormon teachings. It is simply their opinion against ours.

    C: Christians have multiple witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus, Mormons only have Joseph Smith. The Mormon supernatural beliefs must be believed by accepting one man's word. That is ridiculous. Joseph Smith could have simply had an hallucination, a vision, been drunk, or made the whole thing up.

    M: Actually, that is incorrect. The Mormon Church has ELEVEN signed affidavits of men who swore under oath that they saw the Golden Tablets of Moroni and three of those men swore under oath that they also saw the angel himself.

    Orthodox/conservative Christianity has no affidavits of eyewitnesses to their supernatural claim. They don't even have one single, SIGNED, testimony of an eyewitness to the Resurrection. All four of the Gospels are anonymous. The authors could have just been hallucinating, having visions, been drunk, or made it all up.

    Besides, all scholars agree that Matthew and Luke are simply plagiarized versions of Mark and John most likely used Mark as a basis for his story and then took off on his wild tale, inventing all kinds of new teachings, sermons, and doctrines not found in the Synoptics.

    C: Archaeologists have not found one shred of evidence of an ancient Hebrew civilization in North America; their walled cities; or their horses. Horses did not arrive in the New World until the Spanish brought them.

    M: The evidence just hasn't been found yet. It is there. God says so.

    C: The Resurrection must have occurred because no first century Jew would have believed in an executed then resurrected Messiah. The growth of the early Church is proof that the resurrection really happened.

    M: The Testament given to Joseph Smith by Moroni had to have occurred because no nineteenth century American would have believed that an angel would descend from heaven and give Golden Plates to an ex-criminal like Joseph Smith. Mormonism has grown from six people to 15 million in less than 200 years. Christianity never achieved that level of success in its first two hundred years.

    C: Jesus gives us joy, peace, and comfort in our hearts and blesses us with many wonderful blessings and experiences in our lives. This is an additional proof that conservative Christianity is the only Truth.

    M: Actually studies have shown that Mormons are among the happiest, kindest, most giving people on the planet. This is proof that WE are the true Church of Jesus Christ.


    Gary:  So do you see the problem, dear Reader?  Mormons...and every other exclusivist, fundamentalist religion in the world...use the exact same trick as do conservative Christians when their Holy Book is accused of containing contradictions and discrepancies: "Any possible harmonization to an alleged discrepancy refutes the charge of a discrepancy."

    So if you ask a Mormon why there is a complete absence of archaeological evidence of ancient Hebrews in North America, his response will be, "It just hasn't been found yet". When you ask the same Mormon why there are passages in the Book of Mormon that any third grader can see are contradictory, the Mormon always can find some harmonization...no matter how far fetched it may be.

    If you ask an Orthodox Jew why there is no archaeological trace of two million Hebrews wandering in the Sinai for 40 years, one of their "harmonizations" is that one of the tribes of Israel went behind the movements of the entire people and "cleaned up" every trace of the Israelites!

    Fundamentalists of any religion will go to the most amazing lengths to hold there discrepancy-riddled belief systems together. Why? Because they have already decided in their minds that it MUST be true, therefore, no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince them otherwise.

    So if every fundamentalist religion on the planet can 'harmonize' away every discrepancy in their holy books, how can we know which if any is the one true Faith, as each one of them claim? Each one of these religions will tell you that if you will just read their holy book with an open mind and heart, God will reveal the real truth to you. What they are essentially saying is, "Check your brain at the door. Abandon reason, logic, and common sense and just depend on our invisible ghost to tell you what is the truth.

    That kind of hocus pocus belongs in the uneducated, superstitious ancient world, not in the 21st century! Use your brains, folks!

    So the real question is: "Why Mr. or Mrs. Fundamentalist, MUST your belief system be true?" If you ask them this question, you will begin to then see that ultimately the foundation of their belief system is not based on evidence or facts, but upon assumptions of facts and superstitious adherence (they call this "faith") to whichever supernatural tale that someone in their past has convinced them to believe.

    Revisiting the Debate between LCMS Pastor John Bombaro and atheist DagoodS

    Earlier this year LCMS pastor, Dr. John Bombaro, kindly agreed to debate atheist blogger "DagoodS" here on this blog at my (desperate) request.  DagoodS and other Bible skeptics were making a brutal online, frontal assault upon my orthodox Christian faith...and were close to victory.  I called out for reinforcements.  Pastor Bombaro agreed to come to my aid.  Unfortunately his kind assistance was too late...my faith collapsed within just a few short days, before the debate had really had a chance to fully develop.

    However, I want to go back over the discussion between Dr. Bombaro and DagoodS and see if we can learn any more from their discussion:


    Pastor Bombaro:

    It appears that the conversation has stalled on the term "spiritual", where it seems the assumption is that "spiritual" equals that which is non-corporeal, immaterial, altogether non-physical, etc., Limiting our discussion to Pauline epistles, we find him employing the Greek "pneumatikos" (spiritual) not uniformly, but with great variation and different associations. It is a high-level word with a spectrum of meaning and use. Indeed, this is not only the case throughout this written corpus, but within 1 Corinthians itself. This is important because it mitigates against (1) a reading horizon that categorizes anything associated with being "spiritual" with things that are just immaterial and (2) setting in strict juxtaposition things material with things immaterial, for example: earth vs heaven, matter vs spirit, time vs eternity, visible vs invisible, nature vs grace. You get the point.

    Okay, so how does Paul use the term spiritual in 1 Cor? In many different ways, e.g., in 9.11 it is fairly obvious that its used as it that which pertains to the soul as distinguished from the body; in 12.1 and 14.1 ta pneumaticka modifies the noun "gifts" (hence the rendering: "spiritual gifts"). And several more uses could be discussed, but let that suffice for now. 1 Cor 15.44 is different because he does not use the exact same word as 9.11 (which is in the plural) and certainly not in the same way. He uses a masculine form in the singular, where word, sentence structure, and topic provide a meaning agreeable to pertaining to the nature of the Spirit. As we would say, e.g., humanly, but he says Spirit-ly. Put slightly differently, as we would say anthropological (of or from man), Paul says Spiritual (of or from the Spirit).

    Significantly, Paul is saying that the human body is acted upon by the Spirit so as to render it of or from the Spirit. In other words, the object (a human body) comes now under the domain, not of oxygen and glucose--the laws and principles of established physics--but the domain and power of the Spirit where it cannot die a future death (and needs neither oxygen or glucose, being suitably fitted for the future state of existence.

    Since (NT) Wright is the leading authority on this point I'll reproduce what he write here: "In verse 44 Paul contrasts the two types of bodies, the present one and the resurrection one. The words he uses are technical and tricky. Many versions translate these words as 'physical body' and 'spiritual body', but this is highly misleading . . . If you go that route, you may well end up saying, as many have done, that Paul is making a contrast simply between what we call a 'body', that is a physical object, and what we might call a ghost, a 'spiritual' object in the sense of 'non-physical'. But that is exactly what he is not saying. The contrast he's making is between a body animated by one type of life and a body animated by another type. The difference between them is found, if you like, in what the two bodies run on. The present body is animated by the normal life which all humans share. The word Paul uses for this often means 'soul'; he means it in the sense of the ordinary life-force on which we all depend in this body, the ordinary energy that keeps us breathing and our blood circulating. But the body that we shall be given in the resurrection is to be animated by God's own Spirit. This is what Paul says in a similar passage, Romans 8.10-11: the Spirit of Jesus the Messiah dwells within you at the moment, and God will give life to your mortal bodies through this Spirit who lives inside you." 1 Corinthians (SPCK: 2003), 220-21.


    Gary:

    I believe that what Pastor Bombaro is getting at here is that Paul did not believe that Jesus had come out of his grave as a bodiless ghost.  Therefore, Pastor Bombaro would strongly disagree with liberals such as Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong who believe that Jesus was only spiritually resurrected...his body decomposed in his grave.  Pastor Bombaro is emphasizing that Paul believed that Jesus was resurrected with a body, but not just a normal body, a transformed body.

    But my question is:  Does this distinction really matter?

    If someone told you that they had just seen your deceased grandfather walking around town, talking to people, letting people touch him, and eating broiled fish, what would be your reaction?  Answer:  "Your nuts!"  But if this same "witness" went on to say that although this resurrected body looked and talked like your grandfather, it glowed bright white, it walked through locked doors, it teleported between cities, it appeared and disappeared right in front of everyone's eyes, and had just minutes ago levitated up into outer space...what would be your reaction?

    Answer:  You are REALLY nuts!

    But if this "witness" was persistent and told you that it really was your grandfather and you finally believed that this "witness"  really did see something, what would you believe that he saw and maybe even touched?

    Answer:  a GHOST!

    Human bodies do not glow, teleport, or levitate.  Period.  The early Christians may have believed that they saw and even touched a transformed body, but it was not a reanimated human body, was it?  So what would we call something that looks like a human body, talks like a human body, and acts like a human body...but is not a real human body?  Answer:  a ghost!  Even if we are told that one can touch this body, we would still say that it is a ghost, or a vampire, or a zombie, wouldn't we? 

    And what is the most likely source of the belief by the early disciples that they had seen this ghost?  Before accepting the very, very remote possibility that this physics-defying supernatural ghost really did exist, wouldn't it be much, much more likely that this belief developed from the vivid imaginations, dreams, and visions of his despondent, very superstitious, and mostly uneducated, lower class disciples, and that the tales of touching this ghost were just later embellishments???

    There is no evidence for this supernatural, far-fetched ghost tale.  There are no known, verifiable eyewitnesses.  The four Gospels were written anonymously, in distant countries, very possibly after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, when the majority of the witnesses to the crucifixion and an alleged resurrection would be dead.

    So, dear Reader, do you believe that there are ghosts today in 2014 who teleport and levitate into outer space?  If not, why then do you believe that there were ghosts in the first century doing the very same supernatural acts?
    
    













    Friday, September 26, 2014

    First Century Jews would not have believed the Resurrection without strong Evidence

    I am nearing the end of reading conservative Christian New Testament scholar NT Wright's landmark work, The Resurrection of the Son of God...all 800 plus pages...(thankfully).  Wright has built a case from the very first chapter that first century Jews would never have believed that the Jewish messiah would be executed and then rise from the dead.  This concept just would not have been believable.

    Well, guess what?  It wasn't, and they didn't.

    The overwhelming majority of first century Jews did NOT believe this story.  The overwhelming majority of Jews rejected Christian claims that Jesus was the Jewish messiah, and not only in the first century, but for the last 2,000 years!  Paul himself lamented this fact in his epistles!

    So how probable is it that a small minority of people in any religion will buy into a new teaching that is diametrically opposed to the core teachings of that religion?

    Answer:  It happens all the time!