I received an interesting flow of emails from one reader (whose identity I will keep private) in response to my Slouching Towards Emmaus essay. I have taken the liberty of reformatting one representative email into a series of sentences but without changing the order or the exact wording. I have done so only to hopefully provide clear answers for the writer (reader)– and for everyone else. The words of the letter are in bold font. My answers in light italics:
Dear Mr. Porter, I apologize for all the emails; I didn’t mean to be a pest.
I’m honored, not pestered, that you want to ask me questions. I am the one who should apologize for not having answered many of your thoughtful emails as quickly as you write them. Since publishing my essay last week, I have been inundated with emails. And my blog, dormant for so long, is percolating back to life. That, too, demands my attention. Why not join us on the blog where others can also offer their comments. You may do so anonymously by making up a nickname for yourself.
Can I please confirm that you still believe in the bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Yes, at least because I believe that the tomb was empty. By that, I mean that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. And in the sense, also, that Jesus seems to be, and is said to be, a physical presence during post resurrection appearances. Some of this may of course be literary devices. Personally, I think we have to recognize this possibility. We can only take the narratives on faith in our own ability to understand them and to judge them sufficiently trustable (not trustworthy for that means something different altogether) Luke’s account of Jesus’ visit to Emmaus gives us the opportunity to examine this thoroughly. What of any of this account is a description of a physical presence.? What parts are perhaps spiritual messaging told as metaphor? In my reading, I am able to see both and to see in each characterization an infusion of the other.
In my opinion, the empty tomb or Christ’s apparitional appearances, here and there, are not essential beliefs. Please see the quote from Ellen Painter Dollar beginning on page 87 of my essay. It is intended to show the diversity of belief that is out there.
What I mean is, that you do believe that the corpse of Jesus of Nazareth was simultaneously reanimated, resuscitated, and radically transformed.
No overall! Reanimated: No. Resuscitated; No. Radically transformed: Maybe, but it depends on what you mean by transformed. Please reread the part where Alamo explains Sister P’s take on the miracle at Cana beginning on page 27 where the paragraph begins with “Sister P made changing water into wine very interesting.” Read through the end of the chapter on page 29.
In other words, the corpse miraculously went through the Shroud.
No! I have difficulty believing that. When you say “in other words” are you suggesting this defines physical? Please reread the Resurrection of the 8-Ball chapter in my essay. Alamo’s explanation is the most logical way I can envision or imagine the body disappearing from within the Shroud: no dematerializing, no physical change taking place even at a subatomic level. No process. Simply gone in a way that cannot even be defined in scientific terms. I may be wrong but this is my take on how miracles happen.
If he was gone from the tomb that is physical. His appearance to Mary in the garden, to the apostles in the upper room, to the two men on the road to Emmaus are physical events. When he vanished from their site that was physical. Or none of it is. Or some of it is. It is a matter of interpretation and of faith. The Shroud cannot tell us that.
Did not Jesus say to Thomas, “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”?
That is a very physical challenge, is it not?
You also still believe that the Shroud of Turin could be the actual burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth like Barrie Schwortz.
Possibly. These days I say that I find it more difficult to believe that it is not the real deal than to believe it is. I’d rather make a positive statement. I want to know the truth about the Shroud more than want it to be real or not.
Did not Jesus say to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Sometimes I wish I had never heard of the Shroud. I think my diminished belief in the Shroud’s authenticity is a godsend for, alongside that, my faith in the Resurrection remains undiminished.