It is sometimes interesting when a comment rolls in for a posting from over a year ago, in this case for Bart Ehrman’s new book: ‘Did Jesus Exist? It is always interesting and particularly nice when the new comment is thoughtfully written, meaningful and provocative, as this one is by Albert Bodt. He begins by quoting from a comment by Tony dated March 21, 2012. Dr. Bodt then writes:
“Modern day Christianity-loathing Academia is almost unanimous in saying that Jesus did in fact exist.”
Tony, it seems from your post that you have a distinct bias against academia. As an academician and scientist, while there may be individual academics that have objections to Christianity, I cannot vouch for them. I can frankly tell you that academics who study the historicity of religions, Christianity included, in general do not “loath” Christianity, or for that matter, any other religion. Biblical history academics are not concerned with theology but they are interested in the history, the actual events of the the formative Christian era. Whether this coincides with the theology is irrelevant. There is no judgment as to the beliefs of those who adhere to the theological precepts of Christianity, even if they themselves are not believers such as as myself. I do however have an abiding interest in history including ancient history. As a (non-blblical) scientist ( I am involved mostly in Medical as well as Anthropological research) and medical clinician (my background is in Biology and Cellular Biology), I am interested only in the physical evidence to determine what is going on in my fields of interest. That evidence has to be supportive of ones hypothesis, determined by diligent research and experimentation. The studies (experiments) must be reviewed by experts in the field (peer reviewed) before the results of the study can be published in a specialty journal. The study has to reproducible and yield the same results by other scientists in the field to be eventually accepted as hard evidence in support of one’s hypothesis. After several attempts to disprove one’s results, there being no evidence to falsify the conclusions, the hypothesis becomes a “theory”. After further time, and efforts to disprove the theory, it becomes generally accepted as fact, bearing in mind that science only determines the probability of a theory being true. Such is the case with several theories in biology including Evolution, which is considered fact due to the high degree of probability of it being true, as all attempts to disprove it over the last 155 years–haven’t. Obviously, historians, including Biblical New Testament historians cannot use the scientific method to the same degree as biologists or physicists, however they are quite diligent in their efforts to tease the physical historical evidence from the literature, which includes the ancient documents (most of which, if not all, are copies, as the originals are lost), in Greek, Latin and some in Aramaic. Some devote their careers to analyzing one document or even one chapter. These individuals are dedicated to discovering what really happened as opposed to those that believe what happened (despite their lack of evidence).
To respond to the second half of your statement. I am inclined to believe the evidence as cited by the academic experts in the field of Biblical, New Testament, history. The prevailing evidence seems to suggest that there was in fact an individual named Yeshua of Nazareth, who was probably baptized by a person who we know as John the Baptist, around 27CE and preached in Judea until 30CE when he was arrested for sedition and sentenced to death by the common Roman method of execution for enemies of the Roman State, crucifixion, by the governor of Judea, one Pontius Pilatus, who we know was governor from 26-36 CE. There is plentiful physical evidence to support this. The four (three synoptic) Gospels themselves, even though written decades (between 60-90 CE) after the death of Jesus, are sources that can be combed and teased for evidence for the historical Jesus. These were obviously based on earlier writings and oral traditions that go back to around 30CE. Paul’s letters offer much the same titillating tidbits of historical evidence. The picture of the historical Jesus is not at all the image that Christians see in their Jesus. The real history is nothing like what Christians believe what happened. The modern story is a construct that has been embellished by supernatural and fantastical events through the millennia, by hundreds of believers who added them for their own purposes, never mind the translational mistakes that occurred. We as scientists, have no opinion, or professional interest in theology, only in the physical evidence that describes the physical universe and what happened in it.
Kind of sweeping assumptions in those last three sentences.
The historical Jesus was a Jewish prophet who was crucified by Roman soldiers sometime between 30 and 33 AD. In all probability, Jesus was buried in an identifiable tomb, rather than in a common grave for criminals. This detail is historically significant because of an historical event, the Resurrection, and an artifact, the Shroud of Turin.
The Resurrection occurred within a few years of the crucifixion, and can’t be explained in terms of any other historical event because the followers of Jesus founded the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church rose to political power in the 4th century, and produced Western Civilization. When the Catholic Church lost its influence in the 18th century, the wars and genocide of the 19th and 20th centuries followed.
The Shroud of Turin is a long piece of linen with a mysterious image of Jesus showing the blood marks from the crucifixion nails, whipping, crown of thorns, and stabbing, as reported in the gospels A heretical Christian sect probably created the image in the 1st or 2nd century with methods that have been lost to history.
The faith response to the historical Jesus is to believe that Jesus is alive in a new life with God and that if you follow Jesus the same good thing can happen to you. The historical Jesus includes an accounting of those who believe in Jesus, those who don’t, and those who think believing in life after death is irrational. One of the reasons I believe in Jesus is that those who think faith is irrational tend to be ignorant of the cosmological argument for God’s existence, unintelligent about the mind-body problem, and irrational about the meaning of life.
Quote: “A heretical Christian sect probably created the image in the 1st or 2nd century with methods that have been lost to history.”
Question: Why would this hypothesis of yours should be more probable than the idea that it is the real crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth who produced this image?
Sub-questions: If your hypothesis was right, than why history would have also lost the name of this heretical sect who would have created such a false relic at the same time it would have lost the method they used to make it? And why there is absolutely no historical record of any Christian group of that era who would have displayed or used such a false shroud of Christ?
Yannick, and everyone!
Have you ever read this?
“Moreover, I have heard that certain persons have this grievance against me: When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect, after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a CURTAIN hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered.It bore an IMAGE EITHER OF CHRIST or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures,”
Letter LI. From Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (lived around 320-403), in Cyprus, to John, Bishop of Jerusalem
Well, its new to me. However, the passage goes on: “Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person.” Doesn’t sound as if he was keen on it, or anything like it, does it?
O.K., I’m well aware of this text but I seriously doubt that he was talking about the Shroud of Turin. Nevertheless, if this text is authentic (it’s not 100% sure because some historians think this could have been written during the 8th century by an Iconoclast), that means there was already some portrait of a bearded Christ with long hair in Palestine during the second half of the 4th century because, in another letter, the same Epiphanius was highly critical of some Christian artists because they were depicting Jesus with a beard and long hair because, as he said, they thought he was a Nazarite… So it is truly possible that this critical letter of Epiphanius versus artists who made depictions of Jesus with a beard and long hair was caused by his Palestinian encounter with this image of Jesus (or a Saint) on a curtain… But again, the fact that he wasn’t even sure it was Jesus and the fact that in another letter he was clearly talking about artistic depiction of Jesus make it highly improbable that what he saw was the Shroud of Turin…
Addition note: If that’s true that there were some artistic depictions of Christ with a beard and long hair in Palestine during the 4th century, it is truly possible that this artistic “trend” had started by someone who had seen the body image on the Shroud of Turin (which would have been kept during that time in the Jerusalem area or elsewhere in Palestine). Of course, there are many “if” here and this is just a possibility.
Whenever you see an image, it was created by a human being. There is no evidence that God created the image on the Shroud. It was Gnostics that may have made the Shroud. (In Search of the Shroud of Turin: New Light on Its History and Origins by Robert Drews)
David, I read your comment with interest.
A few comments from my perspective if I may.
First, most scholars in the field, based on careful analysis of the available ancient literature, analysis of the known events and their dates (year CE), agree that the crucifixion with reasonable confidence, occurred ~30CE. The estimate of the age of Jesus was about 33 years of age, which makes the year of his birth 3-4BCE. I unfortunately cannot cite the specific evidence for this off the top of my head, but I believe my statement to be correct.
Your post makes the following claims
” Jesus was buried in an identifiable tomb, rather than in a common grave for criminals”.
This is of course stated in the gospels, and I believe the site of burial was provided for by Joseph of Arimathea.
“This detail is historically significant because of an historical event, the Resurrection, and an artifact, the Shroud of Turin”
You speak of the resurrection as an historical event. There is not one iota of historical evidence that such an event occurred. This is a theological precept that has no place in academic historiography. The story goes, depending on which gospel you read, that when Jesus’ disciples approached the tomb, the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. An “angel”appeared to them and told them that he had risen ( I am paraphrasing here). These are articles of faith, not history. By definition, faith is a belief, without any evidence to support it. It is an emotively based phenomenon, not founded on any physical scientifically reproducible evidence. The rising of a human being back to life after clinical death just does not happen. The changes that occur immediately after death occurs, precludes the return to life, no matter who the individual is. One can believe what he or she wishes to believe, however, the reality remains and has been the same throughout time. The story, in my and others view, is made up, by those who had an interest in maintaining calm and preventing political unrest after the execution of Jesus. Those would have been the Sanhedrin, specifically Caiaphas. They presumably did not want Jesus’s tomb to become a shrine, a place to rally and further the Jesus movement. A more plausible and more likely scenario could have involved two or more priest novices (who were traditionally dressed in white robes), sent by the Sanhedrin (Caiaphus), to remove the corpse during the night (who else could have gotten past the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, and gotten help in removing the heavy stone in front of it). Then, they taking the corpse into the Negev desert, left it there to be devoured by wild dogs.(1) They then advised that his body had risen from the dead; a story easily accepted by the illiterate peasants that made up most of Jesus’ followers. The resurrection story sounds idealistic not realistic and I submit to you and others that it historically never happened.
Secondly, the Shroud of Turin as a historical icon. I agree that it is indeed that, but not necessarily what believers claim it is. It is indeed controversial and I myself am not well versed in it per se. However, couple of comments.
There is a great deal of disagreement in the lay community regarding the age of the shroud itself. It was dated by Radiocarbon 14 dating, performed at three separate academic centers, independent of each other. The date of the shroud was dated to the middle ages, roughly the 13th century. Carbon-14 dating is a way of determining the age of certain archeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50,000 to 75,000 years old. It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities. The more recent the artifact the smaller the confidence interval, that is to say, the range of dates of which the mean is the date given to the artifact. It was developed by one of my professors at UCLA and remains to this day, as far as I know, the main method of dating organic artifacts. It is accurate enough that one can rely on its results with a fairly good confidence interval. There are academics, or purported academics who would challenge that statement, however it remains the mainstay of dating biological material artifacts. The fact that three independent prestigious academic centers independently dated the shroud to the middle ages, suggests very strongly that it was created during that time period and not long before or after, despite all the obfuscations of those who disagree with it. Secondly, the image on the shroud, however it was formed has the image formed by an individual of a stature of 5 feet 10 inches. This itself is an unusual stature for men of the first century CE, where the common height of a man was about 5 feet one to three inches. Had Jesus been 5’10” one may assume some scriptural reference to his stature, as it would be highly unusual. It would coincide more with the height of someone of the middle ages, and even then, this person would have been considered tall.
“The Resurrection occurred within a few years of the crucifixion, and can’t be explained in terms of any other historical event because the followers of Jesus founded the Catholic Church”
I believe you misstated years for days. I am not sure what you meant by the second part of your statement, however I refer to my statement above regarding the resurrection. I for one, do not subscribe to supernatural or mystical statements as evidence, as it does not provide one iota of physical evidence that an event occurred. Again, people don’t become alive again after they die for the clinical reasons cited above. It is again a matter of faith, which I see as a belief based on emotive (emotional) responses, not factual, evidence based historical events. I will not go into the history of the Catholic Church as its foundation is based on a restricted set of beliefs that coincided roughly with the theology of the majority of Church fathers in the fourth century to suit their theology. It left out those writings that did not meet the specific theological criteria of those few individuals. In fact any one who disagreed was excommunicated and in a few instances killed.
“When the Catholic Church lost its influence in the 18th century, the wars and genocide of the 19th and 20th centuries followed. ”
I doubt very much that the “genocidal wars” which you mentioned, (American and French Revolutions? Nepoleonic Wars?, American Civil War?, WWI?, WWII?) had any thing to do with the decline of the influence of the Catholic Church. There is not one shred of evidence these are in any way connected.
“The Shroud of Turin is a long piece of linen with a mysterious image of Jesus showing the blood marks from the crucifixion nails, whipping, crown of thorns, and stabbing, as reported in the gospels A heretical Christian sect probably created the image in the 1st or 2nd century with methods that have been lost to history.”
There is no convincing evidence that what you claim is correct regarding the shroud. It is a piece of linen, with the image of a man 5’10”, who appears to have wounds consistent with scourging, and wounds to the ankles and wrists. The fact that the wounds to the ankles and wrists are evident is historically interesting. If one was crucified by the use of nails (some victims were tied to the cross), then the nails or spikes would have been placed through the ankles (there is a specimen of the calcaneous (ankle) extant that is the remains of a 20ish year old male from the first century with spike through it as a result of crucifixion). Additionally, the spikes were not placed in the hands but through
the wrists, as the hands are not capable of supporting the weight of the body. That evidence in itself does not suggest that this is the shroud of Jesus, far from it, especially in light of the independent C14 radio dating.
“The faith response to the historical Jesus is to believe that Jesus is alive in a new life with God and that if you follow Jesus the same good thing can happen to you. The historical Jesus includes an accounting of those who believe in Jesus, those who don’t, and those who think believing in life after death is irrational ”
You are showing your bias here as a believer. Therefore you cannot dispassionately argue on the historical evidence and mix that with your beliefs in the theology which I suspect you were raised with and is emotionally, not factually or scientifically, driven. To say that those of us who rely on physical evidence for the historicity of events as they really occurred and do not subscribe to the religious belief that you and other Christians subscribe to as irrational, is motivated by your emotion and perhaps lack of understanding of the scientific method.
“I believe in Jesus is that those who think faith is irrational tend to be ignorant of the cosmological argument for God’s existence, unintelligent about the mind-body problem, and irrational about the meaning of life.”
Again, I am not sure what you mean here, it is somewhat of a rambling statement that obviously is motivated by your emotional need to believe those religious precepts that you have been taught. It is very difficult to stand back and look at the physical evidence without a jaundiced eye if you are religiously inclined to accept certain stories as fact. Unfortunately many of those “facts” do not stand up to historic and scientific scrutiny.
Having said everything I have said. I mean to argue against your statement from an academic point of view and do not mean in any way to demean the beliefs you may hold. I have respect for your beliefs. However when making statements, you have to be ready to provide evidence and defend your position. The burden of proof lies with the individual who makes the claim. That proof must rely on hard, reproducible, falsifiable evidence (Popper).
Sincerely, A. Bodt., M.D.
(1) Freeman, Charles A New History of Early Christianity, Yale University Press 2009, pp
To Albert Bodt:
The Resurrection is both an historical event and an object of faith. As an event, it refers to the fact that the followers of Jesus swore up and down that he appeared to them. This is sometimes referred to as the Easter experience. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossans, who believe life ends in the grave, traced the Resurrection to within a few years of his crucifixion.
The connection between the so-called Enlightenment and the horrors of the 19th and 20th century is that when people lose their faith in God, they become prone to irrational beliefs: nationalism, eugenics, anti-semitism, racism, imperialism, socialism, communism, Nazism.
Atheists don’t even understand the theory that humans are embodied spirits. All they understand in materialism and dualism. They have a blindspot about the mind-body problem.
Atheists also don’t know or understand that humans are finite beings and God is an infinite being. Atheists are irrational about the meaning of life, with the exception of Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre said the “man is a useless passion.”
“The story, in my and others view, is made up, by those who had an interest in maintaining calm and preventing political unrest after the execution of Jesus. Those would have been the Sanhedrin, specifically Caiaphas. They presumably did not want Jesus’s tomb to become a shrine, a place to rally and further the Jesus movement. A more plausible and more likely scenario could have involved two or more priest novices (who were traditionally dressed in white robes), sent by the Sanhedrin (Caiaphus), to remove the corpse during the night (who else could have gotten past the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, and gotten help in removing the heavy stone in front of it). Then, they taking the corpse into the Negev desert, left it there to be devoured by wild dogs.(1)
Doesn’t make sense I am afraid. Getting rid of the body and then making up a story about the resurrection would have had the effect of rallying Jesus’s followers, rather than disheartening them, especially as Jesus prophesized the resurrection,
The best thing Caiaphas could do would have been to do nothing. If he did nothing, and the resurrection did not happen, then it is highly likely that the Jesus movement would have just passed. Followers will have become disheartened, and any thought of a rallying movement, however unlikely, could easily have been snuffed out.
Complementary comment to back-up my first post : During the first and second centuries A.D., the context was surely not at all in favor of the creation of such a relic as the false shroud of Christ. Effectively, there was still no public Christian sanctuary, no public Christian church or cathedral, no public Christian pilgrimage place, etc. and the Christian religion was not perceived very well by the authorities throughout the Roman empire, whether they be Roman or Jewish. In such a bad context (which was accompanied by sporadic persecutions from time to time), why such a Christian group would have gain in creating such a false relic of Jesus-Christ? That makes no sense to me. I have studied this subject intensively and came out to the conclusion that the only possible period of time in which a false relic of the Shroud of Christ like the Shroud of Turin could have been created is between the Edict of Milan of 313 A.D. and the apparition of the first Pantocrator icon, around 500 A.D. and I must add that such an hypothesis is very improbable because, among other things, in order to accomplish that feat, the real body of a crucified man was necessary and we all know that very few crucifixions done with the standard Roman method were done during that period of time…
Yes, and neither I believe this was the real Shroud. But some copy? It is another clue that the Shroud may have existed long before 1300s (even if the text had been interpolated in the 8th century -which is unlikely, because it is hard to believe that forger would have use the phrase “I do not rightly remember whose the image was”). The curtain was big enough to be used as a burial cloth…
I agree with what you say. As I said earlier, IF this letter of Epiphanius is genuine and IF the image on curtain he saw was that of Christ and not of another man, than yes, it is truly possible to think that there were some artistic images of Christ in Palestine (and maybe elsewhere in the Roman empire) that were influenced (directly or indirectly) by the image on the Shroud.
Additional fact that can help us reject the idea that this particular image on curtain could have been the real Shroud that is in Turin now : After he wrote that he saw this image, Epiphanius wrote that he ordered the gardian of the Church to remove this curtain and its image from the Church and use it for the burial of a poor. This is a very good clue to conclude that this was surely not the Shroud of Turin because it is ludicrous to think that a Bishop like Epiphanius would have dared to say to the gardian of the Church to reuse such a gruesome burial cloth that had been already used to covered a crucified man for the burial of a poor!!!
The two images verses of the Hymn of the Soul in the Acts of Thomas, ca. 3rd or 4th century:
Suddenly, I saw my image on my garment like in a mirror
Myself and myself through myself
As though divided, yet one likeness
Two images: but one likeness of the king of kings
Ah, my favorite bit of possible Shroud of Turin history.
David wrote: “Whenever you see an image, it was created by a human being. There is no evidence that God created the image on the Shroud. It was Gnostics that may have made the Shroud. (In Search of the Shroud of Turin: New Light on Its History and Origins by Robert Drews).”
My answer: This is ludicrous to think that a Gnostic Christian group could have produced a relic like the Shroud of Turin, which show with graphic details the reality and truth of the Incarnation of God among us (a real human being with a real mortal body who could suffer and die just like us), while it is a well-known fact that one of the most important heresy of the Gnostic movement was to reject the idea that God had really incarnate himself in our flesh!!! In other words, the Shroud of Turin is just the opposite of a “Gnostic” relic of Christ because it clearly show the erroneous aspect of their doctrine! So, from this moment on, you can completely forget the idea that a Gnostic could have produced a false burial cloth as gruesome and humanly realistic as the Shroud of Turin! In other words, the meaning of the Shroud is completely in opposition with what was at the heart of the Gnostic doctrin.
Gnostics venerated Jesus as a wise philosopher, and could very well want something to venerate.
I think you are confusing faith with reason. In reason, we know something is true because we can see the truth of it. In faith, we know something is true because God is telling us. Faith is both a decision and a gift from God. We believe exactly what God wants us to believe. It is irrational to criticize someone who says, “God hasn’t given me the gift of faith.” Such a person is admitting that God exists, that they don’t have a meaningful life, and that the reasons to believe are persuasive.
When you say the Drews’s theory is “ludicrous,” you are in effect saying people who don’t believe in Jesus have bad judgment. How do you know you are not the one with bad judgment?
I’m afraid David, that Yannick has the stronger point here. It is well understood that the Gnostics believed Jesus was immaterial, … not flesh. How would or could an image on cloth then be relevant to the Gnostics? One would think it would go to show against their beliefs
Anyways to believe the Gnostics had some ‘lost’ method of producing the image, would assume a series of pretty huge coincidences, seeing as much of what has been found about the image, was not possible till just recently, technologically speaking.
Even if I agree with the first part of your answer Ron, I disagree with the rest because it is truly possible that the image (and the bloodstains as well) can have been formed on the cloth because of a totally natural process (or processes). So, if this would be true, we could still make the hypothesis of a natural forgery, meaning that someone could have taken the real dead body of a crucified man looking like Jesus of the Gospel in order to produce a false relic of Christ. Even if such a scenario is very improbable (personally, I estimate the probability as being under 1%), it is still POSSIBLE and no one have the right to completely reject this hypothesis for the moment. The door must be left open for it, even though it is only a very slim opening!
The TS bloody image is GHOSTlike not at all FLESHlike.
Blood is part of the human body Max… Gnostics were thinking Jesus was God who was only wearing a human cloth or something like that (that he never really incarnate in human flesh) and that he could not suffered. All those heretic views are directly contradicted by what we see on the Shroud! So, you can forget about a Gnostic forgery because such an idea just doesn’t fit at all with what we know about the Gnostic philosophy and what we see on the Shroud. Next guess please?
I was not speaking about the TS in terms of gnostic forgery at all just in terms of image. The word ‘flesh’ is far too strong and ill-chosen to refer to such an image recorded on a fabric as Late Antique happy few coud see it. The word ‘ghostlike’ seems more appropriate.
The ‘flat body’ looks out of focus and fuzzy..
..not really incarnate or half incarnate that is…
It seems to appear and disappear (to the sole exception for the blood on it) whether you back up from or get closer to it.
Obviously you have no clue what I meant in the second part of my comment. If the Gnostics had managed somehow to produce this message by some natural means, it raises questions as to what we can see ‘of ‘ the image and see only through our modern technology…Many things which could not have been seen even by those whom supposedly created it.
Typo; “If the Gnostics has managed somehow to produce this IMAGE”….sorry.
Ron, what I mean is this : If the image was formed by a natural process, it could be due to a will of man (which I estimate to be very improbable) or by a will of God (which I estimate to be very probable). But even if hypothesis one is improbable, we must leave the door open to this slim possibility. And concerning your point, be sure that if the image was formed by natural means (from a will of man or of God, whatever), it is normal that many small details could only be seen with our modern technology…
Yannick, Barberis estimated that one of 200 000 000 000 (200 bilion) crucified could have just 7 characteristics similar to that of Jesus. And even if 200 000 000 (200 milions) people were crucified in antiquity, the chance that somebody by coincidence would have the same 7 charactersitics is less than 1:1000.
Those are of course Barberis calculations. One could modify them, but conclusion is essentially the same.
Barberis’s calculations are as absurd now as they were when they were published. My own estimate of 1 in 10000 is much more likely and has never been refuted.
Hugh, no kidding, I have dealed with one sceptic who claimed the same (that Barberis calculations are absurd), and I have calculated my own estimate of 1 in 3000 to show him that exact value is not important, the final conclusion is important. As a part of much larger article that refuted several absurd claims of that particular Shroud sceptic. Want to read it now?
Thanks, OK; a very good site. I’m working through it using Google Translate!
Further to my earlier comment.
Personally, I believe there are elements of the resurrection stories that are literal, and elements that are mythic. I have no doubt that Jesus’s followers experienced his resurrected presence, whatever that precisely was.
The FACT is that we have Paul, someone who was a strong opponent of the Jesus movement, converting within just a few years of Jesus’s death.
We know from Paul’s letters that he had a vision of Jesus. We also know that he attests to over 500 witnesses to Jesus’s resurrection. His account is not just based on a subjective vision that might have been a hallucination, but is also backed up by accounts of direct witnesses. Now, Paul was a pretty matter of fact guy, a pretty credible witness, and very intelligent. And he attests to those witnesses, ‘many of whom are still alive’ – in a very matter of fact way. This IS a historical account.
We also know that Paul emphasized the spiritual, non-material aspect of the resurrection, rather than a bodily resuscitation. You assume that Christianity is based on the revival of Jesus’s physical body. Now some Christians clearly believed that, and do today, but Paul didn’t, and neither do I!
And what of the women witnesses. I know it is a cliche. But the fact remains that a made up story in first century Palestine would have hardly been likely to make up women witnesses to the resurrection.
I have had a number of experiences in life that defy rational explanation. I am a PhD with an IQ of over 150. I realise that these experiences, and my Christian belief, defy atheistic and rationalistic belief. But all I know and experience is all I know and experience. I live by that knowledge and experience, and am compelled by it.
Albert, one last thing. You said:
“The real history is nothing like what Christians believe what happened. The modern story is a construct that has been embellished by supernatural and fantastical events through the millennia, by hundreds of believers who added them for their own purposes, never mind the translational mistakes that occurred..”
Those are big statements, without much evidence, and are in fact wrong. Most of the recorded events of Jesus’s resurrection were recorded within 50 years of his death. Paul wrote some accounts within 20-25 years.
Certainly, church traditions have evolved through the millennia. But the accounts in Paul’s letters, and the gospel accounts, which form the basis for the faith, were recorded in close temporal proximity to the events.
I just want to react about one statement made by Albert in his long comment above: He said: “You (David) speak of the resurrection as an historical event. There is not one iota of historical evidence that such an event occurred.”
I want to say this to Albert and anyone else: You are right! On a pure scientific base, there is not one single proof that the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth really occurred. BUT… There are tons of solid historical evidences that all of the closest followers of this prophet of Galilea were completely convinced (so much that some of them gave their life for this belief) that he was really resurrected.
Now, it’s up to anyone to believe their claim or not. And in the end, who cares? If you don’t need God in this earthly life, that’s fine. But if you need him, the testimony of these early followers of Jesus can truly give you a great hope to go through life.
Last thing: Even if I agree that the Resurrection of Jesus cannot be proven as an historical event, the burial cloths found empty on Easter morning and the tomb itself found empty the same day have to be considered as real historical events since no one (not even the ennemies of the Christians like the Jews or the Romans) during the first few centuries after Jesus’ death ever denied these findings (at least, as we know of from ancient sources). On the contrary, most people who did not believe the claims made by Jesus’ followers ended up thinking that it was them who had stolen and hide the corpse and then claimed he was resurrected. This should be enough a good clue to understand that the empty burial cloths and the empty tomb were not an invention of Jesus followers. A set-up made by them? Some can think this, but the bottom line is this: 2000 years ago or so, on Easter morning in Jerusalem, the burial cloths and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth who had died less than 48 hours earlier were found empty. Now, it’s up to anyone to explain this historical fact the best he can. In my mind, there are two main way to explain this: 1- You believe the claim made by Jesus’ followers. Or 2- You believe the rational explanation of the ennemies of the Christians (i.e. the disciples came at night, they took the corpse and hide it somewhere and then claimed Jesus was resurrected).
I think this summarize pretty well the historical reality of the account of Jesus’ resurrection.
The idea that you are explaining anything by believing that Jesus is alive in a new life with God is a mistake. It is an act of faith. It is both a decision and a gift from God. You have listed all of the reasons there are to believe. The use of the word “explain” implies that people who don’t believe have bad judgment. As I have said, most people who don’t believe fail at the level of intelligence, not the level of reflective judgment. If people who did not believe discussed religion intelligently, rationally, and honestly, it would be an obstacle to faith.
Quote from David’s comment: “The use of the word “explain” implies that people who don’t believe have bad judgment.”
That’s not what I meant. I was simply meaning that because the empty tomb and the empty burial cloths are a true historical event, those who don’t believe the claim of Jesus’ disciples must rationally explain this sudden disappearance of the corpse from inside the Shroud and from inside the tomb in the light of what we know about the rapid expansion of Christianism throughout the Roman empire during the first century A.D. and the will of the first disciples to die for their faith in the Resurrection of their master…
Nowhere else in the history of religion do we find something of that particular nature…
This is what we disagree about. I think I understand what you are saying. No one has to explain the Easter experience. All anyone has to say is that God has not given me the gift of faith. You are demanding that people believe in Jesus. I am summoning people to believe by telling them my reasons for believing. You believe in miracles, and I believe in signs. I don’t care whether the tomb was empty or the Holy Shroud is authentic. All that is relevant is that there is no explanation for the image on the Shroud. It is a sign whether or not it actually touched Jesus.
No, I’m not demanding that people believe in Jesus. You misunderstood my words completely. I don’t care if there are people who don’t believe in Jesus because I believe in the Universal Salvation of all mankind (since we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ and God if the Father of every human being from all time). So, I don’t care at all if there are some who believe in Jesus and some who don’t. I KNOW that every one of them will end up in Heaven anyway… Salvation doesn’t depend on our present faith or on our good deeds. Salvation is a free gift of God who is Love and Mercy and nothing else, as revealed by Jesus.
And concerning the sign of God (for me it is much more a sign of the Resurrection of Christ) that we can find on the Shroud, I have said many times here that it is not so much the image on the cloth than the simple fact that such a gruesome burial cloth has been kept and preserved until this day. For me, that’s the most important sign about the Shroud of Turin.
To conclude, you say that you don’t care if the tomb was empty or not or if the Shroud is the one of Jesus or not. I have absolutely no problem with that!
Additional comment: I don’t demand that people believe in Jesus Christ but if a non-believer in Jesus wants to talk seriously and honestly about the story of the Resurrection of Christ, he MUST find a rational explanation for sudden disappearance of the corpse from inside the Shroud and from inside the tomb less than 48 hours after his entombment, all this in the light of what we know about the rapid expansion of Christianism throughout the Roman empire during the first century A.D. Also, this person must find an answer to this simple question: What do these disciples had to gain for inventing such a wild story that was quite different than what we know about the Jewish culture of the time (especially the Jewish beliefs and non-beliefs of the time in a potential life after death and the main Jewish view concerning the Messiah). In reality, it’s important to note that, beside persecutions, the disciples don’t seem to have got much for their claims! If an intelligent and honest non-believer wants to discuss about this story, there are some of the big questions he must answer.
I want to add something to one of my first sentence in the previous comment : There are tons of solid historical evidences that all of the closest followers of this prophet of Galilea were completely convinced (so much that some of them gave their life for this belief) that he was really resurrected OR, AT LEAST, THEY ACTED AS IF THEY WERE TOTALLY CONVINCED OF HIS RESURRECTION. Now that’s more true and honest. But having add that, I need to say this: If someone prefer to believe the disciples faked the whole story, then you must answer this simple question: What they would have gain in doing this? Many of them only found reject and even death for having conserved their supposedly “build-up story”! It’s very hard to find one rational explanation for acting the way they did if they were not truly convinced that Jesus had effectively resurrected…
Great points Yannick. What do you think of Albert’s claim that Caiaphas took the body, and does my rebuttal satisfactorily refute it
I didn’t had time to read both comments, but the idea of Albert that it’s Caiaphas who took the body to prevent problems is pretty irrational because, from the moment the disciples would have claim the Jesus was resurrected, all he had to do his to make a public showing of the corpse and the disciples’ claims would have died right there! Since it is not what happen (it’s precisely the opposite in fact), anyone with a good judgement (even if he’s an atheist) must reject completely such a fantasy…
You are demanding that everyone believe Jesus is alive because you are threatening to call them irrational if they don’t. The best theory of the Holy Shroud is that it was created by Gnostics in the 1st or 2nd century. This is the theory with the most evidence. It shows bad judgment to think the Shroud is authentic. However, it does not show bad judgment to not believe Jesus is alive. It just shows that the non- believer does not have the gift of faith. There are many reasons to believe in Jesus. One of them is the mysteriousness of the Shroud. Insisting that the Shroud is authentic not a good way of preaching the gospel to people who don’t believe. All you are doing is persuading yourself and other believers.
I never call someone who don’t believe in Jesus an irrational person. I just ask him to give me a rational reason to explain the sudden disappearance of the corpse from inside the Shroud and from inside the tomb (this is an historical event) in the light of what we know about the rapid expansion of Christianism throughout the Roman empire during the first century A.D. and the will of the first disciples to die for their faith in the Resurrection of their master… That’s all.
Asking someone to give a “rational reason” for their lack of faith is the same as calling someone irrational. I don’t do this. I give people my reasons for believing and summon, not demand, them to believe. I have no criticism of the judgment of people who say, “God hasn’t given me the gift of faith.”
Personally, being sure that God is Love, I’m also sure he would be willing to give his “gift of faith” to anyone. The sadness (at least to me) is the fact that many people on this planet simply don’t need this “gift” for the moment in order to live well. And God respect that completely and still love them as much as he love the faithful Christians and will still save them from nothingness when they’ll die. That’s the first thing I wanted to say.
Secondly, since we’re on a blog where we debate our ideas, I think that it’s normal to ask someone who don’t believe in the Resurrection to explain us why he don’t believe it and how can he explain the historical event of the empty tomb (and the empty shroud). I would be pleased to hear the thoughts of every interested non-believer on the subject. The bottom line is this : if any non-believer want to debate on the question of the Resurrection of Jesus, he must bring us a solid and rational explanation for the historical event of the empty tomb that will take into account the real historical, religious, sociological and political context of the time… And by doing so, I’m pretty sure this person will have a pretty hard time to find one true rational explanation that can the.sudden disappearance of the corpse from inside the Shroud and from inside the tomb (this is an historical event) in the light of what we know about the rapid expansion of Christianism throughout the Roman empire during the first century A.D. and the will of the first disciples to die for their faith in the Resurrection of their master… That’s all I say. Of course, if someone don’t want to debate this question, it’s allright. But in my mind, such a person have nothing to do on a blog like this one.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask someone why they don’t believe in Jesus. They may give a bad reason and you can correct them. They may say God doesn’t exist and you can explain why God does exist.
It is not reasonable to ask someone to explain the historical Jesus. It shows a lack of understanding of the word “explain.” Humans ask questions and intelligent humans invent answers to these questions. Humans then marshal evidence and decide whether an answer is true or just probable. This requires being rational. An explanation is an answer to a question that is supported by the evidence.
That Jesus is alive in a new life with God does not explain the historical Jesus. It is a faith response to the all of the reasons for believing in Jesus. The historical Jesus is just one of the reasons. Another reason is that people who don’t believe tend to give bad reasons. Faith is a gift from God. We can’t see the truth of the proposition that Jesus is alive. We know it is true because God is telling us.
Instead of saying that faith is a gift from God, I prefer to said that faith is an experience of God… Some are open to this, others don’t and in the end, that’s ok.
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