Is He Live or is He Memorex?

Last year about this time, I celebrated Easter as a committed believer of our Risen and Living Savior.  I have done so every Easter I can remember except for a rebellious stint I had while in my 20s (we all have those, no?).  The one thing I knew for certain was that it was impossible to be a true Christian without this conviction.

.…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.   Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.   If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.  – 1 Cor 15:17-19 (NASB)

Of course I believed in the Resurrection.  It is a foundational belief.  It is essential.  As CS Lewis would say, it is part of “Mere Christianity”. 

I have always been an avid reader, and I always saw books in the library or store that had titles that just screamed, “Open my cover and browse my pages if you dare.  For we are here to challenge your Christian beliefs!”  My church pastors had words for authors of books like this:  Pseudo-Intellectuals, who “professing themselves to be wise, they had become fools” (Rom 1:22).  They were likely angry apostates, out on an agenda to debunk The Word of God, the Anvil that has worn our many Hammers.  It was easy to pass by these books left on the shelf without thinking another thought. 

Upon entering graduate school, I was introduced to the Internet, and I was soon a little overwhelmed with the ease that I could obtain information.  More than I few times, before I knew better, I had accidentally hit a porn site while in the school computer lab, and I would be furiously clicking the “close” button before an administrator noticed!  The power of the Internet, the Information Superhighway, where articles and opinions were shoved in your face before you had a chance to see what was on the cover. 

While working in the lab late one night all those years ago, I stumbled onto this site, an article by Dan Barker, self-proclaimed minister turned atheist, which challenged the reader to take what he called the Resurrection Challenge.   The Resurrection Challenge was a challenge to harmonize the accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Four Gospels, and the one in 1 Corinthians 15 to remove the (apparent) contradictions.  Dan Barker was a Christian minister who became an atheist simply because, he claimed, he found Christianity to be unbelievable.  Another angry apostate!  I read a few paragraphs of the article, but did not finish it.  Of course the Gospels could be harmonized – we are only talking about the inerrant Word of God here!  Sure the angels appear in different places in Jesus’ tomb, sure they said different things, but those details are so minor, so trivial, when considering he entire overarching theme of the Resurrection.  The funny thing is, I never took it upon myself to at see if the Resurrection accounts could be harmonized.  I knew they could, and that settled it.  I clicked the browser window closed and did not give the Resurrection Challenge another thought. 

Until last year.  I was hosting our small group Bible Study, and the seeds of doubt had begun in my own faith.  I was still a Christian, a believer in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I was scrounging around the Internet looking for some resources, until I again stumbled on, you guess it, the long forgotten Resurrection Challenge.  This time, I read the entire article.  Then I grabbed a steno pad, pencil with sturdy eraser, and attempted the Resurrection Challenge.

I admitted defeat in about 5 minutes.

Undaunted, I itemized most of the discrepancies that I found in the Resurrection Accounts just to see how many there were.  Some of the contradictions are listed in the original article, but I had to check for myself.  I was stunned at how divergent the accounts were.  Not only were they contradictory in nature, they were practically completely different stories!  This was not a case of several different eyewitness getting the story details slightly different, this was wholesale opposition.  The truth of one Gospel account had to imply the falsehood of the other.

I listed the portions of the Resurrection accounts which diverged from the other accounts, and gave up after a couple hours.  It really rattled me.  If God wants us to believe in the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, why are all these accounts so different?  If God wants us to believe, why did he make his recording of events so inconsistent with each other?  If these were separate Police reports of the same event, would they even be considered?  What truth could be gleaned from them?

Read the original article here.  Take the Resurrection Challenge.  What do you draw from your conclusions?

A list of some of the contradictions is at the end of Barker’s article.  But he did not list one that I found, one that I consider perhaps the most troublesome and baffling contradiction in the entire Bible.  It concerns whether Christ rose in the Flesh, or rose in the Spirit.  Here I list two accounts from the Resurrection narratives:

Account 1)
In 1 Cor 15, Paul is speaking of the resurrection of the dead, following the example of the resurrected Christ. He makes this remark that states Jesus was risen with a Spiritual, and most emphatically not Physical body.


So also is the resurrection of the dead It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
1 Cor 15:42-44 (NASB) – but read the whole chapter for good context.

Account 2)
The resurrected Jesus has just disappeared from Emmaus, and has appeared to the eleven remaining disciples in
Jerusalem. He mentions that he has a Physical, and most emphatically not Spiritual body.

While they (the eleven disciples) were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Luke 24:36-43 (NASB)

The only way I have seen these two passages reconciled is with the tried and true Harmonization by Omission tactic.  I have heard the theory that Jesus could have risen as spirit, ascended to heaven while nobody was around, then came back to Earth as flesh.  I won’t even entertain that idea here, because to give it credibility is to be desperate to even include sheer brute force to make this issue harmonize. 

Some Christians concede that while the details of particular passages may differ, the essence remains consistent.  I don’t see a consistent essence in this case.  Everything differs except the amorphous detail that Jesus rose.  What message he left, who he saw, what form he took and what he did remains unknown, because not a single detail can be reconciled.

The essence of Jesus life through the Gospels seems to be consistent, at least through the Synoptics.  He taught similar things, he performed similar miracles, and events can be harmonized with a little ironing over rough details.  Why do the events diverge so greatly after the crucifixion?  There is general agreement that Mark is the first Gospel to be written, and many scholars agree that there is not much of a Resurrection story in that Gospel.  Many scholars agree that the Gospel ends at Mark 16:8, with the women fleeing the sepulcher in fear.  The End.  If that is true, could it be that when Matthew and Luke were independently compiling their Gospels from Mark, and left with a paucity of Resurrection material, had to elaborate their own accounts from Oral Tradition and legend?  What about John?  Perhaps he had to derive things independently as well, thus four wildly divergent Resurrection accounts. 

That is the only thing that makes sense to me.  Is the Resurrection of our Savior Myth and Legend?

Tomorrow I will go to mass with my wife and celebrate Easter with her.  I want to believe, I truly do, but what am I to hold my faith on?  I am convinced that the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is incorrect, so do I have nothing to go on but 2000 year-old hear-say?  I want to believe because I am afraid to discard a belief I have held my entire life.  I want to believe for the sake of my family, and the sake of my wife. 

I am afraid to say it.  But I must admit it.  This will be the first Easter that I celebrate as a non-believer. 



70 Responses to “Is He Live or is He Memorex?”

  1.   Heather Says:

    HIS –

    How did your wife react when you showed her your attempt at the Resurrection challenge? And how is she taking your journey now?

    **I am convinced that the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is incorrect, so I have nothing to go on but 2000 year-old hear-say. ** What about personal experiences, in terms of interacting with God?

    **This will be the first Easter that I celebrate as a non-believer. ** I hope you’ll still be able to take some joy or comfort in the service, even as you’re still seeking.

  2.   AgnosticAtheist Says:

    HIS,

    Great post. I went through a very similar journey where the Bible fell apart for me. My faith was more based on belief in the Word than experiential so when the Word failed, my faith began to go.

    aA

  3.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    Wow, HIS, the Resurrection challenge definitely is thought-provoking. There is no way anyone can be intellectually honest with themselves and with others and reconcile all of those discrepancies, in my opinion.

    I’m sure this whole journey has been difficult for you– I hope you have enjoy your day with your family tomorrow.

    Tomorrow will be the first Easter that I do not definitely “know” that Jesus was resurrected. I am up in the air right now on whether I believe in it or not (if I do believe it, I sure don’t know the exact details of it). I’m sure it will be a different feeling. Anyway, I know I’m wishing you the best, and I’m sure everyone else is too. . . have a great Easter!

  4.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Sorry, HIS, I took your Easter Challenge and didn’t find it too challenging.

    What time did the women visit the tomb?
    • Matthew: “as it began to dawn” (28:1)
    • Mark: “very early in the morning . . . at the rising of the sun” (16:2, KJV); “when the sun had risen” (NRSV); “just after sunrise” (NIV)
    • Luke: “very early in the morning” (24:1, KJV) “at early dawn” (NRSV)
    • John: “when it was yet dark” (20:1)
    OK, this could be within the same 15 minutes. You should stop sleeping in and see how fast the sun comes up. :)

    Who were the women?
    • Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
    • Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
    • Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
    • John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)
    Better question is WHEN were the women? They were probably all there at some time or another. Women love rubbernecking. :)

    What was their purpose?
    • Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)
    • Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)
    • Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)
    • John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)

    The spicing was done by the two men prior to leaving the body on that first night. They had a lot of myrrh and oils that they likely did not have time to apply before the Sabbath. The women could have brought their own spices on Sunday morning, since the body wouldn’t have begun serious decomposition until the next day. Matthew’s silence on whether they had spices or not is a dust particle of discrepancy. Who’s to say they didn’t have them?

    Was the tomb open when they arrived?
    • Matthew: No (28:2)
    • Mark: Yes (16:4)
    • Luke: Yes (24:2)
    • John: Yes (20:1)
    Actually, Matthew concurs with the other gospels. The women were coming to the tomb. The angel descended and opened the tomb and sat on the rock. Now had the women arrived BEFORE the rock was rolled away, would they have not seen Jesus? Does it mention a sighting of Jesus? No. The logical reading is: women are on their way, the rock is rolled aside, women arrive.

    Who was at the tomb when they arrived?
    • Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
    • Mark: One young man (16:5)
    • Luke: Two men (24:4)
    • John: Two angels (20:12)
    The angels are the most debatable, in fact the only, debatable topic that doesn’t fall apart instantly here.

    Where were these messengers situated?
    • Matthew: Angel sitting on the stone (28:2)
    • Mark: Young man sitting inside, on the right (16:5)
    • Luke: Two men standing inside (24:4)
    • John: Two angels sitting on each end of the bed (20:12)
    What did the messenger(s) say?
    • Matthew: “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” (28:5-7)
    • Mark: “Be not afrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.” (16:6-7)
    • Luke: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (24:5-7)
    • John: “Woman, why weepest thou?” (20:13)

    Did the women tell what happened?
    • Matthew: Yes (28:8)
    • Mark: No. “Neither said they any thing to any man.” (16:8)
    • Luke: Yes. “And they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest.” (24:9, 22-24)
    • John: Yes (20:18)
    Mark does not concur because it ended. The women did not say anything. Does that mean they never spoke about it again? How long do you think the women stayed quiet?

    When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?
    • Matthew: Yes (28:7-8)
    • Mark: Yes (16:10,11)
    • Luke: Yes (24:6-9,23)
    • John: No (20:2)
    In John, she knows He wasn’t there, and wonders where they have taken Him. So, you think she’s been told that He is risen and perhaps she doesn’t believe 100% yet? Could it be?

    When did Mary first see Jesus?
    • Matthew: Before she returned to the disciples (28:9)
    • Mark: Before she returned to the disciples (16:9,10)
    • John: After she returned to the disciples (20:2,14)
    This doesn’t add up. Each case she saw Jesus afterward. I’ve re-read the Scriptures several times and there clearly is a mistake in the “challenge”. Perhaps you should have done a “challenge” of the challenge!

    Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?
    • Matthew: Yes (28:9)
    • John: No (20:17), Yes (20:27)
    No in John 20:17 for “He had not yet ascended”. We can’t be certain what that means exactly but we can be sure that He was touchable afterward. There is no conflict here.

    After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?
    • Matthew: Eleven disciples (28:16)
    • Mark: Two disciples in the country, later to eleven (16:12,14)
    • Luke: Two disciples in Emmaus, later to eleven (24:13,36)
    • John: Ten disciples (Judas and Thomas were absent) (20:19, 24)
    • Paul: First to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. (Twelve? Judas was dead). (I Corinthians 15:5)
    The story in Mark and Luke is the same story. The fact that that story is omitted in the other gospels is not relevant. It seems that you accept the idea that the gospels had to be from the same perspective. Then they would not be gospels, they’d be “The Same Exact Story According to John” etc.
    The Twelve had certainly eleven members at the time Jesus appeared to them. They were still a group of 12 positions as evidenced by the fact that Matthias was elevated to the spot that Judas had filled soon after. Note the words “then to THE twelve”. Also, look up Luke 24:36 – it doesn’t line up at all. Did you bother to look up these verses?

    Luke 24:36 – KJV – And as they thus spake (5723) , Jesus himself stood (5627) in the midst of them, and saith (5719) unto them, Peace be unto you.

    Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
    • Matthew: On a mountain in Galilee (60-100 miles away) (28:16-17)
    • Mark: To two in the country, to eleven “as they sat at meat” (16:12,14)
    • Luke: In Emmaus (about seven miles away) at evening, to the rest in a room in Jerusalem later that night. (24:31, 36)
    • John: In a room, at evening (20:19)
    Does he mean FIRST APPEAR or FIRST MENTIONED that He appeared? Look these up for yourself. I’m getting tired.

    Did the disciples believe the two men?
    • Mark: No (16:13)
    • Luke: Yes (24:34–it is the group speaking here, not the two)
    In Luke, the word had already gotten out when they told the eleven. In Mark it simply calls the group they tell “the rest” or “the residue”. This is hardly a categorical contradiction.

    What happened at the appearance?
    • Matthew: Disciples worshipped, some doubted, “Go preach.” (28:17-20)
    • Mark: Jesus reprimanded them, said “Go preach” (16:14-19)
    • Luke: Christ incognito, vanishing act, materialized out of thin air, reprimand, supper (24:13-51)
    • John: Passed through solid door, disciples happy, Jesus blesses them, no reprimand (21:19-23)
    Again, this is all predicated on an assumption that the first appearance is the same as the first appearance mentioned. By the way, your worry about Jesus’ “spiritual body” that could eat meat is not reasonable. It is after all a BODY. Or do you think our spiritual bodies will be like Casper the friendly ghost’s body where the food falls through his transparent belly?
    This whole framing of the questions reads like a clever lawyer trying to get out of a contract particularly where omissions in the Scriptures and assumptions in their interpretations are counted as contradictions. I have frankly seen enough. The last two complaints are not even worth a response.

    Here is my Easter challenge to you.
    1) Would all the apostles who witnessed these sensational events have suffered horribly and given their lives if they knew for certain that this was all a fairy tale? They had to know for sure one way or the other, no?
    2) Better yet, if their reward was in Heaven, and Heaven was made tangible to them through eyewitness, wouldn’t that explain why they didn’t seek their treasure here on this earth as did Mohammed and Joseph Smith and so many others?
    3) Where is your complaint about these complaints? There are Bible verses that are misrepresented here and numerous omissions that are painted as contradictions.
    4) While we’re combing the biblical record for inconsistencies, where is the evidence to the contrary? Where is the evidence, the proofs for the alternative, more reasonable account that the agnostic and atheist truly believe in?
    5) If the gospels were based on myths then how do you explain its success? The early church grew, many were killed, yet it grew and grew after every persecution. Studying the early church gives us the impression that something supernatural was at work there. Islam was spread by the sword (still is) but Christianity had nothing to defend its first 280 years…unless a living Lord was nurturing it….

    Looking up these verses I read this passage again. John 20:15 – “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
    Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

    I had forgotten that. She had mistaken Him for the GARDENER. The woman finds her Savior in the garden who has just crushed the head of the serpent. He is indeed the gardener, her gardener and ours. The curse against the serpent in Genesis 3:15 comes full circle in that passage. Coincidence? Myth? Or the forgiveness of our sins?
    Happy Easter!

  5.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    Jim, you attempted to address many of the discrepancies, and you did a pretty good job of that. But you didn’t actually take the challenge listed. The actual challenge is here: **Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.**

  6.   jennypo Says:

    HeIsSailing sez:
    “In 1 Cor 15, Paul is speaking of the resurrection of the dead, following the example of the resurrected Christ. He makes this remark that states Jesus was risen with a Spiritual, and most emphatically not Physical body.”
    Are you sure that a spiritual body is NOT a physical body? The distinction that 1 Corinthians makes is not between physical and spiritual, it’s between natural and spiritual. Paul even lists the differences:
    - the natural body, put into the ground as a seed, is in dishonor; the spiritual body that is raised is glorious
    - one is perishable, the other is not
    - one is weak, the other is powerful
    Nothing about one being physical, and the other not. We are the ones who have created the physical/spiritual dichotomy, not the Bible. It is interesting to note that Jesus is able to both eat and to walk through walls. There are a number of references to eating in heaven, the most notable being the marriage supper of the Lamb. This fits perfectly with the kind of body that Jesus showed after his resurrection.
    He did point out that his body was flesh and blood, he was not a spirit. A spirit doesn’t need a body. That is different from having a spiritual body – a body that can live in the spiritual realm.
    2 Corinthians 5:1-4 makes such a difference very clear:
    “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down � when we die and leave these bodies � we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all.”
    Thomas was able to touch the holes in Jesus’ hands and side.
    We tend to look at natural things as being more vivid, more substantial than spiritual things. Perhaps this is because our natural eyes are seldom able to perceive spiritual things. From the Biblical perspective, the spiritual is the original rather than the reflection; it is more substantial, more vivid, more rich than the natural.
    Jesus’ spiritual body is both flesh and blood and able to pass through walls. Scientists are just now beginning to understand the properties of matter in such a way that this is physically conceivable.
    As for the Resurrection Challenge, I have say I’m with Jim on this one. I can understand how an articulated argument – any articulated argument – could be highly disconcerting to someone who has based their understanding of the world on what Richard Dawkins terms “the suspension of disbelief” – basically, willing ignorance. What I don’t see is how it poses a challenge to the Bible on any reasonable or logical basis. Dan Barker, a former minister (presumably, with some education on Biblical subjects) – and this is the best he could come up with? C’mon! This is the kind of argument that makes religious people arrogant; that leads them to believe it’s okay not to think. I am going to shut up now because I can feel myself entering into “rant” mode.
    HeIsSailing, is it possible that the reason you give people like Barker and Dawkins so much credit is due to the fact that they were “forbidden” to you for so long? Or the fact that they dare to ask questions that are (logical or not) so far over the line of what is acceptable to popular Christianity? They just don’t seem to fit your style.

  7.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Can’t comment much here, I am getting ready for Church. I have only time for this:

    JennyPo
    “HeIsSailing, is it possible that the reason you give people like Barker and Dawkins so much credit is due to the fact that they were “forbidden” to you for so long? ”

    I never gave them credit. I never said they were right about anything. There were many things about the Dawkins video I disagreed with – I just asked for a critique.

    The bottom line of all of this is here – I addressed it in a previous article. If God can give Moses 20 Chapters of detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, Feasts and Ceremonies, why are our instructions, our stories, our basis for salvation so blasted inconsistant and confusing?

  8.   DagwoodS Says:

    Jim Jordan,

    Forgive my intrusion here, but I’ve done a bit of study in these areas. You (or others) may be interested.

    Rather than focus on a variety of topics; focus on just one. I wrote a piece on the soldiers at the tombhere. For those that don’t desire to peruse the entire long blog entry, it boils down to this. In Mark the women go to the tomb on Easter morning to add spices to the body of Jesus. (Let us forget, for the moment, that this is not Jewish custom.) What is their largest concern as to the physical ability to do so? Removal of the rock.

    But in Matthew we have soldiers placed there specifically to keep people out, and a seal. That, if broken, meant death (or so Christian apologists tell me.) The women aren’t concerned about the soldiers? The Seal?

    Look, we can have stories from different perspectives, but that does not mean one story can ignore insurmountable impediments placed in another story. Question—how were the women to get around the soldiers and seal to spice up Jesus? (If you read the blog, there is a great deal more than that, but in shortened version—there it is.)

    In all the resurrection accounts that attempt to resolve Barker’s point, I have yet to see this point dealt with.

    Hmmm…an Easter Challenge from you? I’ll bite:

    Jim Jordan: 1) Would all the apostles who witnessed these sensational events have suffered horribly and given their lives if they knew for certain that this was all a fairy tale?

    No idea. DID the apostles and disciples suffer horribly and give their lives? I wrote extensively on this issue here (You all really need to come up with some new arguments.) Can you give me a historical reference that says the Disciples were given an opportunity to recant the tale of a physical resurrection in order to avoid death and did not do so? One? Anywhere? I have looked and cannot find one.

    More: 2) Better yet, if their reward was in Heaven, and Heaven was made tangible to them through eyewitness, wouldn’t that explain why they didn’t seek their treasure here on this earth as did Mohammed and Joseph Smith and so many others

    Didn’t they? Actually, that is quite interesting, considering the influx of funds that was generated through the early church. I…er…wrote on this one, too, out of curiosity more than anything else here.

    Simply put—we have no knowledge as to how much money they generated. But it was enough they did not have to go back to their old occupations and Peter could afford a house.

    More: 3) Where is your complaint about these complaints? There are Bible verses that are misrepresented here and numerous omissions that are painted as contradictions.

    Ohh.. I would LOVE to get into contradictions/inerrancy. I wrote on that here. (He He He. I’ll bet you are tired of that. I REALLY implore Christians to get some new arguments. These old ones have been re-hashed many times.)

    Simply put—what is your method (whether in Christianity or out of it) by which you determine something is a contradiction?

    More: 4) While we’re combing the biblical record for inconsistencies, where is the evidence to the contrary? Where is the evidence, the proofs for the alternative, more reasonable account that the agnostic and atheist truly believe in?

    Good question. The evidence to the contrary is that we see what we expect in humans’ ability to manufacture myth. Let me use two examples in this particular area.

    Mark records the Sanhedrin meeting at night. Mark. 14:53. The Sanhedrin would never have met at night. Ever. This would have been contrary to every custom by which we are aware in First Century Palestine. The author of Mark (for many other reasons) was most likely a Gentile, and not familiar with the customs of Judaism. This is a mistake.

    For other reasons, I am personally convinced (and admittedly this is a minority opinion) that the author of Matthew was also not a Jew. Or, if he was, he was not familiar with Jewish customs. I would expect a person not familiar with Jewish customs would not be aware of Mark’s faux pas here. Sure enough, what we see is that when Matthew copied Mark, he leaves the Sanhedrin meeting at night. Matt. 26:57. Didn’t know better.

    Now my buddy, the author of Luke—THAT person was certainly a Jew—familiar with Jewish customs. S/he comes across this issue in Mark. Are they going to leave the error in place? Nope. Luke subtly moves the trial before the Sanhedrin to its appropriate place—during the day. Luke 24:66

    That is what an agnostic/atheist would expect in the development of myth. Inadvertent errors being corrected. Want another? O.K.

    Mark has the young man at the tomb tell the women to have the disciples go to Galilee to meet Jesus. Mark 16:7. Matthew, again faithfully following Mark, has the angel at the tomb tell the women that Jesus was going to meet the Disciples in Galilee. Matt. 28:7

    Poor Luke. S/he is all anxious to write the Acts of the Apostles, with the church starting in Jerusalem. But Mark (who the author has copying) has left us with the instruction for the Disciples to go to Galilee. Luke needs them back in Jerusalem. So the author subtlety changes the words to “Remember what Jesus told you when he was in Galilee?” Luke 24:6.

    Luke is constantly correcting Mark. Exactly what we expect in myth development. I could go through how we see Paul have no parables, sermons, teachings, or miracles of Jesus. How Mark has no birth narrative or resurrection. How Matthew and Luke contradict as to birth and resurrection narrative. How the infancy Gospel of Thomas fill in the details of Jesus’ childhood. How the Gospel of Peter fills in what the women saw at the tomb. How we watch Jesus’ story grow and grow over the first few centuries, and Christianity arbitrarily cut it off at the first 50-75 years of writing.

    At least that is this atheist’s alternative prospect. Bet I could convince a neutral jury it is a “more reasonable account.”

    More: 5) If the gospels were based on myths then how do you explain its success? The early church grew, many were killed, yet it grew and grew after every persecution.

    Depends where you get your history. About the only thing Christianity has to rely upon is Acts for early Church history. Yet when we review the other historians of the era, we do not see the explosion as claimed by Christianity. Josephus fails to mention them at all. Pliny the Younger has to torture Christians just to know what they are about. Tacitus makes a reference that Nero blamed them for a fire. How many did he persecute? 10? 100? 1000? 10,000? No clue.

    Myths are successful all the time, despite being myths. Look at the one about the Disciples dying for a lie, for example…

  9.   Heather Says:

    Jenny,

    **What I don’t see is how it poses a challenge to the Bible on any reasonable or logical basis. Dan Barker, a former minister (presumably, with some education on Biblical subjects) – and this is the best he could come up with? ** I’m not trying to push you more rant mood, but I’m with JfC on this one. The Resurrection Challenge was to put the events from the Resurrection to the Ascenscion in chronological order, using all the references, without omitting any details. Jim didn’t do that, he addressed why the discrepencies in the texts can be harmonized.

    Jim,

    **Actually, Matthew concurs with the other gospels. The women were coming to the tomb. The angel descended and opened the tomb and sat on the rock. Now had the women arrived BEFORE the rock was rolled away, would they have not seen Jesus? Does it mention a sighting of Jesus? No. The logical reading is: women are on their way, the rock is rolled aside, women arrive.** The article did address this, though. The article says that Mark, Luke and John say it was rolled away before, whereas in Matthew, the passage is in the aorist/past tense and begins with “And, behold,” which goes along with chronological order. Also, I’m not sure how the women arriving before the rock rolled away means they would have seen Jesus. Matthew and Mark have them see an angel, and see Jesus when they’re far away from the tomb.

  10.   joeyanne Says:

    Heissailing says, “The bottom line of all of this is here – I addressed it in a previous article. If God can give Moses 20 Chapters of detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, Feasts and Ceremonies, why are our instructions, our stories, our basis for salvation so blasted inconsistant and confusing?”

    Heissailing: I don’t presume to be a Bible scholar, or even well-read. (your book list seemed huge to me; I was jealous that you have so much time to read). But you are overlooking one very important detail with this question. Moses only had what God physically told him. He had to rely on the details God gave him for everything. We have the Holy Spirit who reveals things to us – things that may not seem so clear at first. This is wayyy better than what Moses had. I’ve often thought how difficult it might have been to be living back then. I might have questioned, “Do I remember this right?” or “Maybe I just dreamed that angel” or “Did God mean like this? or like that?” With the Holy Spirit, I only have to ask and He clarifies. I must listen for His answer, but He directs and guides. We have far more than Moses did. If God had spelled things out for us like He did for Moses, it would be even easier to become little Pharisees running around “following all the rules” – not that that doesn’t already happen to many. No, God wants us to get our answers from Him directly, through the Holy Spirit (who uses a 2000-year-old book to guide us), not just from a 2000-year-old book that we might question the authenticity of. I know this might sound a little like I am a charismatic, but I assure you I do not worship the Holy Spirit; I only accept what God has told us about Him. And I see the proof of that in my own experience. He is God and He reveals God to us.

  11.   Heather Says:

    Joeyanne,

    **No, God wants us to get our answers from Him directly, through the Holy Spirit (who uses a 2000-year-old book to guide us), not just from a 2000-year-old book that we might question the authenticity of. I know this might sound a little like I am a charismatic, but I assure you I do not worship the Holy Spirit; I only accept what God has told us about Him.** Would that work for everyone, though? Because even 300 hundred years ago, you would have people saying that the Holy Spirit has told them slavery is okay, and they would say the Holy Spirit guided them to the passages justifying that position. Same with the Inquisition — people felt guided into doing that, and accepted that God told them the behavior was right. They were also convinced that anyone who spoke otherwise contradicted the Bible. There isn’t even a foulproof way here of determining inerrency of the Bible, because it also depends on a person’s perspective.

    Not only that, but the Bible needs to also be placed in its cultural context for the message to really be clear to me.

  12.   Heather Says:

    Okay. I tried it, and this is what I’ve got so far. And trying to read all these and put them in order makes my brain hurt. I only really went through the empty tomb, going to the disicples and Jesus’s appearances. If I went further, this would’ve gotten longer.

    The Resurrection.

    -Matthew says in early morning, Mary of Magdalen and the other Mary to see the grave. There was an earthquake, and angel rolled the stone away and sat on it. The guards became like dead men and the angel spoke to the women.

    Mark – Mary Magdelene and Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices, wondering who would roll away the stone, but found that it was already opened when they got there. They went inside, found a youth sitting on the right hand side who told them about Jesus.

    Luke – The women get spices, go to the tomb that’s already opened, go inside and find that the body is gone. While standing there, two men appear and say what happened. The women go and tell the Eleven and others what happened. The women weren’t believed, but Peter does go to the tomb and sees the burial clothes.

    John – Mary goes and sees that the stone was removed. She goes to the disicples and says that they took Jesus’s body and and no one knows where they put the body. She goes to the disicples, Peter and the beloved disicple race back to see what happened. They then go home, Mary stays while crying. She peers into the tomb, and sees two angels sitting whre the body had been, one at the head and one at the feet. She says she doesn’t know where Jesus is, then turns and sees “the gardener,” then learns that he is Jesus. Mary goes and says that she saw Jesus.

    If putting this in chronological order – The Gospels say that women went in dawn/dark/early morning. John says that only Mary, and that Mary just found an empty tomb. In Matthew, Mary and the other Mary see the stone rolled away, and the angel coming and sitting on it, telling them what happened, and to tell others. This would place the angel outside the tomb. However, Mark has them go in and see a youth sitting on the right-hand side, and that they were dumbfounded. The youth says to them what happened, and tells them to tell others. Luke has the stone rolled away, the women entering and not finding a body and thus confused. Then two men are suddenly seen while inside the tomb. Now, if an angel told them outside the tomb what happened, then they shouldn’t be this confused while inside the tomb, and yet Mark and Luke give the impression that they had no information until inside the tomb and people appeared. John has Mary coming alone at daybreak, seeing the stone removed, and then running back to the disciples, saying that they took Jesus and she doesn’t know where the body is. The other three gospels have her delivering a message of Jesus from the angels. Peter and the beloved one investigate, and then go home while Mary stands there crying. Jesus then appears. John shows Mary telling the disicples of Jesus’s resurrection after she encounters him. Matthew and Luke have the women sharing what the angels tell them, and the disicples not believing, although Luke has Peter looking at the tomb. Plus, in Matthew, as the women were running to the disicples, Jesus meets them, and then tells the women to go tell his brothers to go to Galilee, and then they’ll see Jesus. But he’s looking based on the angels speaking of the resurrection, while John has them doing so because Mary doesn’t know where the body is. Mark says that the women didn’t share anything because they were afraid, and then Jesus appears to Mary, and then she goes and tells others that Jesus is Resurrected. It doesn’t say she went to the disicples between that.

    If all of this is to happen at daybreak, then something isn’t adding up for me here. Either Mary/the women are told near daybreak that Jesus is risen, or Mary just thinks the body is gone, goes to get the disicples, they go, leave, and Jesus appears. At which point, she’s not told about the resurrection at daybreak. Matthew and Mark do show Jesus appearing to the women/Mary before she gets to the disicples, whereas John shows that occuring afterwards.

  13.   joeyanne Says:

    Heather said, “Would that work for everyone, though? Because even 300 hundred years ago, you would have people saying that the Holy Spirit has told them slavery is okay, and they would say the Holy Spirit guided them to the passages justifying that position. Same with the Inquisition — people felt guided into doing that, and accepted that God told them the behavior was right. They were also convinced that anyone who spoke otherwise contradicted the Bible.”

    Actually, Heather, it doesn’t work for everyone – in that sense. That’s why Christianity is personal, not political. I can’t speak for those who say they felt guided into doing those things – what they were thinking, but we can be sure, based on the Bible, that they were not guided by the Holy Spirit, by God, to do such things. I think you will agree. I could not possibly presume to say, “The Holy Spirit told me that everyone needs to do this or that, or anything.” The Holy Spirit does not guide me concerning anyone elses actions. Jesus told Peter in John 21, when he asked what John would do, not to be concerned about what John would do, but “Follow thou Me!” Christianity is completely personal. I have great friends who follow Jesus in very different ways than I do. It doesn’t matter…to me. Their following is between them and God. And God is a God of variety. He shows us that in the many, many different flowers, fruit, oh, anything that He made. The biggest problem with a “system” of Christianity, is that it presumes to know God’s will for everyone. That’s why it’s so important for me to hold every new idea or question to Him. I cannot rely on my own understanding of the Bible. And I am certainly not going to rely on someone else’s. Your examples are proof enough of the error in that. The best proof is to know the character of God. He will not go against Himself. I certainly don’t have the answers to all the political issues of today. Who could? There are so many, many complications. But my actions toward others can always be guided by Jesus example. And when an issue needs addressing in my own life, I have access to the answers I need. By putting my trust in God, I am not agreeing with everything anyone has ever done in His name. Far from it. Jesus even warns of them in Luke7:15,16 “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing….Ye shall know them by their fruits” Unfortunately, many of these “false prophets” have been considered messengers of God.

  14.   Heather Says:

    Joeyanne,

    **The biggest problem with a “system” of Christianity, is that it presumes to know God’s will for everyone. That’s why it’s so important for me to hold every new idea or question to Him. I cannot rely on my own understanding of the Bible. And I am certainly not going to rely on someone else’s.** Regardless of anything else we may disagree on, I think we’re both on the same road with this idea, and that it’s one of the most important. To me, questioning is pivotal, or it would lead to blind obedience. History is full of examples of where blind obedience lead — to use an extreme example, Germany in WWII. Sometimes, those on fire for God can go with an ‘the end justifies the means’ approach. You obey God because you have questioned, and asked Him, and obedience to Him has given you the most peace. You don’t simply obey God “because.” To me, obeying God “just because” can lead to situations where one justifies something like cruelty or hatred. It’s a ‘test the Spirits’ sort of thing.

    If it helps, I do know what you’re speaking of. I’ve had moments in reading the Bible, or just moments in general, when this ‘knowing’ came over me. The clarity that gave me the answer.

    What does make me leery are those who are so certain of what God wants that they go around making sure everyone else follows — and I’ve seen the Holy Spirit used in that means. There’s a difference between those who say, “God’s on our side,” and “I want to be on the side of God.”

  15.   John Shuck Says:

    Wow, HIS, what a great post! I think that resurrection was one of many ways of understanding Jesus and there were many ways in turn of understanding resurrection when Christianity developed. April DeConick at the Forbiddengospelsblog is doing some good work on this.

    I think we live in an exciting time, a time to reimagine our faith and perhaps even more importantly, our joyful work on Earth.

    Blessings,
    john

  16.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Wow – There are far too many comments on here for me to directly address. I will do my best with a few though – I better finish off with my comment with JennyPo

    JennyPo sez:
    “What I don’t see is how it poses a challenge to the Bible on any reasonable or logical basis. Dan Barker, a former minister (presumably, with some education on Biblical subjects) – and this is the best he could come up with?”

    JennyPo, the thing about the Barker’s article, is that his argument is just taken directly from Scripture. If you think it poses a no challenge to the Bible on any reasonable or logical basis, then try and take it. Just put the events of the Resurrection in order and don’t leave anything out. You don’t need any editorializing from Barker to realize that this truly is a challenge. I could not do it. It was enough of a challenge to bring me, a committed Christian of over 35 years to really doubt the inerrancy of Scripture.

    JennyPo continues:
    “HeIsSailing, is it possible that the reason you give people like Barker and Dawkins so much credit is due to the fact that they were “forbidden” to you for so long? Or the fact that they dare to ask questions that are (logical or not) so far over the line of what is acceptable to popular Christianity? They just don’t seem to fit your style.”

    I don’t know if I give them any credit. You don’t need Barker’s article to try the Resurrection Challenge. The Scriptures speak for themselves there. The only thing I ever read from Dawkins was ‘The Selfish Gene’ which I read many years ago, and I would hardly call that a challenge to Christianity.

    But yes, many of the questions they ask are legitimate are they not? Many of my Christian friends have encouraged me to ask tough questions. They draw the line when the answers do not point back to the God of the Bible. I asked a friend of mine why God would not appear to me to ease the doubt of a Christian like me. If not God, then why not an angel? You should have seen the look on her face – what kind of question is THAT?? Of course the question sounds absurd, but it is a reasonable question to me. Too bad the answers don’t exactly make God look good. Sure, it is not exactly easy for me to accept either, but there you go.

  17.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Jim Jordan sez:
    “Perhaps you should have done a “challenge” of the challenge!”

    Jim, you make it sound like I wrote the article. I took the challenge independently, don’t worry. Here is what I came up with:
    After Joseph has placed Jesus’s body in a tomb and sealed it with a stone, some number of women found the stone rolled away on Sunday morning. They enter the tomb and see young men or angels somewhere in the vicinity. The women are shown where Jesus was laid and mention that he was resurrected. They are then given a message to relay to the disciples in Matt, Mark and Luke. This is the spot where the Gospels start to diverge, and oddly enough, this is the presumed original ending of Mark. If the scholars are correct and Mark ends at verse 8, it just makes sense to me that Matt, Mark and John, being left with nothing to work with after Mark 16:8, and each working independently of each other, start relying on oral tradition to finish their Resurrection accounts. I tried putting them in order, and I could not do it. Not even with my most creative use of Harmonization by Omission.

    Jim sez:
    “Actually, Matthew concurs with the other gospels. The women were coming to the tomb. The angel descended and opened the tomb and sat on the rock. Now had the women arrived BEFORE the rock was rolled away, would they have not seen Jesus? Does it mention a sighting of Jesus? No. The logical reading is: women are on their way, the rock is rolled aside, women arrive.”

    Why would they necessarily have seen Jesus before the stone rolled away? Your reading is not at all logical to me.

    Verse 1: In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first [day] of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

    Verse 2: And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

    If the women did not see the angels come down, whom did Matthew interview to write his Resurrection account? The passed out Roman Soldiers? Did Matthew rely on pure inspiration of the Holy Spirit since there were no witnesses? If so, then why not write about the actual Resurrection of Jesus, rather than the aftermath? No, this reads pretty logically to me just in the order it is written. Women arrive – great earthquake – angle of the Lord descending and rolling back the stone. The only reason there is to rearrange that is because you have to.

    I could go on, but let’s look at your challenge:
    Challenge 1) Would all the apostles who witnessed these sensational events have suffered horribly and given their lives if they knew for certain that this was all a fairy tale? They had to know for sure one way or the other, no?

    You know, I have heard this for years. I have used this line on people when witnessing. But consider Jim Jones, of the Jonestown cult. He proclaimed himself Messiah, became a faith healer and walked on water. Yup, or so his followers claimed. You know how many eyewitnesses to his great wonders willingly killed themselves at his direction? 913. This number pales in comparison to 12 disciples, a few women and maybe a couple more followers.

    Now I will ask you the same question you asked me – apply it to Jim Jones: Would all the disciples of Jim Jones who witnessed these sensational events have given their lives if they knew for certain that this was all a fairy tale? They had to know for sure one way or the other, no?

    Even if Jesus’ disciples were martyred, their martyrdom was nothing unique. Which brings up my second issue – how do you know the 12 apostles or Gospel authors were martyred? What sources do you have? The common notion of Peter being crucified upside down comes from the apocryphal book Acts of Peter. Have you ever read that book? It is pretty hilarious – it pits a magical showdown between Peter and Simon Magus, each doing a magic tricks that successively outdoes the other. Peter is able to make dogs talk, and they both fly through the air zapping each other. The Acts of Peter does not sound like a reliable source to me.  Why does the church accept Peter’s martyrdom story from the Acts of Peter, while simultaneously dismissing the The Acts of Peter as not credible? Matthew has enough martyrdom stories to have died practically anywhere in the Roman Empire.  As far as I know, the rest of the Gospel writers’ fate is detailed in non-canonical books, some which were written centuries after the fact.

    Challenge 2: Better yet, if their reward was in Heaven, and Heaven was made tangible to them through eyewitness, wouldn’t that explain why they didn’t seek their treasure here on this earth as did Mohammed and Joseph Smith and so many others?

    As I read the Gospels, Jesus taught his immanent return (Matt 23:36, Matt 24:34). Albert Schweitzer thought so also, as have many scholars. Even if Jesus did not teach that, his disciples certainly thought he did.

    Challenge 3: Where is your complaint about these complaints? There are Bible verses that are misrepresented here and numerous omissions that are painted as contradictions.

    I did not write the article. As I said, I took the Challenge myself, and could not do it. Why don’t you try?

    Challenge 4: While we’re combing the biblical record for inconsistencies, where is the evidence to the contrary? Where is the evidence, the proofs for the alternative, more reasonable account that the agnostic and atheist truly believe in?

    I don’t speak for the agnostic/atheist position, I am only reading the Bible and considering alternatives that I think are more reasonable. I have no proof for anything, but I can only look at what seems most likely. Right now, it seems more likely that Mark ended his account at verse 8, at the exact point where the other Gospels really diverge in their stories. Then they all rely on oral tradition from there. THAT makes sense to me, rather than assuming and contriving and twisting the Bible text to say things that it does not say. Have you ever seen my article ‘Harmonization by Omission’? I go over the two death scenarios of Judas in fair detail and explain why I think relying on oral tradition to solve the contradictions is the most likely and most reasonable.

    Challenge 5: If the gospels were based on myths then how do you explain its success? The early church grew, many were killed, yet it grew and grew after every persecution. Studying the early church gives us the impression that something supernatural was at work there. Islam was spread by the sword (still is) but Christianity had nothing to defend its first 280 years…unless a living Lord was nurturing it….

    I don’t know. I would say that persecution had something to do with it. People fight back after persecution, and become more galvanized. Do you think Jews are going to give up their religion any time soon? I also think an analogy to Joseph Smith and his band of Mormons being chased all around the country would apply here. I still say that Mormonism is far more successful after about 180 years of existence than Christianity was after 180 years of existence. But maybe that is a trick of the devil.

    I don’t know for certain on any of these issues, Jim. But I think there are plenty of more reasonable scenarios than taking The Biblical account at face value, and there is no appeal to Divine Intervention.

    Phew – it is getting late.

  18.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Heather took the Resurrection Challenge and said:
    “If all of this is to happen at daybreak, then something isn’t adding up for me here. Either Mary/the women are told near daybreak that Jesus is risen, or Mary just thinks the body is gone, goes to get the disicples, they go, leave, and Jesus appears. At which point, she’s not told about the resurrection at daybreak. Matthew and Mark do show Jesus appearing to the women/Mary before she gets to the disicples, whereas John shows that occuring afterwards. ”

    Thanks for trying Heather. You quit at about the same point I did. It get really hairy when Jesus starts to appear to the disciples.

  19.   HeIsSailing Says:

    JennyPo sez:
    “Are you sure that a spiritual body is NOT a physical body?”
    I am pretty sure. Later in 1 Cor 15, Paul says this:

    “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,”

    I mean, he is talking about natural as in flesh and blood. That is not a spiritual body. Much of the debate concerning Spiritual versus Physical bodies can be found in the book of 2 Enoch. Yes, it is non-canonical, but it at least details the thinking of the Jewish community at the time. Physical and Spiritual were distinct from each other as far as I can tell.

  20.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Time for one more:

    Joeyanne sez:
    “Moses only had what God physically told him. He had to rely on the details God gave him for everything. We have the Holy Spirit who reveals things to us – things that may not seem so clear at first. This is wayyy better than what Moses had.”

    Are you sure the Holy Spirit revealing anything to us is way better than a detailed list of instructions from the Finger of God? Left to fend for ourselves and divine the message of the Holy Spirit, we have cooked up countless numbers of Christian denominations, many with their own ideas of what Salvation means and how to attain it. Because the Bible and the Holy Spirit’s direction is far from clear.

    I remember a message from the Pulpit concerning the Urim the Thummim, those old testament divining stones that gave people answers in the form of Yes and No. They were endorsed by God, and included as part of Aaron’s vestment, placed directly over his heart. Now what was God doing endorsing divining stones? Well, says my Pastor, that was the way God spoke to people before the Holy Spirit came around. You ask God a question, roll the stones and get a Yes or No. We don’t use them anymore, because we have something better – The Holy Spirit! I remember thinking at the time, I WISH I HAD AN URIM AND THUMMIM!!!! Because at least you get a direct answer with that. Try asking God a question about anything that requires a Yes or No. Your guess is as good as mine as to how to determine God’s answer using the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  21.   jennypo Says:

    HeIsSailing sez:
    “But yes, many of the questions they ask are legitimate are they not? Many of my Christian friends have encouraged me to ask tough questions.”
    Truthfully, I don’t find much in this line of questioning either legit or tough. Most of the “questions” asked are twistings in wording or involve assumptions that are hardly even intelligent. I can’t relate. I have seriously questioned the existence of God and the validity of Christianity, but never on the basis of reasoning like this. I believe that the reason this kind of “challenge” sends many Christians reeling is not because it is reasonable, but because most of “Christianity” maintains itself by living in a sealed capsule, indulging in either gross ignorance or similar wordtwists, or both.
    To be fair, I do believe you see this as legit. And I know it is hard to know the difference sometimes between what the words say and what we’ve been taught to believe they mean.
    I don’t have time tonight, but I will take this challenge.

    HeIsSailing, just so you know, God does tell me “yes” and “no” and a whole lot more. But he never, never tells me anything that contradicts the Bible.
    Although he is perfectly clear, you are right that not communicating with us through the senses means that it’s not simple. There’s a lot that can get in the way. But yes, it’s better. Way better. The Israelites knew an Almighty God – but their Almighty God is Father to me.
    He promised, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Maybe you will see an angel. Or maybe you will have an even surer knowledge. If you really believe a vision would settle things for you, there’s nothing wrong with asking. Either way, if God reveals himself to you, it will be clear. Clearer than the urim and the thummim.

  22.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **Truthfully, I don’t find much in this line of questioning either legit or tough. **

    Honestly, I just do not understand how this is not legit. Nor do I understand how it is not tough. It is using the Bible’s own words. That should make it legit. People are not coming up with legitimate answers. That seems to make it tough.

    **Most of the “questions” asked are twistings in wording or involve assumptions that are hardly even intelligent.**

    I also don’t understand how this is not intelligent. You seem to be very dismissive of this without actually saying why it should be dismissed. If the Bible is God’s Word, then the accounts should be reliable and they should match up. If they do not, then that seems to present a problem.

    **HeIsSailing, just so you know, God does tell me “yes” and “no” and a whole lot more. But he never, never tells me anything that contradicts the Bible.**

    I don’t mean to sound rude, but could you please explain how God speaks to you? Is this an audible thing, or is it a feeling, or is it something else? I am just curious.

    **He promised, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) **

    I can’t speak for HIS for sure on this one, but this is true for me and there is a good chance it is true for him as well. Verses like this actually just add to our doubts. We do genuinely seek God with all of our hearts. If He promised that this would lead us to Him, why aren’t we finding Him? We’re trying to do our part.

  23.   HeIsSailing Says:

    JennyPo sez:
    “Truthfully, I don’t find much in this line of questioning either legit or tough. Most of the “questions” asked are twistings in wording or involve assumptions that are hardly even intelligent. ”

    JennyPo, I am afraid I am with JfC here. There is no line of questioning, word twisting or anything else that The Resurrection Challenge involves. Just take the The Resurrection accounts in the Four Gospels and 1 Cor 15, and tell what happened without leaving anything out. That’s it. It is legitimate.

    And all I am saying is, I could not do it without falling into serious contradictions. Events clash drastically after the women leave the tomb.

    Scroll up and look at Heather’s attempt. She tried, and hers is a bit of a mess. She had to quit.

    Paul sez that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace 1 Cor 14:30. This is very confusing to me. Is this the Word of God or not? I believed in an infallable and inerrant Bible for all my life, so this is not something I am throwing around trying to stir trouble. This is a legitimate issue with me. It is legitmate enought, that these Resurrection accounts, along with many other contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible make me really doubt its inerrancy, infallability or authority.

    JennyPo sez:
    “He promised, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

    Yes, he has promised that. And I am feverishly seeking him. Don’t think that a lot of prayer, tears and frustration have not gone into this. Not to mention more Bible Study then I have ever done in my life. I don’t need proof, I really don’t. Just something that makes sense is all I ask.

  24.   Heather Says:

    **Scroll up and look at Heather’s attempt. She tried, and hers is a bit of a mess.** That’s putting it mildly. :) I was running into problems when I was trying to put all the angels/messengers in their location. The women ended up receiving the message two or three times, which didn’t fit because each was phrased as if it were the first and only time the women learned of the resurrection.

    **If the Bible is God’s Word, then the accounts should be reliable and they should match up. If they do not, then that seems to present a problem.** Or at least, there shouldn’t be so much room for questioning. Many of these can be harmonized when pulled out of the texts, like how many angels or messengers there were. One can say that one covers the angel outside while another covers the angel/young man/men inside. But when I started placing everything that happened in chronological order, including what was said and who was standing where when it was said, it got messy. As I said above, given how the messages are delivered, it looks as though each were a one-time only event. It gets even more complex when John’s account is thrown in.

    My thing with putting the events in chronological orders is that I don’t think we’d accept this as inerrent truth if we were trying to do this with any other text. If another text posed this much difficulty and required this much harmonization by omission, wouldn’t we then decide that the text was in not fact inerrant or infallible?

  25.   societyvs Says:

    I read the whole thing (even the resurrection challenge) and I have come to a few conclusions on this whole thing – which I find a very in-depth issue (thanks for raising it HIS).

    I think the problem with harmonizing the gospels and Paul’s stuff is the historical context – they are ‘stand alone’ books in their respective communities (not as we see in the current NT we have; or for that matter the Tanakh we have). Reason this has to be true is the books are not doctored to look exactly alike (which could have been done if someone had them all at once). There were some later additions when they all exist ‘side by side’ (for example Mark’s ending) – which seems to be Mark’s first problem. However, the point is the arguement to harmonize them all (ie: resurrection challenge) is not one that makes much sense to me.

    I also think the apologist is making a case for a variety of books that isn’t being made by the books themselves. The books are not at all concerned with ‘harmony’ because they are not copied verbatim one from another (as is slightly being assumed by the biblical lit community)…so trying to make them totally line-up will not happen because they don’t have to (that is not a pre-requisite for the writer’s). Does it make the resurrection story less believable? It shouldn’t.

    Is the books lining up the the point of the writer’s? No. If they don’t does that make them less believable? No. The point of each gospel is the teachings of Jesus, his death, and resurrection (and this from the disciples perspective). The point is the story (values) that we can gain from these writings – and even the resurrection plays into the ‘hope’ of the faith (or assurance). To look deeper into this is to ask something the writer is not trying to answer. Ex: How is it even possible a resurrection happened? If you ‘ask did it happen’ – well not a single writer denies that fact.

    Here is what we do know – Jesus lived, Jesus taught, Jesus died, and he resurrected. Getting picky on the details is something comparable to ‘making things up’ as well. I think some of the questions you ask are great – but they will never be answered by the gospel accounts – since the gospel accounts were not written to make sure they fit through a 21st century test (a test that would make no sense to that generation).

    But, If all you had was one account and compared it with the manuscripts of that one account (ex: Matthew) – how much do you think that will vary over time? It doesn’t. So the books are fairly consistent in that sense and that’s all we can ask of them. To ask of them absolute harmony is a farce and comes from an over-intellectualized idea about these books.

    But in the end, does your faith hinge upon the amount of percieved mistake that can be found or the story as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (oe even Paul)? What seems to be overlooked here is the ardent belief these Jewish people held prior to their conversion to Christ – they then follow someone who they call ‘messiah’ – which was tantamount to blasphemy in their days (so they all put their life on the lines). But they left a religion they were so rooted in for someone they claim is the Christ/Messiah? Why?

  26.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **since the gospel accounts were not written to make sure they fit through a 21st century test**

    I think I probably agree with you here, but that really does not help us out. If the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then why the mix-ups? If it’s a bunch of accounts written by (uninspired) humans, for other humans of their generation, then I can understand the discrepancies. But if they are written by inspired humans for all the humans that will ever live. . . and if they deal with the single most important event in the history of the world and mankind’s salvation depends on it. . . then they all better be accurate.

    **If you ‘ask did it happen’ – well not a single writer denies that fact.**

    Not a single one of those writers denied it. But they obviously didn’t even have all the details correct, so they got some bad info/ made up some bad info somewhere. Why should we assume that they are right about the resurrection when they can’t get the rest of the story itself correct?

    **But they left a religion they were so rooted in for someone they claim is the Christ/Messiah? Why?**

    But so many Jews were not persuaded to leave their religion for someone that was claimed to be the Messiah (and he performed miracles, darkness came over the land for three hours during his crucifixion, the temple curtain ripped from top to bottom at his death, AND he even was raised from the dead!!). Why not?

  27.   DagoodS Says:

    societyvs: Here is what we do know – Jesus lived,…

    Actually there is a bit of controversy over that subject. Although at its base, the vast predominance are convinced that someone lived, as to when, where, and how—it is open to vast debate.

    More: …Jesus taught…

    O.K.—but what? That we should follow Mosaic law? That he was the Messiah? That he was a prophet? That he was the Son of God? That he was returning in a few years? In a few millennium? That the moon was made of blue cheese? Simply saying “he taught” is not very helpful, nor does it provide us with any information.

    Every human teaches.

    More: …Jesus died…

    Yep. If he lived…he died.

    More: … and he resurrected …

    But isn’t that the $64,000 question? I, for one, do not know that. I am in the constant process of investigating it. I would like to “know” it. But merely asserting we all “know” it does not progress us any in the investigation. Aren’t we to inspect what we know to see if it can hold water?

    More: Getting picky on the details is something comparable to ‘making things up’ as well.

    Uh-oh. Whenever I hear someone that doesn’t want to look at the details, I am certain that the details are going to trip up the story. So are they. Hence the reason to not look at the details!

    societyvs—it is ALWAYS the details in which we can start to rightly divide truth. What type of God doesn’t want us to look at details? This is like saying “We know JFK was shot, but let’s not look at the details.” It is within those details that anomalies appear. Human anomalies. Anomalies that cause us to question whether it was a human effort in the first place.

    This is the key—the most significant event in the entire 13 Billion years of history—and you don’t think we should look at details? What ARE we supposed to look at, then? Some broad claim and never inspect for ourselves?

    More: I think some of the questions you ask are great – but they will never be answered by the gospel accounts – since the gospel accounts were not written to make sure they fit through a 21st century test (a test that would make no sense to that generation).

    Here I agree with you. They were NOT written as trial testimony. They were written as myth to bolster the belief of certain communities. How…er…does this help a Christian’s claim that it really happened?

    First the claim is made that there is some historical basis for the resurrection, based upon the Gospels. So, a skeptic (me) starts to look at that claim. I am told to NOT. That I shouldn’t inspect the details.

    Then, while I am scratching my head, I am informed that these were not written as historical accounts. O.K. If they were not written as historical accounts, and I cannot inspect them as if they were historical accounts—how does this support any allegation they is any history within?

    More: But, If all you had was one account and compared it with the manuscripts of that one account (ex: Matthew) – how much do you think that will vary over time? It doesn’t.

    If you are talking solely the account of resurrection, I haven’t reviewed the textual criticism of the various accounts. I would be stunned, though, to find there were no variances in the manuscripts of individual books. Do you have anything to support this? I am curious…

    The problem being, societyvs, is that we don’t have just one book. I agree that would help Christianity out quite a bit—if we could lop off Mark, Luke and John. Or Matthew, Luke and John. Or Matthew, Mark and John. It isn’t me that picked these books—it is the people who are claiming the events contained within actually happened.

    Again, by virtue of focusing on just one account, it seems the person realizes that the other accounts DO disagree and undercut their position. Otherwise they would never ask me to focus on just one account.

    If the books were initially intended to stand on their own—this hurts the position. Matthew was aware of Mark. If the author intended his book to supplant Mark, not just support it, then the author was correcting Mark. Making the best argument that Mark is incorrect the fact that Matthew (closer to the time than we are) thought Mark was incorrect. If Luke was correcting Mark (and Matthew) then Luke makes the strongest argument, due to his ability to observe, that Matthew and Mark incorrectly recorded the events of the resurrection. If John, written the latest, was written to stand on its own, and not be in conjunction with the others, then the best argument that the others are wrong is John. But we also have the strong argument from Matthew that John is wrong…and so on.

    We have various accounts. We can compare them. To ask we do not do so undercuts any historicity in the claim altogether.

    More: To ask of them absolute harmony is a farce and comes from an over-intellectualized idea about these books.

    I agree. All I was looking for was “close.” Among humans we expect some variances. We expect some errors. We expect some disagreement when re-telling a story. Is it wrong for me to expect just a teensy bit better from a divine writing? Or are you saying that the Bible is no better and no worse than any other human effort? In which case it is equally no more or less likely to be divine.

    More: What seems to be overlooked here is the ardent belief these Jewish people held prior to their conversion to Christ – they then follow someone who they call ‘messiah’ – which was tantamount to blasphemy in their days

    Most certainly was not. It was not blasphemy to declare oneself as the “Messiah” (since to a Jew, doing so was not equal to God, nor was it cursing God). It was even less blasphemous than not blasphemous at all, to follow a person who claimed to be the Messiah.

    Where did you read this?

  28.   societyvs Says:

    “This is the key—the most significant event in the entire 13 Billion years of history—and you don’t think we should look at details? What ARE we supposed to look at, then? Some broad claim and never inspect for ourselves?” (Dagoods)

    I think looking at the details of 4 books from 4 various authors in 4 various regions and trying to build the historical case from that is a little absurd. It seems people are getting extremely picky in the process and I don’t think the authors set that as the basis for proof they were being honest (‘oh and by the way – can you check my work to this other dudes and that other dudes work so we can see if I am right’?).

    I am not saying ‘don’t look at the details’ but I also see some dis-honesty in that process by people trying to harmonize it all and comin up with ‘they don’t fit – so it’s not true’. Some inconsistency in the re-telling of the story and the story is not true anymore (and this from 4 various authors). I almost expect some inconsistency on that level. But I see no outright denials from a single Christian writer yet the stories aren’t perfect so they all must be deluded on their belief in the resurrection. So is perfection the rule we have to follow when I read these authors?

    “First the claim is made that there is some historical basis for the resurrection, based upon the Gospels. So, a skeptic (me) starts to look at that claim. I am told to NOT. That I shouldn’t inspect the details.” (Dagoods)

    Firstly, I never said ‘don’t check the details’ – since I check the details also. What I proposed is that in the comparison of the 4 gospels – they are individual authors and it seems the purpose is to tell the story about Jesus (which includes the resurrection). Is it made up? How can we know this for a certainty? Well unless we get a ‘body’ of some sort to shut this whole nonsense down then I think the perusal over the 4 gospels and comparing them is pointless. Those 4 gospels all claim Jesus rose from the dead – and getting lost in the details is a fun exercise but it’s in-consequential.

    “I would be stunned, though, to find there were no variances in the manuscripts of individual books. Do you have anything to support this? I am curious…” (Dagoods)

    First off, I have the bible (I use NASB) – which in and of itself has been quite the process of textual critcism and decided on by a variety of theological backgrounds (re-checked by a variety of authors for textual varients). I have looked into some of this (with the NIV) and I must admit the process is done quite thoroughly. But I will check into this further.

    It’s not that Matthew doesn’t have any single variation in the 100′s of manuscripts – it’s that the variants don’t change a single essence/meaning of any story and I yet to see this is in anyone’s works – including Ehrmann’s.

    “Again, by virtue of focusing on just one account, it seems the person realizes that the other accounts DO disagree and undercut their position. Otherwise they would never ask me to focus on just one account.” (Dagoods)

    I have no problem with this (variances in the stories) and I still hold firmly the resurrection did happen. I admit the accounts are not copies of one another and they were written to various communities. So they have some variances in the stories…I don’t quite get the problem in that.

    Your points about Matt, Mark, Luke, and John is one that is based on the theories proposed since the 18th century – on which there is no actual concensus yet. It is supposed Mark was before Matthew, that Luke was after so and so, and John last (which some of this makes sense)…again on this we have very little proof. Why would John be last again? I thought his was the oldest piece of manuscript we do have? Why is Mark the original and not Matthew? How can we be dead sure Luke is a copy – wth all the extra parables he contains? I mean question after question on this will continue to arise – so to debate it will get us nowhere since we would be debating conjecture and hypothesis. Who’s to say we will actually agree on the right or correct theory?

    “We have various accounts. We can compare them.” (Dagoods)

    And you do..what’s the conclusion? Luke disagreed with Mark, Mark with Matthew, and John with all of them. But not a single one even hints the actual resurrection idea is a ‘myth’ (yet you feel comfortable in that assertion)…”They were written as myth to bolster the belief of certain communities”.

    On what basis does your claim actually rest – the gospel accounts aren’t so clear-cut, that you have never seen it actually occur, it’s not humanly possible, etc? I agree there is discrepencies in the events surrounding the actual day of the resurrection (and at that small ones) – again from 4 varying authors – however, in those 4 accounts the resurrection is always seen as something that ‘did occur’. Even Paul says it happened (and he wasn’t even there) – so someone had to have told him. I believe in the resurrection – would you say ‘blindly’?

    “Is it wrong for me to expect just a teensy bit better from a divine writing? Or are you saying that the Bible is no better and no worse than any other human effort? In which case it is equally no more or less likely to be divine.” (Dagoods)

    Expect what you figure it should be for it to meet some ‘divine condition’ – where you get that expectation from is also in question then too. I would say the the NT is a mixture of 29 books, various authors, from various regions, making various points, and does not have to line up 100% to find validity (anyone that thinks this is not handling any sort of context very well – historical, cultural, or literary). I think it’s the word of God still in that the writer’s of the gospels try to relate the ideas and teachings of Jesus (who claims to have a close relationship with God). Is it without ‘error’ – that depends on what ‘error’ now means – but obviously Mark has ‘additons’ to it (and John 8) – but even Christianity doesn’t hide this fact. I see the biblical translators quite honest.

    “It was not blasphemy to declare oneself as the “Messiah”” (Dagoods)

    I didn’t say it was ‘blasphemy’ but quite similar. The disciples claim Jesus is the messiah (that’s how we know that actual claim) and they were not liked by their own communities for that idea (as they also mention Jesus was not). They are kicked out of synagogues and their whole way of life is changed – so much so they are killed for holding that belief. What was the penalty for blasphemy? death.

  29.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **I think looking at the details of 4 books from 4 various authors in 4 various regions and trying to build the historical case from that is a little absurd.**

    So it was 4 authors writing to different regions in their own time. If this is the case, why are we expected to trust it for our own salvation 2000 years later? Your case here makes it sound like the Gospels are a bunch of stories written down by humans without any divine guidance.

    I still don’t see how it doesn’t bother you, either. If details of an event are insignificant to these writers, why did they write them down? How do we know to trust the “big story” of the resurrection, but we don’t have to trust the details that explain the circumstances? The details themselves are how we “know” Christ was resurrected. Some (1/2/3/more) women (and Peter/other disciple) went to the tomb. . . he wasn’t there. The women saw (1/2) angels or (1/2) men at the tomb. Later, Jesus appeared to (a number of) disciples (at a mountain in Galilee/ in Emmaus/ in a room) to prove that he had risen. Then he ascended into heaven (the day he appeared to the disciples/ at least 8 days/ at least 40 days). You see, these very details are what lead us to believe Christ rose from the dead. If the details (that lead us to believe a resurrection occurred) cannot be trusted, the conclusion (Jesus was resurrected) cannot be trusted.

  30.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Wow, you guys work fast and furiously. It took me a while to find HeIssSailing’s answer to my challenge.

    I could go on, but let’s look at your challenge:
    Challenge 1) Explain apostles’ behavior.

    You referenced Jim Jones and his role in causing 913 people to kill thmeselves. First, there is an obvious mistake. Had Jim Jones died brutally, then come back from the dead, and said “follow me” then you might have a point. The eyewitness testimony is serious stumbling block for anyone who wants to claim the gospels are fiction. There simply is NOTHING in history to compare it to. this is what so many highly intellectual people have concluded, such as Simon Greenleaf. Comparing 913 to 12 is irrelevant because the Jones case and the Jesus case are apples to oranges.

    **Which brings up my second issue – how do you know the 12 apostles or Gospel authors were martyred?**
    The writings of the early church are in the religious interests section at Barnes and Noble.

    Challenge 2: Apostles’ belief in Heaven incorruptible.

    You said that the apostles merely expected Jesus to return imminently. Like when, before the axe falls or a few seconds after?

    Challenge 3: The “Challenge” is skewed and has many errors.
    You said, “I did not write the article. As I said, I took the Challenge myself, and could not do it. Why don’t you try?”

    I took the challenge and I found it saying, “try making an accurate chronological order of events. And, if you can’t, then it didn’t happen.” That’s preposterous. I have trouble putting my own childhood events in chronological order, but I know I had a childhood!

    This challenge reminded me of the Wendy’s commercial where a guy says to his girlfriend, “My buddy and I were on our way to Wendy’s to get a 99 cent Spicy Chicken Sandwich when a unicorn stopped in front of his car. We got out and scared him off.”

    “Wait a minute!” says the girlfriend. “Wendy’s has a 99 cent Spicy Chicken Sandwich?” :)

    The moral is not how perfectly you can put the pieces together, but do you see the picture?

    Challenge 4: I said **While we’re combing the biblical record for inconsistencies, where is the evidence to the contrary? Where is the evidence, the proofs for the alternative, more reasonable account that the agnostic and atheist truly believe in?**

    You said **I don’t speak for the agnostic/atheist position, I am only reading the Bible and considering alternatives that I think are more reasonable. I have no proof for anything, but I can only look at what seems most likely. **
    This is bloggerese for “I’m not an agnostic/atheist, I just play one on TV”?

    **I go over the two death scenarios of Judas in fair detail and explain why I think relying on oral tradition to solve the contradictions is the most likely and most reasonable.**

    That’s fine. One says his guts fell out and I think the other says he hung himself. Of course, we could speculate that he hung himself and then his guts popped out. But you see this gets kind of silly quickly.

    Challenge 5: **If the gospels were based on myths then how do you explain its success? The early church grew, many were killed, yet it grew and grew after every persecution. Studying the early church gives us the impression that something supernatural was at work there. Islam was spread by the sword (still is) but Christianity had nothing to defend its first 280 years…unless a living Lord was nurturing it….**

    You said***I don’t know. I would say that persecution had something to do with it. People fight back after persecution, and become more galvanized.**

    And when they are dead? The Jews only number 15 million to this day. Why didn’t they expand? There is a good case for a supernatural hand in the growth of Christianity.

    You concluded **I don’t know for certain on any of these issues, Jim. But I think there are plenty of more reasonable scenarios than taking The Biblical account at face value, and there is no appeal to Divine Intervention.**

    I believe the problem with the Challenge guy’s view is that he is taking literally certain things and applying them to a chronology meter that perhaps clashes with the medium of the gospel writers. Each century has a slightly different way of reading the Scriptures and getting them wrong.

    I don’t always take Scripture at face value. I worry that I might lose a deeper meaning or message in it if I apply a literal litmus test to it. Just looking at John 20 reveals numerous examples. Here’s my homiletic of John 20:1-18:

    Verse 1 – Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb before daylight, a sign of sincere eagerness to see to Jesus’ needs, even in death.
    Verse 2 – she sees the stone rolled away and believes his body has been stolen. How often we see something unebelievable and think the last thing that could be the cause is God’s will.
    Verses 3-6 – Peter and John run toward the tomb, the younger John beating him out, but the “son of thunder” loses his thunder at the entrance to the tomb. He hesitates while Peter goes on by without waiting. How often we pride ourselves on being zealous but it’s the sloppy, slow-footed one that shows his steadfast loyalty at the critical moments. They take the action that we give ample lip service to.
    Verse 7 – the description – the only eyewitness description at that time – of the sudarium and the shroud will prove essential in verifying the two strongest pieces of evidence for the resurrection. It has now been affirmed that the blood type on each matches the other and dates from the first century.
    Verses 8-9 show the process by which John saw, then believed, then understood. The reality of Jesus came together in his mind at this moment.
    Verses 10-13 – The guys leave but Mary stays. She doesn’t want to “wait and see” what happens next. Sobbing, she looks inside the tomb and she sees the angels. Now, there are many references in the Bible of people being allowed to see angels, such as Jacob the night he wrestled with God. The discrepancy in the gospel accounts of how many angels and to whom they appeared is moot. There’s a mystery here that you might get to the bottom of if you could ask an angel…
    Verses 14-17 – Jesus appears to Mary who thought he was the gardener which is a rational thought being the first day of the work week. It’s not until he says her name that she realizes it’s Jesus. He appears in our darkest hour when we are totally helpless to meet that need and answer our most difficult questions.
    Verse 18 – Mary does what any sane person would, she goes back to the disciples saying “I have seen the Lord!” That’s not unlike what we are called to do when we feel a relentless passion for Jesus Christ.

    That’s only the superficial things I glean from John 20:1-18. It’s interesting to note that John’s gospel has the most eyewitness testimony;the crucifixion and the tomb.

    If the Bible was just a text then it could be judged errant by the skeptic. At that point errancy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it? It begins to fail miserably as a way for us to know God. But the Bible is not just a text. It is like an interactive video game that triggers in our minds some understanding where we must go to satisfy the longing that is in us.

  31.   joeyanne Says:

    Wow. I can certainly say that only a 2000 year old book isn’t what convinces me of the ressurection. So, your conclusion is that the ressurection didn’t occur? What is the bigger question here? Can I trust God? Is the Bible His Word? If not, how can I be certain of what He is saying? Maybe any or all of these questions. Proving the ressurection happened may help, but it won’t answer these questions for you. Don’t get side-tracked by issues that aren’t the root issue. I’m not saying to just accept without question everything you hear, but you have to have some starting point. And I don’t think answering this question is going to give you that. You have to go back farther.

  32.   DagoodS Says:

    societyvs,

    You said, “So they have some variances in the stories…I don’t quite get the problem in that.” Let me approach a little differently to, perhaps, give you a bit more flavor to that.

    We both agree (I think) that a resurrection of a dead person is an extraordinary claim. A self-resurrection is an extremely extraordinary claim. Unique, even. For a unique claim of this monumental proportion, we would desire independent witnesses. Witnesses opposed to the proposition would be even better, but at least independent witnesses.

    We don’t have that. The only witnesses we have are “insiders.” Christians. People that, by the time they are telling us about the resurrection, already are firmly convinced it happened.

    Worse, Jesus promised a sign to that generation, and then didn’t deliver it. The only people he appeared to were those who had already proclaimed his Messiahship, at the least.

    The fact that our only source of information is from biased sources gives us the first reason to pause.

    Secondly, if we are stuck with “insider” information, at least we would hope for the best evidence we could get. We would want the actual people who witnessed the event. If not them, someone they told. If not them, someone who heard it from someone who heard it from witnesses. In other words, we want the description from as close as possible.

    But what do we have? Paul, who at best got it second hand. Mark, who, equally at best, got it second hand, but possibly made it up. Matthew, who we don’t have a clue as to where he/she obtained the information. Luke, same problem (although arguably would attempt to get as close as possible). The best you could hope for is John, but considering all the numerous contradictions between that gospel and the synoptics, was not written by the Disciple John.

    So, as to authorship, we have one possible witness (John), three possible second-hand, Paul, Mark and Luke, and realistically, four completely indeterminate how many people the information passed through—Paul, Mark, Matthew and Luke.

    Thirdly, we would like it as close to the time as possible. The longer the time, the greater likelihood of people’s memory failing, or myth developing, or the story modifying. We have Paul, say 20 years after the event. More than enough time for these types of modifiers to enter the equation. Then Mark, at best 35 years after the event. Than Matthew and Luke, maybe 45 years after the event, and John 65 years after the event. At best.

    We fear that as time develops, myth and sophistication would enter the process. Not ironically, that is exactly what we see between Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke and then John.

    Fourthly, we would like to see if the witnesses are questioned by others. All are completely unknown. If the various books were written to Christian communities that already believed in the resurrection, most likely not. All we can say is that we don’t have any such demonstration of questioning within the First Century.

    So…what I am left with are accounts, written by biased individuals, long after the events happened, who obtained their information from persons unknown.

    Frankly, the only item left to bolster the claim at all, would be the lack of variances. Yes, they are each writing about a resurrection. Whether they were aware of the other books, or were correcting the other books, if they were each writing about the same resurrection—the same event—the one supporting point in a Christians favor is that these individuals agree as TO that event.

    In other words, societyvs, the only thing we can look at, in the hopes to salvage the resurrection tale as having actually happened, would be the cohesiveness, the agreement among those reporting it, as to how it occurred.

    That is why the variances are a problem—it is the only evidence in favor of a resurrection and it doesn’t agree.

    Imagine a courtroom. The defense attorney repeated and vociferously claims that his client has an alibi.

    The first witness testifies that they heard through the defendant’s mother that the defendant was home, watching television with his momma all night. They learned about this a week after the crime.

    The second witness testifies that she heard through the defendant’s father that the defendant was helping him rake leaves at the old folks’ home.

    The third witness says he heard through the neighborhood that the defendant was home, with his father, listening to the radio.

    The fourth witness says he remembered seeing the defendant at the local car wash.

    Now—are you seriously going to tell me you believe it was sufficient that they all agreed the defendant had an alibi, (regardless of their bias, or where they obtained the information) and that is what is key? That the prosecutor, by demonstrating the difference in details, is being “picky”?

    You may feel this is a 21st century application of a first century document. Ah well. If that is distasteful, please provide a mechanism by which we can use First Century thinking to determine whether an event is historical in the first century.

    It is not enough to complain that we are using the wrong era to determine what happened in 30’s CE. Go the next step. Explain to us how to use a first century methodology by which we can determine a claim of a miraculous event happened in the first century. Careful…Josephus claims of miracles as well…are they true under your method?

    Or are you presuming the resurrection is true and working backward? We need a method by which we can determine whether an event happened.

    Relying on biased witnesses who obtained their information from unknown sources, and tell different stories seems dangerous to me.

    I am a bit surprised you disregard the synoptic problem so quickly. Do I need to go through the arguments as to why Mark was first and Matthew and Luke copied Mark? Do you know why we use the word “Synoptic”? I am uncertain why it must be dismissed because it was recognized and resolutions proposed first in the 19th Century. Is there some cut-off date by which we can no longer propose theories or learn about the creation of the Bible? (Careful here, too. Might lose your NASB! *wink*)

    O.K. Can you provide any support that claiming to be the Messiah would be tantamount to blasphemy?

    societyvs, I don’t think you believe in the resurrection blindly. Not at all. I do suspect, however, that the skeptic eye you utilize on many claims, such as O.J. being innocent, or Smith getting gold plates, or the Iliad being true, you do not use so sharply, or apply with such scrutiny on your own claims of the resurrection. It is a human condition.

  33.   Kim Says:

    Jim,
    I would like to add my two cents on a couple of your comments:

    “If the gospels were based on myths then how do you explain its success? The early church grew, many were killed, yet it grew and grew after every persecution. Studying the early church gives us the impression that something supernatural was at work there. Islam was spread by the sword (still is) but Christianity had nothing to defend its first 280 years…unless a living Lord was nurturing it….”

    A lot of Christianities success lay in stamping out all opposition with the sword. For example, when Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, more than half the population of the Roman empire was still pagan. Theodosius officially ended religious toleration in the Roman Empire and went out of his way to persecute the empire’s religions minorities (including heretical Christian groups and sects). It was through consistent application of persecution, harassment and violence by Theodosius and his successors that led to the ‘Christianization’ of the Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire later). It seems that the Bible was not good enough on its own merits to convince people; it had to be shoved down people’s throats as well.

    Furthermore, the zealousness with which the Roman/Byzantine Emperors applied their ‘Christianization’ policy actually aided in the spread of Islam. The eastern parts of the Byzantine Empire (Egypt, Syria, Palestine) did not toe the party line with respect to official Catholic doctrine and as such they were persecuted for it. When the armies of Islam invaded the Eastern portions of the Byzantine Empire, resistance from the Christians living there was minimal to none existent. Religious toleration under Islamic rule was better than persecution under Byzantine rule.

    Your comment that Islam was spread by the sword is only half accurate. While it is true that by 730AD, areas of Islamic control stretched from Spain to India, this control was only political and not necessarily religious. The Christians living under Islamic rule were not forced to convert. For example, for several hundred years after the Islamic conquest of Egypt, Christians where still a majority there. It took almost a thousand years of people living in Egypt to gradually convert of their own free will to make Egypt a majority Christian nation to a majority Islamic one. Today Egypt’s population is still 10% Christian. It is a myth that Islam forced the inhabitants of its conquered territories to convert.

    Jim, there is nothing supernatural at work regarding the early success of Christianity. Once Christianity got control of the political levers of power in the Roman Empire, they got busy making sure everyone became good little Christians weather you wanted to become one or not. If still like to make the case the early success of Christianity can be attributed to supernatural causes, then one can also make the case that the case that the early success of Islam, Zoroasterism, Hinduism and Buddhism can also be attributed to supernatural causes.

    “And when they are dead? The Jews only number 15 million to this day. Why didn’t they expand? There is a good case for a supernatural hand in the growth of Christianity.”

    The reason the Jewish religion does not expand is because Judaism is not a proselytizing religion like Christianity and Islam. Since they believe they are the chosen people, there is no reason for them to spread the word of God when it is only meant for them.

  34.   Kim Says:

    Jim,

    I missed some of my comment when I went to cut and paste, Argh!!

    Here it is, this should go at the top of my last comment:

    After 280 Christianity was by no means a runnaway success. By the early 4th Century, Christianity was only concentrated in urban centres. While it is true that Christians were very significant in the Roman Empire, but the majority of the poplution was still pagan. A lot of Christianity’s success lay in stamping out all opposition with the sword……..

    See above for the rest

  35.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    **I took the challenge and I found it saying, “try making an accurate chronological order of events. And, if you can’t, then it didn’t happen.” That’s preposterous. I have trouble putting my own childhood events in chronological order, but I know I had a childhood! **

    I realize you might take my comment as taking the Resurrection accounts too literally. However, earlier you submitted a response harmonizing all the differences in the Resurrection account and said that “This whole framing of the questions reads like a clever lawyer trying to get out of a contract particularly where omissions in the Scriptures and assumptions in their interpretations are counted as contradictions” and gave the impression that all could be resolved through understanding the omissions and assumptions. Now you’re saying that the challenge is preposterous, and even though you have trouble chronologically remembering your childhood, you had a childhood and are saying that the chronological order isn’t a priority. If that’s so, then why bother with dealing with the omissions or assumptions, or making all the accounts fit? The impression this is giving me is that on the initial glance, everything can be resolved through dealing with the omissions and assumptions, but when pressed for the order, we’re told that just focusing on the chronological aspects takes away from the story — but this still doesn’t address the challenge.

    This does come across as avoidance to the actual challenge. Christianity itself dervies from the resurrection — no resurrection, no Christianity. I’m not sure how you can compare remembering a childhood to the resurrection account — without this, you have no ‘proof’ for Christianity itself. Shouldn’t something like this have no difficulties at all, given how important it is? This should be true across the board — the literalness should matter, because it’s the cornerstone of the religion. This should convince even the skeptics that there is no wiggle-room for what happened when, in terms of the story. If a chronological order like how I presented it was shown in court, lawyers would rip it to shreds, and a jury might concur that everyone was making up the Resurrection, because it presents reasonable doubt.

    I agree that there’s a deeper meaning to the Resurrection, and only focusing on the ‘literal’ events can take away from that. But I was also under the impression that a viewpoint that takes the Bible as inerrant and infallible holds all things as literally true, unless clearly understood to be a symbol, metaphor, allegory, etc. Doesn’t this also apply to the resurrection?

  36.   Stan Says:

    The Challenge: “The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.”

    Here goes:

    Before first light, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She found the stone rolled away. There had been an earthquake that removed the stone. The guards had passed out from the appearance of an angel. So Mary Magdalene, very confused, went back to the other women. As the sun rose, she went back with Mary, the mother of James, Joanna, and Salome. There were two angels there. One inside the tomb said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” They headed back out, and the other said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

    They remembered He had said that, but this was very befuddling. This wasn’t making sense. While Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples, they headed home to keep their mouths shut. Who would believe this? But as they went they encountered Jesus Himself. They fell at His feet and worshiped Him. He told them to go tell the disciples where to meet Him.

    By now Mary Magdalene had reached the disciples. She wasn’t yet convinced that He had risen, nor did she think that they would believe her, so she simply told them “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” No one believed her. But soon some of the other women arrived and told them that He was gone. Finally Peter and John went to look. The others didn’t believe. John got there first, but stopped at the entrance. Peter went in and saw the burial cloth lying in place and the face cloth folded and off to the side. John came in and was convinced, too.

    Mary Magdalene had followed them. She looked inside for herself, overcome with grief. (She wasn’t buying into this resurrection thing yet either.) The two angels (who had gone inside the tomb by now) asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” She turned around and, in her tears, didn’t recognize Jesus behind her. He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take him away.” Then He said, “Mary,” and she recognized Him. She clung to Him, but He told her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” So she went off and and told them that He was risen (not stolen like she had thought).

    Meanwhile, on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaeus, two disciples were talking about His death. Without them knowing who He was, Jesus joined them. They conversed for awhile and He explained to them why He had to die and how the Scriptures told of Him. They invited Him to eat with them since it was almost dinner time, so He joined them. But as He broke the bread and blessed it, they realized who He was, and He vanished. They ran off to tell the disciples in Jerusalem. They found them gathered in a room, still confused and frightened. Imagine everyone’s surprise, then, when Jesus Himself appeared in the room. They thought perhaps He was a ghost, so He asked for some food and ate it to prove He wasn’t merely a ghost. After a conversation, He seemed to vanish into the sky, leaving them elated and worshiping.

    Jesus appeared multiple times to people after that. He visited the disciples on occasion. By the time He was leaving for the last time, around 500 people had seen Him. On one occasion he had a personal encounter with Thomas, offering to let him touch His wounds. Thomas decided he didn’t need to to believe. Jesus had told them to meet on a mountain in Galilee, so they went there and met with Him to receive “the Great Commission”. On another occasion, He met with them while they were fishing and helped them catch more fish than they had imagined. Finally, after 40 days, He gathered His core disciples, told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, and ascended into heaven.

    I don’t think I left anything important out. I admit that there is some conjecture, but 1) none of it is contradictory, and 2) none of it contradicts any of the accounts. I SUSPECT that those who wish to believe it will, and those who don’t won’t. That’s the problem with this “challenge”. If someone actually answers it … it will be ignored by those who started the challenge and applauded by those who didn’t care about the challenge. It was a fun endeavor, but it is a losing proposition if I actually thought someone would say, “Oh, yeah, I guess there IS a logical explanation for all of these paradoxes. Thanks!”

    (Note: I have excluded Mark 16:9-20. There is scant manuscript evidence of their authenticity.)

  37.   DagwoodS Says:

    Jim Jordan: **Which brings up my second issue – how do you know the 12 apostles or Gospel authors were martyred?**
    The writings of the early church are in the religious interests section at Barnes and Noble.

    Sigh. Yeah, I looked there, too. Couldn’t find ‘em either. Tough, isn’t it? Be honest—you didn’t go read my link about this, did ya? Shame. Believe it or not, being the open-minded fellow I am, it actually had some portions that could have helped you on your question. (HeIsSailing’s question of “12 apostles martyred” is too open of a question. 1 Clement gives us Peter and Paul. Josephus gives us James.)

    Well, can’t have everything.

    Stan, saw some problems in your proposed harmonization. But, as you say, those convinced one way or another will probably stay convinced. Before I engage in a debate on inerrancy, I need a standard.

    By what set of criteria do you determine something contradicts? (Regardless of whether it is the Bible, the Yellow Pages, or a grocery list.) In other words, what method do you use by which we can determine two writings are contradictory? (You, too, might want to go check my link on inerrancy. Probably won’t. More the pity.)

  38.   Heather Says:

    Stan,

    Thanks for responding. You’re right, it will probably only convince those already convinced and vice versa.

    A few comments. It does come across as a few assumptions made, yes.

    **Before first light, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She found the stone rolled away. There had been an earthquake that removed the stone. ** The problem I have with this is the matter of tense. The stone being rolled away in Matthew — the passage is in the aorist/past tense, and begins with “And behold,” which would indicate that the stone was rolled away after the women got there.

    Also, the time in terms of when all this happened — each one starts with dark/daybreak, and the word uses indicates very early, right before sunrise, for all accounts. In spreading it like this, Mary goes at early sunrise, and the other women would show up some time later.

    **While Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples, they headed home to keep their mouths shut. Who would believe this? But as they went they encountered Jesus Himself. ** Are you saying they parted ways? Because Matthew just has Jesus meet ‘them,’ which I am taking as all the women, including Mary Magdalene. But you have here that Mary M went to the disciples, while the women headed home to keep their mouths shut.

    Also, Corinthians 1:15 doesn’t seem to be in this, with Jesus first appearing to Peter, and then the Twelve. Unless you’re saying that Peter was part of the first disicples that Jesus meet, but I would find it odd that Peter wasn’t named.

    And I’m no doubt proving your point. :) But I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.

  39.   societyvs Says:

    “The fact that our only source of information is from biased sources gives us the first reason to pause.” (Dagoods)

    What I would find even better is if they had said nothing at all…then screw the supposed ‘biased’ sources – it’s a 100% sure thing to never have happened. But the sources exist and they must be biased ‘Christians’ (which apparently means they are also ‘liars’), and they be Christians with Jewish (Tanakh/synagogue) traditions – or a strong set of already religious values prior to conversion which they ‘deviate’ 180% from in their story about this Jesus fella -(ie: acclaim him messiah). Interesting these people would cut themselves off from their communities for the sake of creating a ‘biased’ story (or one that holds no water whatsoever).

    “So, as to authorship, we have one possible witness (John), three possible second-hand, Paul, Mark and Luke, and realistically, four completely indeterminate how many people the information passed through—Paul, Mark, Matthew and Luke.” (Dagoods)

    The word ‘possible’ makes me believe some of this is assumption? Fact is we really don’t have a clue who saw and told aside from this believing community of peoples. Early church folk claim John actually did write, Matthew published first (possibly in Hebrew), Mark was a work of Peter & Mark (for Rome), and Luke collected stories then wrote an account (for sure he & Paul were not eyewitnesses) to some person or persons not Jewish (named Theophilus). But for some reason this is inplausible even if some of it came from the mouth of the disciples follower’s. The dates of any of these original manuscripts is a debated subject with no absolute resolve and many opinions – again this is open to debate.

    “We have Paul, say 20 years after the event. More than enough time for these types of modifiers to enter the equation. Then Mark, at best 35 years after the event. Than Matthew and Luke, maybe 45 years after the event, and John 65 years after the event. At best…We fear that as time develops, myth and sophistication would enter the process. Not ironically, that is exactly what we see…” (Dagoods)

    So if I have this accurate within 65 years (at the latest and within each person’s lifetime) we have a varieties of myth(s) that develop? For a people (Jewish) that prided themselves on the greatness of their oral history, unencumbered by tv, radio, movies, papers, and media, I would hope their memories would serve them better than the below example.

    I am only 32 and I can still recall some memorable events from childhood – and with the help of others who were there – can re-construct any story clearly. I believe I was actually ‘born in a car’ and I know where, what time, and who was there (although I was not even a day old). I have heard the story from many angles and from at least 3 witnesses. Not all the stories match up mind you but a few things never change – I was still born in a car, at a certain junction, at a certain time, around a certain set of people. That was 32 years ago to March 21 last month (within 3 people’s lifetimes who were the eyewitnesses – although 4 were there – 1 died). Many others verify the story by hearing it ‘word of mouth’ (ie: their claims are similar to the eyewitnesses). The story is so good I even believe it. Could Peter, Luke, John, Matthew, or Paul even have a chance at matching this good of memories? Mind you 1/2 the people in the car were drunk at the time so that might make it a little easier.

    But can mythos develop in 20 – 65 years…I don’t think there is enough proof for that assumption to be put upon the writers. Oh they might have fudged some details up – but the story doesn’t seem to change (ie: he resurrected, people did see him, etc). I guess I can say if Jesus was not resurrected I also may have not been born in a car – apparently I am taking people’s ‘words’ on these things.

    “Fourthly, we would like to see if the witnesses are questioned by others…All we can say is that we don’t have any such demonstration of questioning within the First Century.” (Dagoods)

    Then you need to read Acts and Paul’s Epistles a little more carefully. Not a single letter of Paul’s to (Gentiles) any community isn’t based on problems (or questions) surrounding the life of Christ. 1 Cor even raises the question about the resurrection – as if some people questioned it’s validity. Paul goes into a rant of all rhetorical questions in chapter 15. Acts in and of itself seems to have Paul presenting this idea to communities with questions (yet Paul makes a case for resurrection from Acts ch. 17-26). There is questions about the resurrection within the biblical narrative itself. The gospels have Jesus proclaming this event and the disciples not getting it (or questioning it) – Mark 8:30-32.

    I think your reference to the 4 witnesses and an ‘alibi’ (just any old alibi) is a little different than 4 witnesses and one event (one event they all claim is the resurrection). The 4 witnesses scuff up details not the claim. My analogy of the ‘birth in a car’ is a little more honest in that regards.

    “Relying on biased witnesses who obtained their information from unknown sources, and tell different stories seems dangerous to me.” (Dagoods)

    I think the problem is methodology. I suppose I take the disciples claim at ‘face value’ on this since I can’t see their religious background making them into biased liars (these people were raised in Mosaic law and have more to lose than gain by lying)..since some of their claims were getting them persecuted. I just can’t make logical sense of strict Jewish followers betraying their faith for some concocted story about a man resurrecting. Throw in the son of man stories (Jewish people would of knew what this meant), Jesus calls God ‘father’, the ‘I am’s’ in John, son fo God talk, etc. All of those add up to heresy in the nth degree in that community…so much so it got Jesus killed. And this is the same set of stories coming out of the disciples mouths. Any way you chalk that up – it’s gonna be ‘death via stones’ for the whole whack of them. And this for a fudged tale about some dude they could of easily as forgotten (since it is mythical)? Or better yet, should of forgotten.

    But I believe I was born in a car (this old analogy) because doctor records have to have recorded this too (so there is another witness who was not there but via my absence at the maternity ward has to be recorded). Now the doctor records I believe will read I was born in a little town of Balcarres – nothing more, nothing less. But the doctors will be able to verify I was not born in the hospital, since we went there afterwards. Point being ‘my body was not in the maternity ward’ and the proof is I came in a sheets (or possibly towels) for doctors care after I was born. One could say the ‘lack of a body’ in this case helped to further this belief.

    “I don’t think you believe in the resurrection blindly. Not at all. I do suspect, however, that the skeptic eye you utilize on many claims, such as O.J. being innocent, or Smith getting gold plates, or the Iliad being true, you do not use so sharply, or apply with such scrutiny on your own claims of the resurrection. It is a human condition.” (Dagoods)

    I use the same system I do for all things – what did the people say about such n such a thing who were there? Physical proof also plays a part in that – ie: coming from the sources there or the authorities on scene. I either take their word for it, then carefully examine that ‘word for it’, and come to a conclusion on their ‘words’. That’s my method and it works quite good (in the present and in historical studies).

    In all honesty, all we have is someone’s words (and whatever proof we can dig up or in this case ‘not dig up’). We are kind of stuck in that sense and have to make a decision based on limits – ie: we were not there and have to ‘trust’ someone’s idea about something anyways. How can I know for certain Gandhi’s biography is being honest (he never wrote it)? Did Luther really nail 95 thesis to a Catholic Church and if so, where is that document? How do I know my grandfathers signed treaties in Canada’s West (by a lone signature)? But I am more than welcome to believe these reports about things at ‘face value’ (or mere report) and not these other ones?

    But I am under-scrutinizing this claim about the resurrection by taking someone at ‘their word’? It’s not like I didn’t think this one through at all. I looked back into history and the accounts given and I can’t find a good enough reason not to take the disciples at their written words. But if I am to start at the point of doubt first – which we all do anyways – at what point can doubt be squashed? At the believing someone is telling the truth?

    The evidence doesn’t contradict it as of yet (no body) and the story had such a huge following for it’s current day yet no one saw fit to produce better reasoning then ‘they are lying I just know it’. Heck the car analogy of my birth can be ‘shot down’ as of right now if the stories don’t fit into place (32 years in the making) or those doctors don’t corroborate the story. I am waiting. But since I only have testimony on the issue I have to believe what I am told as of right now (no contradictions yet) – ‘I was born in a car’ – although I never saw it, can’t remember the event, or have no real physical proof (it would seem I am bullshitting).

  40.   Heather Says:

    Stan,

    Some other points. I don’t see the fact that some accounts say the women were bringing spices, or that they were asking one another who would roll away the stone. If Mary went first, saw the empty tomb, and then went back for the women, why would they be bringing spices to annoint Jesus’s body? Why would Mary bring spices the second time? Also, why would they be asking themselves, and this includes Mary, who would move the stone for them if Mary was bringing them back to the tomb?

    **As the sun rose, she went back with Mary, the mother of James, Joanna, and Salome. There were two angels there. One inside the tomb said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” ** Isn’t this line said by the angel who was sitting on the stone outside the tomb and a similar line said by an angel sitting inside the tomb?

  41.   Heather Says:

    SocietyVS,

    **The word ‘possible’ makes me believe some of this is assumption? Fact is we really don’t have a clue who saw and told aside from this believing community of peoples. Early church folk claim John actually did write, Matthew published first (possibly in Hebrew), Mark was a work of Peter & Mark (for Rome), and Luke collected stories then wrote an account (for sure he & Paul were not eyewitnesses) to some person or persons not Jewish (named Theophilus). But for some reason this is inplausible even if some of it came from the mouth of the disciples follower’s. The dates of any of these original manuscripts is a debated subject with no absolute resolve and many opinions – again this is open to debate. ** Do you know what the earliest non-Gospel Christian source is that attributes the Gospels to the names on the Gospels?

    I think a reason why many scholars argue for Mark first and the Q theory is that it was common practice back then to write something and put someone else’s name on it. Also, but I’m not certain on this reason, I think some of the Greek phrasing in Mark, Matthew and Luke is too similiar if all were supposed to be written independently and translated into Greek. I *think.*

  42.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Heather,
    in response to your 2:51 pm April 9th response, I felt the idea was preposterous that you would take the events of that day and base your conclusion on whether this unprecedented event happened on the harmonization of 4 different accounts that all point to a resurrection. Now, if all stories concurred on the resurrection having taken place, where is your reasonable doubt that the resurrection did not take place?

    And yes, I did try to harmonize the gospels and found the only obstacle to harmony are the angels, those pesky supernatural beings who appear to some and not to others, or whatever. I don’t believe I was trying to “have my cake and eat it, too”.

    Dagwood S – Sorry I didn’t even see your comments earlier (April 8th 5:15 pm). I wasn’t ignoring you.

    1) Peter and Paul were reported to have perished along with thousands of other Christians in the Christian persecution in Rome. By logical extension, those who went to the lions rather than reject Jesus Christ as Lord were witnessed to by these same eyewitnesses. Would they have gone to their deaths if the original apostles hadn’t gone to theirs? The fact that the eyewitnesses were fervent believers in Jesus’ resurrection is undeniable and the legend that none died a natural death is highly probable. Neither is there any record that eyewitnesses ever spoke against the resurrection.

    2) **Simply put—we have no knowledge as to how much money they generated. But it was enough they did not have to go back to their old occupations and Peter could afford a house.**

    Peter already had his house before the resurrection. I don’t see how your idea of flowing funds is tenable. Paul had to make a living making tents while the “love feasts” had to be after dark because everyone worked sunup to sundown. Sounds like lots of poor folks getting together to me. Sorry, Benny Hinn wasn’t born yet. That the apostles were motivated by money, while not impossible, is highly improbable.

    3) Dagwood**I REALLY implore Christians to get some new arguments.**

    Why do we need new arguments? You’ve already lost the argument. BTW, I’ve seen your arguments everywhere else – I’m just as bored with your arguments as you are with mine. :)

    4) Evidence to the contrary.

    **Mark records the Sanhedrin meeting at night. Mark. 14:53. **
    Really? Do roosters crow at night or could it have been early morning when, like, when roosters crow? Clearly this was just before dawn, it was still NIGHT outside. Throw the Bible into the fire! The “mistake” is that you don’t wake up early enough.

    Your attempt to pile Matthew on to this conspiracy is a bit embarassing, don’t you think? Therefore this late night/ early morning snafu falsifies the Jewishness of Mark and Matthew?

    **Sure enough, what we see is that when Matthew copied Mark, he leaves the Sanhedrin meeting at night. Matt. 26:57. Didn’t know better.**

    **Luke subtly moves the trial before the Sanhedrin to its appropriate place—during the day. Luke 24:66**

    Luke 24:66? I think I once read that verse on February 31st! Obviously an oversight, but you’ll find it was early in the morning and very late at night, depending at how you look at it.

    Sorry to fast forward to your conclusion about the early history. Running out of time.

    **Depends where you get your history [church grew after persecutions] About the only thing Christianity has to rely upon is Acts for early Church history. Yet when we review the other historians of the era, we do not see the explosion as claimed by Christianity. Josephus fails to mention them at all. Pliny the Younger has to torture Christians just to know what they are about.[?] Tacitus makes a reference that Nero blamed them for a fire. **

    Josephus failed to mention them at all? Try again. Nero’s persecution of this already recognizable group was only thirty years after Christ’s resurrection. I don’t know how old you are, but 1977 wasn’t all that long ago. Myth and legend take much longer to form, particulary when it comes to an outrageous claim like resurrection.
    Even an atheist would have to admit “debunking” the resurrection should be easier.

    If only this universe were totally naturalistic, but no, go on believing it is, and I’ll be content going on believing it isn’t.
    Blessings.

  43.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **And yes, I did try to harmonize the gospels and found the only obstacle to harmony are the angels, those pesky supernatural beings who appear to some and not to others, or whatever. I don’t believe I was trying to “have my cake and eat it, too”.**

    Jim, please try to enlighten us. Show us that there is no reason to doubt. Take the challenge. You tried to harmonize a few problems listed, but you did not take the challenge, and now you just dismiss it. People have taken your challenge. Take this one. I also see you conveniently dismissed the ascension problems in your attempted harmonizations earlier. Take this challenge.

    Here is something I found very interesting. I recently did a study of the first gospel written, Mark. I found out that the feeling of a mystery religion emanates from its pages. Jesus seems to talk about some secret knowledge to his disciples. Even the resurrection account has a mysterious feel to it: The women go to the tomb; Jesus’ body isn’t there. Some guy sitting in the tomb tells them to go into Galilee to see Jesus. The women become frightened. The end.

    Matthew and Luke use Mark for their accounts, and they are more detailed. It seems plausible to me that they built more and more of a story to add to the mysterious ending of Mark.

    **Myth and legend take much longer to form, particulary when it comes to an outrageous claim like resurrection.**

    Check out Mark 6:14-16. This account tells of a rumor spreading that Jesus is John the Baptist back from the dead. Others believed Jesus was Elijah. So just how long does it take for a myth/legend to form? Even for an outrageous claim like resurrection.

  44.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Hi JumpingFromConclusions
    Stan did the best job on the challenge for me at 3:09 pm April 9th in his comments. I admit I was starting to fall asleep and was losing patience with each successive dubious claim. So if you want to see my “challenge”, see Stan’s. He’s a much better apologist anyway.

    You asked **Show us that there is no reason to doubt.**
    That’s like Coke execs asking Pepsi, “convince us that Pepsi is better”. You are invested in your opinion, and I am in mine. God has a sense of humor and there’s almost a kind of profound comic sense in that us believers feel we can almost put the evidence together to convince and that unbelievers also can almost put it all together, but we just can’t. It’s as if somebody up there is pulling our chain.

    Regarding Mark 6, why wouldn’t they think Jesus was someone supernatural. He healed people who had been blind from birth and spoke flawlessly on the truths of the Scriptures. People naturally thought He was supernatural. After all, they weren’t stupid! :)

  45.   marie Says:

    Hi HIS!

    Wow–there are a lot of comments and discussion here! I havent had time yet to read them all, so I just want to remind you again that you are not alone in this. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your feelings and take the time to pay attention to yourself. People might always try to challenge your views, but at the end of the day, you have to be in touch with what YOU believe and how YOU feel and what YOU need. I encourage you to keep posting and reading and thinking, and keeping an open mind. It seems that you have come to some heavy realizations lately, and I want to let you know that we are here for you, and you can be free to be the real you in this. I value your site a lot and as cliche as it is, I hope you find some solace soon. I too hope your Easter was peaceful, and I hope you can really find some satisfaction in all this

    your friend,
    Marie

  46.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **God has a sense of humor and there’s almost a kind of profound comic sense in that us believers feel we can almost put the evidence together to convince and that unbelievers also can almost put it all together, but we just can’t. It’s as if somebody up there is pulling our chain.**

    Well, that’ll be fine with me as long as we can just laugh about this with God some day. But if people wind up among the damned for this, then it is no laughing matter.

  47.   jennypo Says:

    HeIsSailing,
    I owe you an apology. I got all on my high horse, ranting about this not being a tough question. Actually, you’re right – I was talking about the criticisms, not the chronology itself.
    The chronology is, well, tough. I have been going through it, and there are a number of things that appeared contradictory at first that aren’t. But I want to be fair. There’s some stuff that I still don’t understand. I need to wait and let God show me. When he does, I will write a full chronology.
    I’m sure there are a million other ideas out there, but I’m not going to read them yet. God is going to tell me in a way that makes sense to my brain. I don’t want to have to explain away stuff. I don’t want to skim over stuff. I don’t have to know everything, but it has to make sense.
    Thanks for being patient with me. And thanks for this! I am excited to see how God explains this one!

  48.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    ** So if you want to see my “challenge”, see Stan’s. He’s a much better apologist anyway.** That’s the thing, though. The challenge states that everything must be included, and Stan’s chronology doesn’t include everything — which is part of the challenge: don’t omit a single detail. Please see my questions in regards to what he posted.

    Look, if this can be explained, I think that would be thrilling, and it would help a lot of people’s doubts But I’ve seen a lot of websites that have stated that no one has actually posted an answer to this that contains all the details from all five accounts.

    **Now, if all stories concurred on the resurrection having taken place, where is your reasonable doubt that the resurrection did not take place? ** Because how it’s coming across is that all accounts agree to the resurrection, but there are discrepencies in the order. If you had four people who only agreed that one spectacular event occured, but not in the order or much else, wouldn’t you be a little doubtful?

    **And yes, I did try to harmonize the gospels and found the only obstacle to harmony are the angels, those pesky supernatural beings who appear to some and not to others, or whatever. ** Then please post your results. I think it would help a lot of people.

    **You asked **Show us that there is no reason to doubt.**
    That’s like Coke execs asking Pepsi, “convince us that Pepsi is better”. You are invested in your opinion, and I am in mine. ** Except many people here, like HIS and JfC, would like the belief back, and the doubts shown that they can be resolved.

    Stan — I’m not trying to give the impression that you deliberatly omitted the details. It’s a lot of information to keep straight about what goes where.

  49.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Good Grief, the replies to this article have taken on a life of their own! Well, what should I expect when I challenge the very essence of Christianity? I understand that people will naturally have very strong emotions about this.

    Stan, thank you for taking the challenge. You got a few things out of order, and left out some things – but at least you see that arranging these events is no trivial matter.

    But to me, it is not what is possible, but what seems most plausible. The Synoptic Gospels line up the events of Jesus life fairly well. The Synoptics line up the events of the cross pretty well also, despite the differing sayings of Jesus in all 3. They line up sort of well until…. guess where? The suppossed original ending of Mark at verse 8 of the Resurrection story. That is when things get hopelessly confused in Matthew Luke and John. I think this is sufficient reason to think that Mark is the oldest Gospel and was used as the main source of information for Matthew and Luke. Mark and Matthew use really implausible story-telling devices. I think it is in Mark where the women are witnesses to the burial of Jesus at the tomb. Why did they go to the tomb alone on Sunday morning, knowing a rock they could never move was there?

    In Mark, just as they muse, “who will roll away the rock for us?” right on cue, they look up and what do you know, the rock is rolled back.

    Matthew elaborates on this greatly. The women come to view the grave, the stone does not simply roll back, no there is a massive earthquake, an angle comes out of the sky, either the angel or the earthquake has rolled back the stone, but the angel sits on it! Whoa, very impressive – but it reads to me like a story embellishment.

    I hear that all 4 Gospels very greatly because this represents 4 different vantage points. This is not plausible to me. How many witnesses were there to the resurrection scene? A few women at the most that I can see. Why would they tell 4 different eyewitness reports to 4 different Gospel writers?

    And speaking of witnesses, who were they? In John, Jesus materialized in front of his disciples where? In Jerusalem behind locked doors!! That’s it? No outsiders allowed in to see the risen savior? In Matthew he appears at an isolated Mountain top in Galilee. Why the secrecy? We don’t believe modern-day conspiracy buffs when they are the exclusive witnesses to an event (no offence, I don’t know how else to phrase that!) “You didn’t see it? It was here, I swear!” Paul speaks of 500 witnesses – this does nothing for crediblility here, not in my eyes. It seems like an afterthoght – “First to Cephas. Then the 12. Then 500 other people!” But, who are they? It could have been 5000 people and this does not help the testimony any.

    There is real confusion in the narratives as to whether Jesus was spirit or flesh. Yes, there is a difference – a huge difference. In John, Jesus was not to be touched – presumably because he was spirit. Later he can be touched, in other Gospels he is sometimes ghostly, sometimes flesh. Through in the narrative in 1 Cor 15 for even more competing doctrines and real confusion. I just see many competing doctrines in these stories about the nature of Jesus’ bodily nature. Read books like Tobit, 2 Enoch or Ehman’s ‘Lost Christianities’ for more info on this, it is a huge subject.

    I could go on about where I think the most troublesome difficulties in this story are, but I don’t have the time right now. It seems the most probable to me that these are fictive devices, that we see story development and elaboration and embellishing when we read the Gospel Resurrection stories in the order that they were written. Hey, I could be wrong, but to me that makes the most sense. If God wanted to be convincing to me and a whole lot of other people, he picked a funny way of inspiring the 4 Resurrection narratives to be believable.

    So the bottom line is, did Jesus rise from the dead? Is he resurrected? Anything is possible, and I do not discount the miraculous. But from everything I have read and from what makes most sense to me, I don’t think a man named Jesus physically rose from the grave. The narrative elements don’t seem likely to me. This is not easy to say, and I would like to be convinced otherwise – after all, I believed it my whole life.

  50.   HeIsSailing Says:

    JennyPo sez:
    “HeIsSailing,I owe you an apology. I got all on my high horse, ranting about this not being a tough question. Actually, you’re right – I was talking about the criticisms, not the chronology itself.”

    No need for apologies here. I just challenged the very essence of Christianity itself, and I understand that people will be very emotionally tied to it, and may be greatly offended. I am glad that you at least are able to use these difficulties that I bring up to bring you closer to God. That is the whole reason I am bringing them up, to challenge my own thinking, and my own pre-suppositions about God, and hopefully in the process I get closer to God also. Whoever God is.

  51.   DagoodS Says:

    societyvs,

    If we are at the point where I say, “Black” then you feel compelled to say “White” and we are writing competing analogies; this conversation has deteriorated to no longer being edifying. I will write a few statements to clear up any misunderstandings you, or a lurker, may have, and this will be my last. (Unless you state something fascinatingly fresh.) The floor is yours—you may have the final comment.

    When I use the term “bias” I do not mean that in a bad way. I am biased toward my family. I would suspect most people are biased toward their family. I am biased toward atheism. Christians are biased toward Christianity. Hindus are biased toward Hinduism. It is a human trait, based upon our upbringing, our knowledge and our day-to-day lives.

    I would suspect, and even prefer, that people understand I am writing from an atheistic standpoint, and take that bias into consideration. Obviously I hope my arguments prevail, nonetheless, but it would be absolutely silly for me to claim pure objectivity, or that I have no bias for atheism over theism. Clearly I do—I am persuaded by atheism!

    The authors of the canonical Gospels (perhaps not Mark, but that is a discussion for another time) were Christians. They were writing to Christian audiences. They were writing on Christian themes. These are not dry traffic/weather reports, these are stories deliberately chosen to bring to light a certain feature about the life of Jesus.

    To not look at that bias would be foolhardy, in my opinion. It does not make them wrong; it does not mean they must be lying. It is just not the best evidence. Look, if you were a defense attorney, and you were presenting an alibi witness for the defendant—who would you prefer? The Defendant’s mother or a disinterested store clerk?

    The answer of “bias” was in your first thought. We recognize that, even though the Defendant’s mother may be telling the truth, she has a bias that makes her not the preferred witness.

    No, I do not hold the authors to be “liars.” Life is not a dichotomy between “truth” and “lie.” People can be genuinely mistaken, genuinely mis-informed, genuinely certain of facts that turn out to be incorrect. If you want to look at these as first century documents, then you know it was common for historians at that time to “fill in the blanks” in spots in which they didn’t know what actually happened. That it was acceptable practice to write what could have happened, when it was unknown what did happen.

    These are not history, they are historiography. It is not a matter of lying. It is a matter of Christians today informing me of the certainty of a historical event, and I am looking at the basis of that claim.

    I use the word “possible” to concede a point in the Christians’ favor in order to get to the heart of the discussion rather than travel down numerous rabbit trails. I freely admit I will not be consistent as to authorship, in the hopes of focusing on what is being discussed rather than becoming a constant bore.

    Look, we are discussing the resurrection. I was pointing out that, the best evidence is from the closest sources, and even given Christians “best” argument, the closest eyewitness we have is John. That he is the only “possible” author that actually saw the events.

    Do you really want me to come into every conversation with my position that none of the authors were eyewitnesses to anything and start harping that YOU have to first prove who the authors were, and when the books were written? I would think, in order to move the conversation along, if we are going to discuss discrepancies between the four canonical gospels, it is better to focus on that, so in order to make a point, I conceded it was possible for one (1) eyewitness to have written an account.

    I am sorry you found my analogy of an alibi witness less honest. (Not sure what that means.) I was merely pointing out that we do look to bias, to time, to place, to closest to events when looking at details.

    Actually, your analogy of birth in a car exemplifies this point admirably. We have an unusual, but certainly nowhere near unique event—so we don’t exercise higher scrutiny. I’ll bet there was not a single person who read your account that doubted it. There have been numerous babies born in cars.

    If you had claimed to have been dead for three days, and come back to life, we would have liked to see some documentation on that one! Born in a car? Why not? Happens every day.

    You use the closest source possible (eyewitnesses), you would bolster this claim by disinterested witnesses (the doctor) and even then, as humans tend to do, you point out that the stories are slightly different, while the big picture stays the same.

    And of course, the largest factor is that we have you. Jesus only stuck around 40 days at most, and only appeared to a very select few.

    But the point I was making with my analogy, you (perhaps unintentionally) supported with yours. You look for the same things to verify a historical event as we do. You just happen to have those things with your birth in a car. We don’t with Jesus’ resurrection.

    socientyvs: But can mythos develop in 20 – 65 years…I don’t think there is enough proof for that assumption to be put upon the writers.

    Mythos can develop overnight. What we expect to see with myths is more dramatic details. That, over time, they become more fantastical. Paul presents an extremely bare-bones description of post resurrection appearances. Nothing more than “he was seen by so-and-so.” Mark records none at all. Matthew records a little more, with barely more than “we saw Jesus and he made these few statements.” Luke records even more, with appearances on the road to Emmaus, Jesus popping in and out of doors. John records even more, with Thomas’ touching, Jesus serves breakfast by the seashore, more interaction with the women. The Gospel of Peter has even more, with the tale of how Jesus actually got out of the tomb.

    Now, tell me. Why does Christianity, for the most part, in this progression, cut off the Gospel of Peter as being myth, but accept John as…well…gospel?

    We see little in story one, little in story two, more in story three, even more in story four, even more in story five, and even more in story six, and I am assured that story six must not be true, because it is myth? Why not story five?

    The “proof” as it were is the same proof for why the Gospel of Peter is discounted as myth. Apply that same method to John, and it, too, will fall.

    societyvs: How can I know for certain Gandhi’s biography is being honest (he never wrote it)? Did Luther really nail 95 thesis to a Catholic Church and if so, where is that document? How do I know my grandfathers signed treaties in Canada’s West (by a lone signature)?

    Exactly as your and my analogies propose. By obtaining information from as many witnesses, preferably disinterested (and in Gandhi and Luther’s situation, we have witnesses from those opposed to the position which is even better), as close to the source as possible, as close to the event as possible.

    However, one big difference. If I was left unconvinced that Luther nailed his 95 thesis’s to the door, I can state, “We don’t know” and move on. Can Christianity state, “We don’t know if Jesus was really physically resurrected” and move on?

    societyvs: The evidence doesn’t contradict it as of yet (no body) and the story had such a huge following for it’s current day yet no one saw fit to produce better reasoning then ‘they are lying I just know it’.

    If you think that my reasoning, my only reasoning, for not being persuaded there was a physical resurrection is “the gospels are lying and I just know it” then I have done an absolute shambles of presenting my position. I apologize for so inadequately stating the numerous reasons for why it is unconvincing.

    If my communication is truly that poor, then all the more grounds for ending this conversation.

  52.   DagoodS Says:

    Jim Jordan,

    You are right. We skeptics do tend to have the same responses to your arguments. Until you guys come up with some that are compelling—why recreate the wheel?

    I’ve asked (twice.) HeIsSailing asked. Still we look for some source as to the death of the disciples. The closest you have narrowed it down is one section in Barnes & Nobles. Now you say “the legend is highly probable.” What legend? When did it develop? Why is it highly probable?

    In the case of Bartholomew, for example, which legend of his death is more highly probable?

    If you are bored with our arguments, I would hope by now you would at least have something better than “some legends are highly probable.”

    Jim Jordan: Peter already had his house before the resurrection. …That the apostles were motivated by money, while not impossible, is highly improbable.

    Not in Jerusalem he didn’t. By what method do you determine a historical fact is “highly probable” or “highly improbable”? You claim legends are “highly probable” and the fact that people are motivated by money is “highly improbable.” Personally, I would reverse those. But maybe your method will shed some light on the subject…

    More: Really? Do roosters crow at night or could it have been early morning when, like, when roosters crow? … Therefore this late night/ early morning snafu falsifies the Jewishness of Mark and Matthew?

    He he he. When DO roosters crow supernaturally? If God needed a rooster to crow to fulfill a prophecy, would daylight be a limitation? (And roosters crow at light. Not just daylight.)

    Regardless, the account of Mark and Matthew place the Sanhedrin meeting at night. (Before dawn IS night to a Jew, ya know!) Notice AFTER the hearing, the next event is “in the morning.” Matt. 27:1, Mark 15:1

    There are other reasons I am more persuaded by the arguments that Mark and Matthew were not Jews (or at least were completely unfamiliar with Jewish customs) than this. If you are truly interested, I could go through them. (Wouldn’t want to bore you with arguments you have heard before. *wink*)

    Thanks for catching me on that reference. Meant Luke 22:66. Bugger being human. Question—when is “day” to a Jew in first century Palestine? (Hint: has to do with sunrise and sunset.)

    More: Josephus failed to mention them at all? Try again. …Myth and legend take much longer to form, particulary when it comes to an outrageous claim like resurrection.

    Not to bore you with the same arguments, I presume you understand why I believe the Testimonium Flavianum is a later addition to Josephus. Why I say he did not mention Christians.

    Your problem with Nero is two-fold. First, there IS no “standard minimum time” by which legend can form. It can take days, weeks, years or centuries.

    Secondly, Nero didn’t persecute the Christians for an outrageous claim. He didn’t care what their claim was. He used them as a scapegoat for blame.

    More: If only this universe were totally naturalistic, but no, go on believing it is, and I’ll be content going on believing it isn’t.
    Blessings.

    To you as well.

  53.   Kim Says:

    societyvs says:

    “But can mythos develop in 20 – 65 years…I don’t think there is enough proof for that assumption to be put upon the writers. Oh they might have fudged some details up – but the story doesn’t seem to change (ie: he resurrected, people did see him, etc). I guess I can say if Jesus was not resurrected I also may have not been born in a car – apparently I am taking people’s ‘words’ on these things.”

    If I apply your criteria for belief in the NT accounts of Jesus to Islam, one would also have to believe its narrative is also true. Mohammad’s life was written down by eye witness testimony. According to you 20 to 65 years is not enough time for a myth to develop. The Koran was written within a few decades of the Prophet’s death and since we are dealing with eye witness accounts, why would they lie? “Oh they might have fudged some details up – but the story doesn’t seem to change”!!!!!

    All the arguments discussed in this post as to why the gospels are believable can also be applied to the Koran with the same result. Comparing the development of Islam to Christianity shows that the development of myths CAN happen. So if the Islamic myth can develop in a short period of time from eye witness testimony, why cannot it happen for Christianity? I am sure you believe Islam is a myth so it is absurd to suggest that a myth cannot develop in a short period of time. Why are the gospel narratives more believable than the Koran? Both were written by eye witnesses, and since eye witnesses have no reason to lie, why should we believe one and not the other?

  54.   Ed Lynam Says:

    Kim,
    Re: Why should we believe one and not the other?
    Simon Greenleaf, one of the founders of Harvard Law School, wrote a piece summarizing his approach using legal reasoning to the testimony, see http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/greenleaf.html .

  55.   Stan Says:

    By what set of criteria do you determine something contradicts?

    I use this bizarre rule: “A thing cannot be both A and not A at the same time and in the same sense.” In other words, if the biblical accounts said “A” and my version said “not A” at the same time and in the same sense, then it is a contradiction.

    (Oh, and I did read your article on inerrancy. You’re looking for a method to prove inerrancy or to settle the question. It doesn’t answer whether it actually is inerrant, since it requires “opinion” — the vote of a jury, so to speak. I would imagine, for instance, that the “neutral jury” that examined Galileo’s thesis would have voted against him, wouldn’t it?)

    Some of what I suggested is conjecture, possibility. It requires “thinking outside the box”, so to speak. I suggested Mary made multiple trips and was confused so she kept her mouth shut and she separated from the rest to go talk to the disciples. There are no explicit statements in the biblical accounts that suggest these things. Neither are there statements that say they couldn’t have happened. If, for instance, 4 women go someplace, then 3 go home while 1 goes elsewhere, if you encounter the 3 on the way home, would they not be referred to as “them” or “the women”? Or does that require that all the women were there?

    When I say I didn’t contradict, I simply meant that I didn’t make a statement that violated the statements of the biblical account. Since no “neutral jury” actually exists, it’s up to each individual to determine if my account is possible, because my account covers just about every objection there is — if one chooses to accept it.

    One objection I didn’t cover is that Paul says that Christ appeared first to Peter. We know that He appeared first to the women. We also know that the 1st century mindset (and likely some of the influences on why the women acted the way they did) is to ignore the women. They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t give testimony in court. So when Paul said He appeared first to Peter, let’s set aside the women. Paul is making an argument that the Resurrection was true, and appealing to the testimony of women would have been rejected out of hand. I mean, for all we know, He could have appeared first to a dog, but no one accepts the testimony of a dog, so it’s not listed. Neither did Paul include them in his argument. As for whether Peter was the first male to see Jesus, on what basis do we know he was not? The two on the road to Emmaeus, when they got to the disciples to tell them, heard, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon” (Luke 24:34). We don’t have an actual account of the event, but it is confirmed here in Luke, and, setting aside the problem of the unviable testimony of the women, it would appear that Peter was likely first.

    But it is quite evident that the process taken here is based on the goal. Christians want to believe that there is a risen Savior. They want to believe that there is good news, a Gospel. They want to believe that there is hope for today and tomorrow and after this life. They want to believe. The other side, the anti-Christian, wants to believe that there is no risen Savior, no God, no “sins”, no “hereafter”. Now, being on one (obvious) side, I can’t really begin to fathom why someone would want to believe the other way. To me it offers nothing at all. We live, we die, that’s the end. There is no meaning, no sense, no hope. Right and wrong are simply pragmatic beliefs based on whatever the individual chooses to believe. What you do in this life is of no real consequence because when you die you die and that’s it. Don’t bother burying the dead; there is no comfort there. And where do you go when difficult times occur? Just shut up and take it because there’s nothing beyond yourself. Now, obviously all of that is based on my perspective and not yours, and, frankly, none of it needs an answer because it is a given that the anti-Christian perspective will be different from what I just said. (I mean, why would anyone say, “Yes! That’s how I see it! Misery and uselessness! That’s what I believe and you should, too.”?) My point is only that we who want hope and the Gospel and a relationship with God and a belief in a Savior will work at examining the question, giving it every benefit of the doubt. We finish and shrug and say, “It makes sense. What’s the problem?” The anti-Christian will block it at every step because they do not want it to make sense. It’s just the nature of the presuppositions.

    I think I’ve offered a viable answer. I know it won’t be accepted. I appreciate the exercise. Be well.

  56.   Heather Says:

    Stan,

    To me, though (and this is probably apparent), while your answer made an attempt — which I appreciate –, it didn’t fully address the challenge, because there were things left out, such as the spices and why the women asking who would roll the stone, if Mary had already been there. I would see those as omissions, which would then not fufill the parameters addressed in the challenge.

    **then 3 go home while 1 goes elsewhere, if you encounter the 3 on the way home, would they not be referred to as “them” or “the women”? Or does that require that all the women were there?** The three would be referred to as “them” or “the women.” But in reading Matthew, the intent given from that Gospel alone is that Mary Magdalen was included, especially since Matthew only lists two women. Therefore, in Matthew, Mary Magdalen has to be included in the ‘them.’ That’s what the author was intending. One can say that since there were other women in the other Gospels, obviously ‘them’ refers to more than one woman. Except each Gospel was written to address a specific community — they weren’t written to initially be as a group.

    Here’s another interesting thing — Luke says that the same day that Mary and such saw the angels and told the disicples about the ressurection, Jesus appeared to two disicples. John says that the third time Jesus appeared was when the disicples were fishing. This means the other two times were in the room behind locked doors. John doesn’t seem to give any room for Luke’s encounter, even though Luke says it occured on the same day of the Resurrection.

    I’m bringing this up because I’m starting to find trying to piece this together like a giant puzzle, and also because I would think given all the work out there ‘disproving’ the Resurrection, that there would be an account out there that puts every single piece of information in the Gospels and Corinthians in chronological order, it would go a long way towards refuting the skeptics. Many people who are currently skeptics did use to be Christians, and the lack of cohesiveness among the five accounts is one of the many things that made them lose their faith. HIS’s goal wasn’t to disprove the Resurrection. Dan Barker probably would’ve loved to be able to keep his faith. I assume the same goes for DagwoodS. All wanted (some still want) to believe in the Risen Savior.

  57.   Heather Says:

    DagwoodS,

    You’re a lawyer, correct? What was your impression of Simon Greenleaf’s account?

    I did find the account impressive and thorough. But when listing that a few contradictions can be resolved with careful study, and shouldn’t invalidate the claim, he didn’t really show how that was the case. He didn’t show how to resolve all the accounts harmoniously: he just said it could be done. Many of his assertions, in saying that the Gospels agree on the main points and such, he didn’t really give an example of what he meant. I didn’t see a lot of examples, basically.

  58.   Kim Says:

    Stan,

    Wow, what a long read Ed! Simon Greenleaf wrote this document in the first half of the 1800s without the benefit of reviewing over 150 years of biblical analysis that has occurred since then. Greenleaf makes a lot of assertions in his writings that are now known to be wrong or are very questionable. For example, Greenleaf touches on the ‘synoptic problem’ and attempts to disprove it. At the time of writing his arguments would have more force, but today his arguments would have little impact as the understanding of the synoptic problem has grown significantly since then. I talked about the synoptic problem elsewhere on this blog:

    http://heissailing.edublogs.org/2007/03/21/famous-last-words/#comments

    Beyond the problem I cited above, Greenleaf might provide persuasive sounding legal arguments for the veracity of the gospels. However, any court of law will agree that physical evidence will trump witness testimony. And why is that…..it is because witness testimony is unreliable at best. Since we do not have any physical evidence we must question everything and look for corroborating evidence.

    Furthermore, citing this article does not address my question of why the gospels are more reliable than the Koran. There will be lots of Islamic jurist who can make the same type of arguments for the veracity of the Koran.

  59.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Heather,
    Here is a link to another harmonization of the 4 gospel accounts.

    I wanted to elaborate on one thing before, that the 4 gospels all point unmistakeably to a resurrection. If there are 4 eyewitnesses who say Joe shot Dan what would be more believeable, that not all their details fit aside from the murder itself, or that all their stories fit perfectly? A court would think less of 4 perfectly corroborated stories because it would smack of collusion. If Amy remembers coming in the front door prior to the murder and Alex claims she came in the side door do you acquit Joe for the murder of Dan? However, if all 4 match their details 99%, then there is the reasonable doubt that they were re-working their story to frame Joe for Dan’s death! But I do NOT see reasonable doubt for the resurrection based on the existing discrepancies in the testimonies.

    Take care.

    Thanks Ed for that link to the Greenleaf story.

  60.   societyvs Says:

    Man has this got heated – but I think a lot of the comments coming from all angles is quite enlightening – who would of thunk there was this much room for debate on one single event. I think the discussion is awesome – and the more deeper we got involved the better this post got…and no one was the worse (or at least I didn’t see any name slinging). HIS – you ingenius theologian.

  61.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    Thank you for the link. You are probably not surprised that I have comments. :)

    I haven’t seen any harmonization address the issue of Matthew, with the stone rolling being in the past tense. It reads that the stone was rolled away after the women got there. That harmonization also doesn’t include the fact that the angel sitting on the rock also spoke.

    Matthew only refers to two women — Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Therefore, when Jesus appears to ‘them,’ he’s also appearing to Mary Magdalene when she’s on her way to the disiciples. Yet John places her at the tomb. Yes, one can say that the writer was guided to write ‘them’ to harmonize with the other accounts. But grammetically, the ‘them’ is to modify Mary Magdalene.

    Mark only refers to two women — Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of two people. They both went into the tomb, and were addressed by the young man. Therefore, that ‘them’ modifies Mary Magdalene as well. Therefore, she was addressed by the young man.

    Luke has Peter going to the tomb after the women tell them what the angels said, and then going home. Perhaps he went to the tomb twice. But Luke reads as it’s Peter’s first visit, and the first time Peter learning this.

    **The angels asked Mary why she was crying and she responded that they had taken away her lord and she didn’t know where His body was.
    The angel told her not to be afraid because he knew she was looking for Jesus who had been crucified. The angel wondered why she was seeking the living One among the dead. He told her Jesus was not there for He had risen just as He said. ** This last paragraph occured to the group of women. Because right after Mary says that they took Jesus, she’s turning around and sees Jesus/the gardener.

    **If there are 4 eyewitnesses who say Joe shot Dan what would be more believeable, that not all their details fit aside from the murder itself, or that all their stories fit perfectly?**

    It’s not a matter of fitting perfectly. It’s a matter of, as I show what I find lacking in the harmonization, there are enough ‘gaps’ that reasonable doubt can be inferred. Because if the four eyewitnesses all differ somewhat major ways aside from the murder, then how can we be sure that the eyewitnesses actually saw Joe shoot Dan?

    Have you ever seen the movie ‘Twelve Good Men’? All the people in it claimed to see this one kid commit the crime, and it turned out that all the people had been mistaken for a variety of reasons. It’s a fascinating movie.

    Here’s the fun part — I do believe that something occured, whether it be a physical resurrection or a mere vision. :)

  62.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **A court would think less of 4 perfectly corroborated stories because it would smack of collusion. **

    But there (most likely) was collusion! That’s what the whole Synoptic problem is all about. Matthew and Luke used Mark– that does seem like collusion to me.

    **However, if all 4 match their details 99%, then there is the reasonable doubt that they were re-working their story to frame Joe for Dan’s death!**

    But the details don’t match 99%. There seem to be more and more extraordinary events happening with each subsequent account. And some of the details should match due to the whole Synoptic problem thing!

    **But I do NOT see reasonable doubt for the resurrection based on the existing discrepancies in the testimonies.**

    Well, we do, and we keep on making our case. If a person’s account cannot be trusted for significant details, why does it still have to be trusted for the big picture?

    Stan says: **The other side, the anti-Christian, wants to believe that there is no risen Savior, no God, no “sins”, no “hereafter”. Now, being on one (obvious) side, I can’t really begin to fathom why someone would want to believe the other way.**

    Nice caricature of nonbelievers there, Stan.

    Anyway, let me give you a simple reason why some people wouldn’t want to believe in the mainstream Christian hereafter: most people are going to suffer forever! It’s not like everyone is going to a good afterlife when they die– not many are, at all! Most people are destined for damnation. If believing is hinged on hope, I don’t understand why you would want to believe in what you do.

  63.   Heather Says:

    Okay, I ended up doing this challenge line-by-line at my blog:

    http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com/

    I’d be interested in feedback, if anyone feels like beating this to death. :) I’m mostly doing this because it’s become like a giant puzzle to me.

  64.   DagoodS Says:

    Heather: DagwoodS,

    You’re a lawyer, correct? What was your impression of Simon Greenleaf’s account?

    Why…how kind of you to ask! As Kim correctly pointed out, some of the factual basis of Greenleaf is quite outdated. The synoptic resolution, the manuscripts, the modification of the standard for the Greek Text, archeology, the DSS—have combined to make much of what he said moot today.

    My personal opinion is that applying the Gospels to the rigors of a Judicial System’s method of introduction of evidence is unwise at best, downright foolhardy at worst.

    I have written on it here:
    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/01/haberdashery.html

    but it obviously did not generate much interest.

  65.   Heather Says:

    DagoodS — I just realized that I’ve probably been spelling your name wrong for quite some time. I’m very sorry about that.

  66.   Stan Says:

    To anyone reading this, I’m keeping it light. I hope nothing in here comes across as “testy” or unkind. I don’t mean it as such.

    Heather said, “To me, though (and this is probably apparent), while your answer made an attempt — which I appreciate –, it didn’t fully address the challenge, because there were things left out, such as the spices and why the women asking who would roll the stone, if Mary had already been there. I would see those as omissions, which would then not fulfill the parameters addressed in the challenge.”

    In my version Mary Magdalene went early, discovered the anomaly, and left confused. She rejoined the ladies who were going to the tomb to put (more) spices on the body. In my version, she kept quiet because she was confused.

    I don’t exactly know why, but it seems as if the reference to “them” (the women) in Matthew must absolutely refer to every single female who was originally in the group that went to the tomb … or it cannot be considered “them”. I didn’t address that “contradiction” because I don’t see why. I don’t know why.

    Heather said, “John says that the third time Jesus appeared was when the disciples were fishing.” Actually, John says, “This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead” (John 21:14). Now, one might say, “See? It’s the third time He appeared to anyone at all” or “See? It’s the third time He appeared to any single disciple,” but I tend to think it is the third time He appeared to the entire group known as “the disciples”. An appearance to, say, Peter apart from anyone else would not qualify as “the disciples”, but “a disciple” and not count toward this third appearance. Also note that I would regard John as saying, “This is my third reference to an appearance,” not necessarily “He only appeared three times.”

    Heather is somewhat concerned about the timing of the stone. According to every source I can find, the verb tense for “there was an earthquake” is “there had been an earthquake” without any reference to when it occurred. Every commentator I can find suggests that it occurred before the women went to the tomb. Simply because the explanation that the stone had been rolled away follows the comment that the women went to the tomb is no reason to conclude that one event followed the other, and none of the translators or linguists that I could find saw any problem with verb tense there.

    Most of the problems are problems of implication, not explicit problems. People assume that all the women stuck together … without anything actually saying they did. People surmise that when the angel spoke, he only spoke once. I don’t know why he couldn’t have spoken twice and said nearly the same thing. And for some reason people assume that every account must list every detail. If one account lists two women and another account list different women, it is apparently a contradiction because they don’t list all the same women. If you are giving an account of who went to the tomb, you need to list every name of the people that went. If you don’t, it is inaccurate. This, of course, isn’t reasonable, and just because one list of women is different than another doesn’t require a contradiction. Just because one account says Peter ran to the tomb and another says Peter and John ran to the tomb doesn’t mean that one contradicts the other. An omission of a fact is not a contradiction.

    Here’s what it comes down to. “There are enough ‘gaps’ that reasonable doubt can be inferred.” Yes, you can have your reasonable doubt. What will not be admitted is that a reasonable answers are sufficient. And since this isn’t a court of law, the “reasonable doubt” clause doesn’t apply.

    JumpingFromConclusions said, “Nice caricature of nonbelievers there, Stan.” Thank you. That was the intent, since it is common to caricature believers. But, seriously, it was a stereotype, a generalization, and it was not aimed at “unbelievers”. It was aimed at “anti-Christians.” Most “unbelievers” are ambivalent. In the meantime, I have yet to find a better offer from the anti-Christian view. “Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better,” eh? :)

  67.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **I have yet to find a better offer from the anti-Christian view.**

    I’m not an anti-Christian, but even I can think of an obvious one for them: Most of humanity won’t suffer eternal damnation.

  68.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Stan sez:
    “According to every source I can find, the verb tense for “there was an earthquake” is “there had been an earthquake” without any reference to when it occurred. Every commentator I can find suggests that it occurred before the women went to the tomb.”

    It is such a minor point here, but of all the versions on blueletterbible.org, only the NASB has “there had been an earthquake”. Just checking.

    However if we do assume the “had been” interpretation is true, then that means there were no witnesses to the angel descending, rolling the rock away and causing the Roman guards to faint in fear, except the Roman guards. Did Matthew interview them before writing his gospel? Or do we assume that the women saw the roke rolled away with the angel on top, the unconscious soldiers on the ground, and they deduced what happened? I guess that is reasonable. Blast – one assumption upon another.

    Stan, a few inconsistancies between 4 authors make sense to me. At some point though, I think a line needs to be drawn in credibility, and that is up to each interpreter I guess. We used to have a former police interragator as a regular reader – and I wonder what he would say if he were presented with 4 different reports of a crime that varied so wildly as the 4 Gospel accounts do. I don’t know.

    We don’t have that many witnesses at the tomb, so we don’t have many vantage points that would validate 4 such different stories. Again, the way the Resurrection accounts vary after Mark 16:8 is just anomalous within the Synoptics. They agree fairly well, a detail off here and there, but they all agree closely until Mark 16:8 – then as Stan’s effort shows, it takes tremendous effort, creativity, assumptions and imagination to piece them together. It seems beyond coincidence that this would occur at just the point where Mark’s Resurrection story ends.

    I also made the comment on Heather’s **brand new weblog** that if this Harmonization ever gets figured out, we need to hire some actors and a film crew and see how it plays out.  Will the harmonzation of all 4 Gospels (and 1Cor15) flow smoothly and plausibly, or will it look like a jumbled mess with people running back and forth to hear different messages, appearing on a Mountain top in Galilee then rushing off into a locked room in Jerusalem .. etc.  Heather mentions that the Gospel stories flow smoothly on their own, mixing them together would look really odd on film.

    That the Resurrection stories are fiction that were embellished on over time just makes more sense then God giving us 4 separate but incomplete yet inerrant accounts that must be spliced togther by our effort. Hey, ya got me – I’m just going by what makes most sense to me.

  69.   Heather Says:

    **In my version Mary Magdalene went early, discovered the anomaly, and left confused. She rejoined the ladies who were going to the tomb to put (more) spices on the body. In my version, she kept quiet because she was confused.** See, I wouldn’t see this as valid just because John gives a picture of her afraid and distraught. She really needs to know where the body is — saying that she was simply confused almost distorts the emotional flow of John’s Gospel. That’s one of the things I’m finding about all the harmonizations online — in some ways, they really ruin the emotional content of each Gospel.

    **I don’t exactly know why, but it seems as if the reference to “them” (the women) in Matthew must absolutely refer to every single female who was originally in the group that went to the tomb … or it cannot be considered “them”.** Because Matthew only mentions that there are two women. The inference is that the ‘them’ has to include Mary Magdalene. That’s how we’d read any other text, even if there was more than one account. It can be considered that the ‘them’ refers to other women, but it’s almost like making an exception in this case, because we don’t generally do that when reading something.

    **Simply because the explanation that the stone had been rolled away follows the comment that the women went to the tomb is no reason to conclude that one event followed the other, and none of the translators or linguists that I could find saw any problem with verb tense there.** Not only, as Heissaling points out, we lose the witness to the angel moving the stone, Matthew is set up to infer that the stone was moved after they got there and before they stepped into the tomb. The soldiers get afraid, but the angel immediatly assures the women to not be afraid, and invites them to see where Jesus lay in order to see that the body isn’t there.

    **no reason to conclude that one event followed the other, ** Nitpicky thing, but when telling what happened, isn’t it usually in order? As in, the natural conclusion is that the events followed one another. I understand what you’re saying, but if we start going the route that just because two things are mentioned chronologically somewhere doesn’t mean one event followed the other, we can really make a lot of things in the Gospels not follow one another.

    **Just because one account says Peter ran to the tomb and another says Peter and John ran to the tomb doesn’t mean that one contradicts the other. An omission of a fact is not a contradiction.** It doesn’t matter in terms of timing, though? John has Peter and John there almost immediatly, Luke has Peter there after the women tell him what the angels said.

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