Was Jesus Really a False Prophet?

 

One of the common objections by skeptics is that when it comes to prophecy in the Bible, Jesus gave some guidelines about his return that simply don’t match up with reality. I have been reading a book called Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism by Christopher M. Hays, Christopher B. Ansberry. In this book, they address this issue. They say:

 “At the end of the day, however, the most important function of prophecy for twenty-first-century Christians is in sustaining our own future hope for the return of Jesus and the consummation of the kingdom of God. Is this hope legitimate? Indeed, even apart from the discriminating eye of historical criticism, the Scriptures do seem to give us reason for pause, insofar as they appear to evince a pattern of promising a climactic future vindication of the people of God, and then later admitting quietly that things did not work out precisely as anticipated. How should Christians feel about this phenomenon, this apparently ‘perpetual deferral of the eschaton’? If we cannot rely on Old Testament ‘prognostications’, how can we trust the predictions of the New Testament? In this final portion of our chapter, it is our desire to use historical-critical insight into the nature of prophecy and apocalyptic literature in order to reinforce Christianity’s most fundamental hope. One might conclude, therefore, that prophetic hopes of restoration are little more than pious wishful thinking.

Nonetheless, Christians often remain unaffected by this problem; practically speaking, Christ’s coming and resurrection have overshadowed the gaps in Jewish timelines. Although we look forward to his prophesied return, we tend to think ourselves fortunate to know that Jesus eschewed any particular predictions about the timing of his return (Mark 13.32//Matt. 24.36). Unfortunately, things are not quite that simple. Even though Jesus declined to offer precise calendrical prognostications regarding his return, he nonetheless made broader chronological claims that have proved problematic.” After all, he said:

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16.27–28 [ESV], emphasis not in original).

Or similarly, consider the text which C. S. Lewis opined was ‘certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible’:

In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven . . . Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Mark 13.24–30 [ESV], emphasis not in original) In short, Jesus promised that his Second Coming in judgement would take place by the end of his contemporaries’ lifetimes. Yet here we are 1,900 years after the last of the apostles died, reciting the creed expectantly and reassuring ourselves, ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.’

Even though Jesus did not make chronological predictions with the same specificity as did Jeremiah, modern Christians are in very much the same position as was the author of Daniel; they need to give an account of why the promised restoration has been deferred beyond the pale of what the prophets seemed to countenance. The potential theological problems of this situation are obvious: if prophecies of future divine vindication, be it the restoration of Israel from exile or the consummation of the kingdom of God, are habitually deferred and recalculated, without ever seeming to be fully realized, then what grounds do we have for hoping that Jesus will indeed come again? At what point do we just wise up, and stop waiting for God? Many critical scholars would point to precisely this phenomenon and say that, whatever we learn from Jesus, we should not sit around waiting for his return.”- Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism by Christopher M. Hays, Christopher B. Ansberry, Kindle Locations, 1967-1976.

 

The Conditional Character of Prophecy

I actually like the alternative to this supposed ‘problem’ with the return of Jesus and the prophecy topic. Hays and  Ansberry say that an explanation of the deferral of the Lord’s return is a failure to recognize the conditional character of prophecy.  They say:

“ In Jeremiah 18, God says that, just as a potter can change the design of his pot even after beginning to shape it, so also God can act in a manner different from what he had foretold, should people’s behavior so incline him. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. (Jer. 18.6–10 [emphasis not in original]) Jeremiah says that when God promises blessing, and people meanwhile fail to act obediently, God can alter his course of action and punish them. Conversely, when God promises judgement and the people repent, God may decide to spare them. Thus, Jeremiah understood prophecy often to be conditional; the outcome of prophecy can depend on people’s actions. Might this help account for the deferral of the restoration of Israel foretold by Jeremiah, or for the delay of Jesus’ Second Coming? What is fascinating is that closer examination of the biblical texts reveals that precisely these dynamics are at play. We have referred already to Jer. 29.11’s famous promise: ‘For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’ But note that the very next verses link these ‘plans’ to the way the Israelites react to God’s  chastisement: Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jer. 29.12–14) So the question becomes: how well did the Israelites respond to God?”- Kindle Location, 2061

To build on these comments by Hays and Ansberry, it is interesting that there are other passages that discuss the return of Jesus and Israel’s repentance.  Jesus spoke about the relationship between Israel’s repentance and their response to him in the following text:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”-Luke 13: 34-35

A similar text is seen in Matthew 23: 37-39:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you desolate.  For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Notice the emphasis on the article “until.” Here, it could not be clearer that Jesus says the Jewish people will not see him again and cry out to Him until there is genuine belief on their part.

Another text that  is important to the concept of Israel’s restoration is seen in Peter’s sermon in  Acts 3:19-21:

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,  that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

Here, the word for restoration is “apokatastasis” which is only seen in this text. There is also a similar theme in Acts 1:6 when Jesus is asked about “restoring” the kingdom to Israel.  The points is that the Messiah is in heaven and his reappearance to rule and reign can be expedited by Israel’s repentance.

Ironically, while the same themes about the condition of Israel and the coming of the Messiah (for the first time) are seen in the Rabbinical literature.

I was recently going back and reading a book called Jewish Christian Debates: God, Kingdom, Messiah which features a dialogue between Bruch Chilton and Jacob Neusner. In it, Neusner says:

What is most interesting in the Talmud of the land of Israel’s picture is that the hope for the Messiah’s coming is further joined to the moral condition of each individual Israelite. Hence, messianic fulfillment was made to depend on the repentance of Israel. The coming of the Messiah depended not on historical action but on moral regeneration.-pg 172.

So to build on this, there are plenty of texts in the Rabbinical Literature that discuss the relationship between the actions of Israel and the Messiah’s first appearance:

Leila Leah Bronner says the following in Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife

“All “the ends” have passed and still the Messiah has not come; it depends only upon repentance and good deeds. (BT Sanhedrin 97b).  If [the whole of] Israel [genuinely] repented a single day, the son of David would come immediately. If [the whole of] Israel observed a single Sabbath properly, the son of David would come immediately. (JT Ta’anit 64a). If Israel were to keep two [consecutive] Sabbaths according to the law, they would be redeemed forthwith. (BT Shabbat 118b). Because they describe a uniformity of devotion and behavior that is difficult if not impossible to attain, these passages show the lengths to which Jews as a community must go to attract the Messiah, as does this statement from Rabbi Yohanan: “The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked.” In response to the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik (1922–2001), a modern Orthodox scholar, claimed that redemption could come in two different forms. The first, the ketz nigleh or “revealed end,” is a paradigm of history and natural process. The second, the ketz nistar, or “hidden end,” is miraculous and supernatural. If the Jews did not repent (repentance in this case meaning a return to Orthodox observance), then redemption would take place on a natural level, but slowly. Conversely, if the Jews did repent, the Messiah would come miraculously, as suggested by the image of the Messiah riding in on the clouds in Daniel 7:13.”-Kindle Locations, 3433-3445

Conclusion 

I am well aware there have been several ways to deal with this topic.  Christopher Hays even has a new book out called When the Son of Man Didn’t Come: A Constructive Proposal on the Delay of the Parousia. The bottom line is that there are many cases where we see the conditional element of prophecy in the Bible. Given both Jesus and Peter and the Rabbinical literature  discusses  the contingent element of prophecy and the appearance of the Messiah, this provides a plausible alternative.

Six Signs That You May Be Ashamed of the Gospel

Golgotha

Given this was one of the most popular posts of 2014, I have decided to re post it. Enjoy!

We are living in a day of religious pluralism and theological illiteracy. On a very general level many Christians have been told they need to share the Gospel with people. But why? What is it that motivates you to even engage the culture for the Christian faith? Or maybe you just don’t engage it all. Overseas, Christians are being persecuted and killed for their beliefs. So don’t take it for granted that we have the freedom to share what we believe with others.

1. The Starting Point

If you don’t agree with the following syllogism, it makes it hard to want to share your faith: 1. The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence. 2. The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate. This claim to divinity was proven by His miracles/His speaking authority, His actions, and His resurrection. 3. Therefore, there is reliable historical evidence that Jesus is God incarnate.

So if this syllogism is correct, it leads to the next syllogism:

The Command to Make Disciples: Matt 28:19

1. Whatever Jesus teaches is true. 2. Jesus taught that we are to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19). 3. Therefore, Christians should desire to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19).

This command does not mean we need to be sent to some far distant land to preach the Gospel. The command applies to every Christian no matter where they are located. God uses us wherever we are.

It is true that much of the Church has focused on the “go” part of this command. But we need to remember that The Great Commission is accomplished while we “go” about living our daily lives.

The context of Matt 28:19 is that in fulfillment of the Great Commission, we are to make disciples. We are to baptize new believers and we are to teach them. Unless there has been teaching and instruction about the commands of Jesus, there has not been any discipleship. So it is clear that people can’t enter into the process of discipleship without hearing about the Gospel.

Romans 1:16

“For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is  the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew  first and also to  the Greek. For in it  the righteousness of God is revealed  from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)

Grammatically, the entire verse is in the present tense. There are three verbs:unashamed, isand believes. All are in the present tense. So Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel. He knew it was for the Jew and the Greek. He also  knew the power of God was demonstrated in the message.

But now we need to ask ourselves whether we can make an application of this text. Do we as Christians actually believe the Gospel is Good News and are we ashamed or unashamed of the Gospel? Are there some visible signs as to whether we are ashamed or unashamed of the Gospel? Here are some signs that we might be ashamed of the Gospel.

#1: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are worried about offending people

I was teaching a class on evangelism a few weeks back. One student said that one of the people they had witnessed to had been offended by the message. My response is the same as always: The Gospel is offensive. Paul commented about the challenge of proclaiming a dying Messiah to his fellow countrymen:

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor.1:21-22)

To summarize “The Kerygma” of the early Christian community:

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4.Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).

You could always make people less offended and preach a false Gospel such as “Jesus will meet all your needs.” In other words, Jesus is a buddy. But if you do this, you will have to answer to God for giving people the false Gospel. So always remember the power is in the message. And it will offend because the Holy Spirit does convict people of the truthfulness of the message.

#2: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are a man pleaser rather than a God pleaser

This happens  to all of us. In a day of political correctness Christians are more worried about what their peers think than what God thinks. In the end  we will answer to God with what we did with the Gospel. We are stewards of the message.

#3: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we are afraid we can’t answer objections

In this case, that’s why we have apologetics. There are plenty of resources that can help the Christian to be confident in what they believe.

#4: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t take the Lordship of Jesus seriously

This is a hot topic. As far as Lordship, I think the new believer needs to know about this early on. To make Jesus as Lord of one’s life is a lifelong process. It is a call to daily surrender. We are called to yield our time, bodies, goals and gifts to His Lordship. Is it easy? No, not at all. I struggle with this quite a bit. But we do have a Helper to give us the grace to do it (hint: study the ministry of the Holy Spirit). So in other words, we say ‘”Lord Jesus, have your way with me. I am relying on the work of the Holy Spirit to yield myself to you on a daily basis.”

There is no doubt that  in a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people bail out. A long-term commitment to our Lord which involves self-denial (Luke 9:23) is hard to swallow for those that have been told The American Dream is the way of happiness.

#5: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t really believe the Gospel is true

In this case perhaps we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves on a daily basis. Do we really believe it is Good News?

#6: We are ashamed of the Gospel because we don’t even know what the Gospel actually is!

You may say this is impossible. But there have been a slew of books questioning “What is the Gospel?” I have written elsewhere that the Gospel is presented in a variety of contexts.  Please don’t be a 20 year old Christian and not know what the Gospel is.

Those are some of the checkpoints I have come up with. Feel free to think of some more.

What do Christians mean when they talk about “Resurrection?”

Over the years I have taught on the resurrection of Jesus. We as Christians sometimes take for granted that we understand what we mean when we talk about resurrection in the Bible. Perhaps this post will help spark some interest to go further on the topic.

Doctrinal Issues

When it comes to the Christian faith, one of the most important doctrines is the resurrection of the dead/the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. From a soteriological perspective, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.” Jesus could not have made full atonement for our sins without the resurrection. Also, through the resurrection, Jesus took on the role as advocate and intercessor (1 John. 2:2; Rom. 8:34). His resurrection also guaranteed us the opportunity of having a resurrected body’s like His (1 Cor.15:20-23, 51-53; 1 Pet.1:3; Phil. 3:20-21; John. 5:25-29).

An important aspect of possessing eternal life is the ability to raise the dead. The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13).Therefore, by claiming the authority to raise the dead, Jesus was exemplifying both the same actions and attributes of the God Israel. The resurrection also marked Jesus as the one who will be the judge all men (Acts 17:31).

Where do we see resurrection in the Tanakh?

As just stated, belief in a resurrection of persons from the dead are seen in eight passages: (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13). The resurrection terminology is seen in two places (Ezek. 37:1-14; Hos. 6:2) to show a national and spiritual restoration brought about by the return from the exile. As far as the nature of the future bodily resurrection, it may involve a corpse or the receipt of a material body comparable to the present physical body (Job 19:26; Is. 26:19), or it may be a matter of transformation (Dn. 12:2-3 and perhaps 12:13); or glorification after reanimation, in the case of the righteous.

As far as the function of the resurrection, it may be personal vindication (Is. 26:16; 53:10-12). Resurrection may also have a function in relation to reward or punishment (Dn. 12:2; 12:13), an assumption to heaven and enriched fellowship with God (Ps. 49:15; 73:24,26), or preface to the beatific vision of God (Ps. 17:15 and possibly Job 19:26). (1)

The Greek word for resurrection is “anatasis” which means “a raising up” or “rising.” There are resuscitations in the Tanakh such as the example of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35). While these figures may have been raised in a resurrection sense, they were not raised immortal in the same way Jesus was.

J. D. Levenson and K. J. Madigan, say the following:

““Christian understandings of resurrection, along with the church’s appreciation of its religious depth, its historical richness, and its reverberations, would be much impoverished if Christians thought that the expectation of resurrection were merely theirs. In particular, and what is most crucial, they would lose sight of the extent to which resurrection is rooted in the belief and practice of Judaism. Indeed, it occurs already in the Old Testament, the only scriptures the church knew at the time of Jesus (when it wasn’t yet called the “Old Testament”). In fact, not only the notion of the resurrection of the dead, but the expression of God’s vindication of Jesus in the language of resurrection, owes its origins to its parent religion, Judaism-or, to be more precise, to Judaism as it stood late in the Second Temple period (about 515 B.C.E., when the Temple was rebuilt after its destruction in 586 B.C.E. by the Babylonians, to 70 C.E., when the Romans destroyed it.”  (2) 

Extra-Biblical Passages on Resurrection

There are also extra-biblical passages that speak about the resurrection such as:

Enoch 91:10

Then the righteous one shall arise from his sleep, and the wise one shall rise; and he shall be given unto them (the people) and through him the roots of oppression shall be cut off. Sinners shall be cut off”

Enoch 92:2 “ The righteous one shall awaken from his sleep; he shall arise and walk in the ways of righteousness”

4 Ezra 7:32

“ The earth shall give up those who are asleep in it; and the dust those who dwell silently in it”

Testament of Benjamin 10:6-8

“And you shall see Enoch, Noah and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob rising on the right hand in gladness-then we also shall rise, each over our tribe, worshiping the king of heaven…then all will rise, some to glory and some to dishonor”

2 Maccabees 7:9

“With his last breath he said: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up* to live again forever, because we are dying for his laws.”

2 Maccabees 7:14

“When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of mortals with the hope that God will restore me to life; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

The Messiah Apocalypse: (4Q521)

“He [God] frees the captives, makes the blind see, and makes the bent over stand straight…for he will heal the sick, revive the dead, and give good news to the humble and the poor he will satisfy, the abandoned he will lead, and the hungry he will make rich.” (3)

In the Rabbinical literature there are explicit teachings on the resurrection. It says in the Mishnah 10.1, it says, “All Israelites have a share in the world to come; … and these are they that have no share in the world to come: he that says that there is no resurrection of the dead prescribed in the Law.” Moses Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi and a medieval Jewish philosopher who has forever influenced the Jewish and non-Jewish world said:

” The resurrection of the dead is one of the cardinal principles established by Moses our teacher. A person who does not believe this principle has no real religion, certainly not Judaism. However, resurrection is for the righteous. This is the earning of the statement in Breshit Rabbah, which declares: “the creative power of rain is both for the righteous and the wicked, but the resurrection of the dead is only for the righteous.” Our sages taught the wicked are called dead even when they are still alive; the righteous are alive even when they are dead” (Bab. Talmud Brakhot 18 b).

Three  points are made here: 1. Resurrection is a cardinal principle taught in the Torah which all Jews must believe 2. It is for the righteous alone 3. All men must die and their bodies decompose. (4)

Resurrection in the New Testament

As we approach the New Testament, Joachim Jeremias comments:

” Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event in history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return to the earthly life. In no place in the late Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to doxa [glory] as an event in history.” (5)

Other Issues in  Defining Resurrection

1. Resurrection is completely different from reincarnation which is a many-times event: Reincarnation is also categorized as a rebirth of a soul into a new and different but still physical and mortal body. Resurrection is a one-time event where the believer receives not a second body but a transformed body. In resurrection, there is continuity between our present bodies and the transformed body to come.

2. There are three resuscitations in the Gospels: Lk. 8:49-56; Jn. 11:38-44; Lk. 7:11-15. Lazarus was resuscitated. He went on to live on in his old mode of but still had to face a second death. Lazarus and these other resuscitations are similar to the raising of the dead as already mentioned in the examples of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35). Jesus was not only but resurrected, he was changed. His body was transformed into what Paul calls a glorified body. He never died again. Therefore, it is important to remember that Jesus is not the only one in human history that has been raised from the dead ( if we call it resuscitation), but he certainly is the only one that has ever been resurrected! In other words, He is the only one who has been raised immortal.

3. Resurrection is not translation: Within the Tanakh (the Old Testament) people such as Elijah and Enoch did not die but were simply translated to heaven (2 Kings 2:11; Gen. 5:24). Also, within the extra-canonical Jewish writing called Testament of Job 40, an account of translation was given as a category to describe recently deceased people as well as to the living.(6) Translation is defined as the bodily assumption of someone out of this world into heaven while resurrection is defined as raising up of a dead man in the space-time universe.(7)

4. In relation to the Christian view of resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:51, is a critical passage. Paul says, “We shall all be changed.” Paul is indicating that the resurrected body is the transformation of the existing body into a new mode of physicality. When Paul describes the new body as a soma pneumatikon, which is often translated “spiritual body” he does not mean a “nonphysical body.” Therefore, Paul is not contrasting a “spiritual body” with a “physical body” but instead a soma psychikon, which is literally a “soulish body.” The real contrast is between a body “animated by the soul” (the present natural body, which, will, like animals, die and decay), and a body animated by a spirit, which is presumably God’s spirit, which will allow a quality of life that transcends the present decaying existence.

In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul contrasts the present, earthly body and the future, resurrection body, which will be like Christ’s. Paul says the earthly body is mortal, dishonorable, weak, and physical whereas the resurrected body is immortal, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. (8)

5. Resurrection is not the same as the so- called dying and rising fertility gods in the ancient world: The myths of dying and rising gods in pagan religions are merely seasonal symbols for the processes of nature and have no relation to historical individuals. (9)

6. Resurrection involves transformation since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). Accordingly, Paul indicates that believers will be “raised immortal” (1 Cor. 15:52), which suggests the transformation or change that results in immortality is coincident with resurrection. In fact, this is part of the resurrection event itself.

7. Another aspect of resurrection is the how it impacts our present life: We as believers now live in a resurrection state. For after noting that God “made us alive together with” Messiah (this is a past event). Eph. 2:5 says: “by grace you are now in a state of salvation” (indicating a present resurrection state).(10)

This is where many of us miss the boat. When Jesus rose from the dead, He not only reversed the curse of death (1 Cor. 55-56) but also broke the power of sin in this life for us. This doesn’t mean we will be perfect. But it does mean we can have a transformed life and victory over sin in this present life.

8. What are the differences between our resurrection and the Messiah’s resurrection? Jesus was raised on the “third day” whereas we will be raised on the last day. And only of Jesus was he installed as Son of God (Rom. 1:4), as universal Lord (Rom. 14:9; Eph.1:20-21; Phi.2:9-11), and judge of the living and the dead (Acts 17:31). (11)

What is the final destination for the follower of Jesus?

Sadly, due to a lack of teaching on the resurrection, the average Christian assumes that that the final destination is to be in the intermediate state- the place that is called “heaven.”

Hence, immortality is generally viewed as the immortality of the soul. Contrary to what many people think, salvation in the Bible is not the deliverance from the body, which is the prison of the soul. The believer’s final destination is not heaven, but it is the new heavens and new earth- complete with a resurrection body. Eternal life is a quality of life that does not start when we die, but right now in the present (John 17:2).

In the final state, heaven including the New Jerusalem portrayed as a bride breaks into history and comes to the renewed, physical, earthly, existence (see Rev 21). This shows that God is interested in the renewal of creation- God cares about the physical realm.

Peter Walker leaves us with a detailed defintion of resurrection:

“Resurrection” (anastasia) in Greek was a word which has already developed a  clear meaning. It referred to a physical raising back to life within this world of those whom God chose –“the resurrection of the just” “on the last day” (cf. Matthew 22:28; John 11:24). So when the disciples claimed Resurrection for Jesus, they were claiming that God  had done for one man what they were expecting him to do for all his faithful people at the end of time (what Paul refers to as the “hope” of Israel [Acts 23;26:6]. If they had meant merely that Jesus was a good fellow who did not deserve  to die and whose effect on people would surely continue beyond his  death, they would have used some other word. They would not have dared to use this word, which meant one thing and only one thing—God’s act of raising from physical death. That is what they meant. And that is what they would have been heard  to mean.”  (12) 

Sources:

1. Adapted from Harris, M.J. From Grave to Glory: Resurrection In The New Testament (Grand Rapids: MI: Academie Books. 1990), 66-67.

2.  J. D. Levenson and K. J. Madigan, Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews (New Haven, Yale University Press. 2008), 2.

3. See Yamauchi, E.M. Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History? Available at http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/yama.html.

4. Gillman, N. The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought (Woodstock, VT. Jewish Lights Publishing), 1997.

5. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith.Third Edition. Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books, 1984.

6. P. Andrew Sandlin. New Flesh, New Earth: The Life Changing Power of the Resurrection (Lincoln, CA: Oakdown Books), 2003.

7. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith, 394.

8. Ibid.

9. Marcus J. Borg and N.T Wright. The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (New York, NY. Harper Collins Publishers, 1999), 120.

10. Longenecker, R.N. Life After Death: The Resurrection Message in the New Testament ( Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans), 1988.

11. Ibid.

12. P.W. Walker, The Weekend That Changed the World (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 63.

Second Temple Judaism and the Problem with the Mystery Religions/Paganism Hypothesis

Once upon a time there was what was called The History of Religions school. In this school of thought, scholars in comparative religion attempted to collect parallels to Christian beliefs in other religious movements, and some thought to explain those beliefs (including belief in Jesus’ resurrection) as the result of the influence of such myths. Sadly, the internet is full of allegations that the historical records of the life of Jesus are examples of religious plagiarism. The same old dying and rising god theme myth just gets rehashed over and over. What is even more problematic is the people who hold to this view automatically assume the New Testament witness to Jesus is false. Then they punt to the myths/mystery religions to explain the problems in the New Testament.

Supposedly, the Jesus story was borrowed from influence of myths about Osiris (a.k.a. Tammuz, Adonis) or divine–human figures like Hercules. Right? This theory has failed for several reasons. First, comparative studies in religion and literature have shown that these mythological figures are merely symbols of the crop cycle (Osiris, et al.). They are not even historical figures.

Second, they don’t have any body of literature (primary and secondary sources) to support their historicity.

Third, does the Osiris myth sound like the resurrection of Jesus? In this myth, Osiris’s wife Isis searches for the pieces of his dismembered body and buries them throughout Egypt. In contrast, the Jesus empty tomb narrative involves no search for the body because the place of Jesus’ interment is known. I fail to see the any similarity.

Furthermore, the entire premise that Paul and the other N.T authors would be so open to borrowing from mystery religions/myths stem from a lack of understanding about Judaism at the time of Jesus. Perhaps we should remember what N.T. Wright calls a “ Jewish covenantal monotheism.” The Hebrew Bible forbids worshiping anyone other than the God of Israel (Ex. 20:1–5; Deut. 5:6–9). Religious Jews knew of these pagan myths and found them abhorrent (Ez. 8. 14–15). There are also references to the negative views of gentile polytheism (Acts 17: 22-23; 1 Cor 8:5). The Jews regard Gentiles as both sinful (Gal 2:5) and idolatrous (Rom 1:23).

In their book The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition, authors Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy carefully lay out the details as to why Jewish people in the Second Temple period would be resistant to borrowing from paganism/mystery religions. Not to mention, the dating of them are in question. If they are dated in the second century and even further than that, it may be that early Christianity (pre-70 A.D), had more of an influence on them than the other way around. Same goes for the Mithra issue. It is hard to make them connect to the N.T. authors. Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. The similarities in pagan/mystery religions shows this was not the source of Paul’s mystery. A few more things to note:

1. The mystery of the cults was something that was known only to the selected few and to be revealed to the few. In the Bible, Paul uses in term “mystery” as something totally unknown to any man until God reveled it. The word “mystery” merely implies something contained in the Old Testament Scriptures but was withheld until Christ revealed it to His disciples.

2. In paganism, those who could not share it with others, but the biblical mystery is available to all of us.

3. As Boyd and Eddy note, “Similarity is not the same thing as sameness. Parallel terms do not equate to parallel concepts.” (pg 142). It seems when we try to say the early followers of Jesus would be so quick to borrow from other mystery relgions/paganism, we run into what is called the false cause fallacy. This fallacy occurs when someone argues that just because two things exist side by side that one must be the cause of the other.

T.N.D. Mettinger, a Swedish scholar, professor of Lund University, and member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities in Stockholm, has written a recent book on one of the academic treatments of the dying and rising gods in antiquity. He says:

“The death and rising gods were closely related to the seasonal cycle. Their death and return were seen as reflected in the changes of plant life. The death and resurrection of Jesus is a one-time event, not repeated, and unrelated to seasonal changes…… There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct , drawing on the myths and rites in the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world. While studied with profit against the background of Jewish resurrection belief, the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus retains its unique character in the history of religions. The riddle remains.” (The Riddle of the Resurrection: Dying and Rising God’s in the Ancient Near East, 2001, pg 221.).

Mettinger’s comment shows that he thinks the belief in Jesus’ resurrection may be profitably studied against the background of Jewish resurrection beliefs- not pagan mythology

James Crossley/Gary Habermas Discussion About the Earliest Record for the Resurrection of Jesus

Most recently, James Crossley and Gary Habermas debated the Resurrection of Jesus on Unbelievable.  Someone posted the following info about the debate on Evernote:

In the Crossley (an agnostic) Habermas (a Christian) discussion last week, a passage of a Jewish transmission text  from an early letter of Paul was discussed in some detail.

‘The resurrection appearances are some of the hardest, best evidence we have” because it’s in early 1 Corinthians  15:3-8 creed.’ ” James Crossley (atheist)

Crossley  reads 1 Corinthians  15 ……

“For among the first things I passed on to you was what I also received, namely this: The Messiah died for our sins, in accordance with what the Tanakh says;  and he was buried; and he was raised on the third day, in accordance with what the Tanakh says; and he was seen by Kefa, then by the Twelve; and afterwards he was seen by more than five hundred brothers at one time, the majority of whom are still alive, though some have died. Later he was seen by Ya‘akov, then by all the emissaries;  and last of all he was seen by me, even though I was born at the wrong time.”

Crossley then says:

‘Now that’s a tradition that’s handed on, this is Paul, we know this is Paul, writing mid-50s, this is kind of gold, this is the evidence I wish we had across the board’  The language of ‘receiving’ and ‘passing on’ is typical rabbinic language.

Crossley is soaked in all of this and the halakhic dialogues in Mark are one of the reasons he dates Mark so early.

The writer on Evernote than asks, What are the other atheists here to make of this rabbinic tradition in early Christianity?

Here is my response to it:
1. Note that Crossley (the agnostic) is the one acknowledging and discussing the value the early date of the creed of 1 Cor 15.
2. To see a detailed post about the early dating of 1 Cor 15:3-8, see our post called The Earliest Record for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus
4. Note the comment: What are the other atheists here to make of this rabbinic tradition in early Christianity? Most likely, they will bring up some of the issues that are discussed in this post here: “But Paul Never Met Jesus”And Other Bad Arguments About Paul On The Internet

The Metaphysical Hurdle and The Miminal Facts Argument

 

Anyone who has been involved in the apologetic endeavor is familiar with what is called the “minimal facts” argument. The main proponents for this argument are Gary Habermas and Mile Licona. The five well-evidenced facts granted by virtually all scholars who study the historical Jesus: (see See Habermas. G.R. and Licona, M. L. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus) are 1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion 2. Jesus’ followers sincerely believed Jesus rose from the dead 3. Early eyewitness testimony to belief in Jesus’ resurrection 4. The conversion of Jesus’ skeptical brother, James 5. Paul, once an enemy of the early faith, became a commited follower of Jesus the Messiah

Who are some of these critical scholars that Habermas mentions? To read more about this see: http://preventingtruthdecay.org/jesusresurrection.shtml. I list some more of them here.

The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach

In his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach , Licona discusses what is called “The Historical Bedrock.” These three facts about the Historical Jesus are held by most critical scholars and historians and they are part of the minimal acts argument.

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion

2. Very Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.

3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul converted after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.

Licona is more than aware that just because there is a list of agreed upon facts that is agreed upon by historians and Biblical scholars will not make it true. If so, that would be what is called a “consensus gentium fallacy” which is the fallacy of arguing that an idea is true because most people believe it. As Licona says, “Something doesn’t become a “fact” just because the majority of scholars believe it.” (The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, pg 279).

However, as Gary Habermas says, “Certainly one of the strongest methodological indications of historicity occurs when a case can be built on accepted data that are recognized as well established by a wide range of otherwise diverse historians.” (see Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman, Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2001), 152.

Historian Christopher Blake refers to this as the “very considerable part of history which is acceptable to the community of professional historians.” (See Christopher Blake, “Can History be Objective?” in Theories of History, Ed. Patrick Gardiner (New York: Macmillan, 1959), pp. 331-333; cited in Geisler and Hoffman, 152.

I have listed elsewhere some of those that agree with the minimal facts or historical bedrock. Even Bart Ehrman agrees with these three points:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion: Ehrman says: “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate” (see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 261-262).

2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them: Ehrman says: “Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don’t doubt at all that some disciples claimed this. We don’t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty-five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don’t think he is making it up. And he knew are least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (Galatians 1:18-19).” ( see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 282).

3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul converted after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him: Ehrman says: “There is no doubt that [Paul] believed that he saw Jesus’ real but glorified body raised from the dead.” (see see see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 301).

So as you can see, it really boils down to what accounts for the post mortem resurrection appearances. And what do skeptics generally punt to account for the appearances? Subjective visions or hallucinations. I discuss this issue in greater detail in  my post here:   Licona and others have responded to it as well. This shouldn’t be a shock given that the biggest hurdle in the minimal facts argument is the issue of metaphysics (i.e., the study of being, reality). Granted, there have been many books written about the issue of miracles and it would seem that Hume’s dogmatism that many atheists seem to repeat isn’t as strong as it once was.

But in the end, the debate over the resurrection is always going to be about metaphysics. One approach is what it called the a priori  approach while the other is called the a posteriori approach. Deductive reasoning is called a priori (prior to looking at the facts) and inductive reasoning is called a posteriori (after seeing the evidence). If one has decided that many of the events in the New Testament are not possible (because of an a priori commitment to naturalism), it will impact how they interpret the evidence (after examining it).  Let  me give an illustration by Natasha Crain;

“Pretend for a moment that you just sent three kids out to play in the backyard. Knowing they’ll clearly occupy themselves for a reasonable amount of time without getting hurt, becoming bored, destroying the yard, or fighting with each other, you realize you can relax on the couch with a good book for the next hour. (What? That’s not a realistic scenario in your home? Don’t worry, it’s not in mine either.) Much to your shock, your relaxation is interrupted a few minutes later by all three kids screaming. They run into the house shaking and scared. One explains, “We just saw three pigs fly by!” You smile in relief that it wasn’t a real problem and calmly explain that pigs can’t fly, so they must have seen something else. But the kids are emphatic and all agree. They go on to give you all kinds of reasons for believing their claim. Let me ask you something: Is there any amount of evidence that would convince you they actually saw three flying pigs, short of witnessing it yourself? Probably not. Why?

Because you know, based on how our world works, that pigs can never fly. No matter what evidence there is, you’re simply never going to believe the kids actually saw flying pigs. That is very much the problem most nonbelievers have with the resurrection. We can lay out “minimal historical facts” that nearly everyone agrees on and establish that competing theories about what happened fail to explain those facts , but many people will never seriously consider the idea that Jesus came back to life because we know dead people don’t come back to life. It’s as simple as that for them—just as it’s as simple as that for you to know pigs don’t fly and conclude that any claims to the contrary are undoubtedly wrong. Therein lies the sticking point. We do all know that dead people don’t come back to life… naturally. Christians and nonbelievers agree on that! But if God exists, He could supernaturally cause events to happen that we know could never happen naturally. If God does not exist, such events are impossible.”-Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith by Natasha Crain

Stephen T. Davis has suggested three criteria for assessing whether a miracle remains a potential explanation: (1) when the available naturalistic explanations all fail and nothing else on the naturalistic horizon seems promising, (2) when the event has moral and religious significance, and (3) when the event in question is consistent with one’s background beliefs about the desires and purposes of God, as revealed in the religion to which one is committed (for example, the event occurred after prayer or as an aspect of an epiphany or incarnation). (see Copan and R.K. Tacelli, Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann (Downers Grove, IL: Intervaristy. 2000), 75.

When it comes time to actually examine the evidence,  Some scholars may say they are open to taking an a posteriori approach to the resurrection. However, in many cases, they set the bar so high that no amount of evidence will ever convince them. So in many cases, if one is just utterly convinced that the natural world is all there is than we are back to natural theology and we need to discuss whether naturalism can explain reality better than theism.

Reviewing the Resurrection Creed in 1 Cor 15:3-8

As historians evaluate the sources available for the resurrection of Jesus, a critical question is the dating of the sources. In relation to early testimony, historian David Hacket Fisher says, “An historian must not merely provide good relevant evidence but the best relevant evidence. And the best relevant evidence, all things being equal, is evidence which is most nearly immediate to the event itself.” (1) One key in examining the early sources for the life of Christ is to take into account the Jewish culture in which they were birthed. As Paul Barnett notes, “The milieu of early Christianity in which Paul’s letters and the Gospels were written was ‘rabbinic.’” (2)

Given the emphasis on education in the synagogue, the home, and the elementary school, it is not surprising that it was possible for the Jewish people to recount large quantities of material that was even far greater than the Gospels themselves.

Jesus was a called a “Rabbi” (Matt. 8:19; 9:11; 12:38; Mk. 4:38; 5:35; 9:17; 10:17, 20; 12:14, 19, 32; Lk. 19:39; Jn. 1:38; 3:2), which means “master” or “teacher.” There are several terms that can be seen that as part of the rabbinic terminology of that day. His disciples had “come” to him, “followed after” him, “learned from” him, “taken his yoke upon” them (Mt. 11:28-30; Mk 1). (3)

Therefore, it appears that the Gospel was first spread in the form of oral creeds and hymns (Luke 24:34; Acts 2:22-24, 30-32; 3:13-15; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:39-41; 13:37-39; Rom. 1:3-4; 4:25; 10:9; 1 Cor. 11:23ff.;15:3-8; Phil. 26-11; 1 Tim.2:6; 3:16; 6:13; 2 Tim. 2:8;1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:2).

There was tremendous care in ‘delivering’ the traditions that had been received. Jesus’ use of parallelism, rhythm and rhyme, alliterations, and assonance enabled Jesus’ words not only ‘memorizable’ but easy to preserve. (4) Even Paul, a very competent rabbi was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. It can be observed that the New Testament authors employ oral tradition terminology such as “delivering,” “receiving,” “passing on” “learning,” “guarding,” the traditional teaching. Just look at the following passages:

Romans 16: 17: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”

1 Corinthians 11:23: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread.”

Philippians 4:9: “The things you have learned and received and heardand seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

2 Thessalonians 2:15: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”

1 Corinthians 15: 3-7: The Earliest Account

Paul applies this terminology in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 which is one of the earliest records for the historical content of the Gospel – the death and resurrection of Jesus. The late Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide was so impressed by the creed of 1 Cor. 15, that he concluded that this “formula of faith may be considered as a statement of eyewitnesses.” (5)

Paul’s usage of the rabbinic terminology “passed on” and “received” is seen in the creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-8:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Rainer Riesner says the following about the creed:

To the troubled church of Corinth, Paul, around 54 CE, wrote: I would remind you, brothers [including sisters], of the gospel [euangelion] that I proclaimed to you, which you received [parelabete], in which you also stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold to the wording [tini logō] in which I proclaimed it to you. . . . For I handed down [paredōka] to you under the first things what also I have received [parelabon]. (1 Cor. 15:1–3) Then the apostle cites a series of statements, a technique he knew from his rabbinical training, indicating certain traditions about Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:3–7). There are some important things to be noted. Paul could call a summary of the last part of Jesus’s life euangelion. The apostle reminds the Corinthians that at the foundation of the community (around 50 CE), he taught them some Jesus traditions as part of “the first things.” This is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 11:23–24: “I received [parelabon] from the Lord what I also handed down [paredōka] to you”; then Paul cites the eucharistic words of Jesus in a form independent from, but very near to, the Lukan version (Luke 22:19–20). The formulation “from the Lord” (apo tou kyriou) points back to Jesus as the originator of the tradition (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul is silent concerning those functioning as intermediaries from whom he received the eucharistic words; but 1 Corinthians 15:5–7 shows that the Jesus tradition was connected with known persons such as Peter, James, and the Twelve. Obviously it was not an anonymous tradition. The nearest philological parallel to the Greek words paralambanō (to receive) and paradidōmi (to hand down) are the Hebrew technical terms qibbel and masar, denoting a cultivated oral tradition (m. Abot 1:1). This is in agreement with Paul’s insistence on the “wording” (1 Cor. 15:2) of the catechetical formula in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5. In addition, the strong verbal agreements between the Pauline and the Lukan forms of the eucharistic words point to a cultivated tradition. (6)

There is an interesting parallel to Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 in the works of Josephus. Josephus says the following about the Pharisees.

“I want to explain here that the Pharisees passed on to the people certain ordinances from a succession of fathers, which are not written down in the law of Moses. For this reason the party of the Sadducees dismisses these ordinances, averaging that one need only recognize the written ordinances, whereas those from the tradition of the fathers need not be observed.” (7)

As Richard Bauckham notes, “the important point for our purposes is that Josephus uses the language of “passing on” tradition for the transmission from one teacher to another and also for the transmission from the Pharisees to the people.”(8)

Bauckham notes in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony that the Greek word for “eyewitness” (autoptai), does not have forensic meaning, and in that sense the English word “eyewitnesses” with its suggestion of a metaphor from the law courts, is a little misleading. The autoptai are simply firsthand observers of those events. Bauckham has followed the work of Samuel Byrskog in arguing that while the Gospels though in some ways are a very distinctive form of historiography, they share broadly in the attitude to eyewitness testimony that was common among historians in the Greco-Roman period. These historians valued above all reports of firsthand experience of the events they recounted.

Best of all was for the historian to have been himself a participant in the events (direct autopsy). Failing that (and no historian was present at all the events he need to recount, not least because some would be simultaneous), they sought informants who could speak from firsthand knowledge and whom they could interview (indirect autopsy).” In other words, Byrskog defines “autopsy,” as a visual means of gathering data about a certain object and can include means that are either direct (being an eyewitness) or indirect (access to eyewitnesses).

Byrskog also claims that such autopsy is arguably used by Paul (1 Cor.9:1; 15:5–8; Gal. 1:16), Luke (Acts 1:21–22; 10:39–41) and John (19:35; 21:24; 1 John 1:1–4).

As just mentioned, the word “received” παραλαμβάνω (a rabbinical term) means to receive something transmitted from someone else, which could be by an oral transmission or from others from whom the tradition proceeds. This entails that Paul received this information from someone else at an even earlier date. There are three possibilities as to where Paul could have learned this teaching: in Damascus from Ananias in about 34, in Jerusalem circa 36/37, or in Antioch.  1 Corinthians is dated 50-55 A.D. Since Jesus was crucified in 30-33 A.D. the letter is only 20-25 years after the death of Jesus. But the actual creed here in 1 Cor. 15 was received by Paul much earlier than 55 A.D.

As Gary Habermas notes, “Even critical scholars usually agree that it has an exceptionally early origin.” Ulrich Wilckens declares that this creed “indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity.” (9) Joachim Jeremias calls it “the earliest tradition of all.” (10) Even the non-Christian scholar Gerd Ludemann says that “I do insist that the discovery of pre-Pauline confessional foundations is one of the great achievements in the New Testament scholarship.” (11)

The majority of scholars who comment think that Paul probably received this information about three years after his conversion, which probably occurred from one to four years after the crucifixion.  While we can’t be dogmatic about this, we do know at that time, Paul visited Jerusalem to speak with Peter and James, each of whom are included in the list of Jesus’ appearances (1 Cor. 15:5, 7; Gal. 1:18–19). This places it at roughly A.D. 32–38. Even the co-founder Jesus Seminar member John Dominic Crossan, writes:

“Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus in the early 50s C.E. But he says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that “I handed on to you as of first importance which I in turn received.” The most likely source and time for his reception of that tradition would have been Jerusalem in the early 30s when, according to Galatians 1:18, he “went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter] and stayed with him fifteen days” (12).

E.P. Sanders also says:

Paul’s letters were written earlier than the gospels, and so his reference to the Twelve is the earliest evidence. It comes in a passage that he repeats as ‘tradition’, and is thus to be traced back to the earliest days of the movement. In 1 Corinthians 15 he gives the list of resurrection appearances that had been handed down to him. (13)

And Crossan’s partner Robert Funk says:

The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” — Robert Funk co-founder of the Jesus Seminar.(14)

This comment by Crossan and others makes sense because within the creed Paul calls Peter by his Aramic name, Cephas. Hence, if this tradition originated in the Aramaic language, the two locations that people spoke Aramaic were Galilee and Judea. (15)

The Greek term “historeo” is translated as “to visit” or “to interview.” (16) Hence, Paul’s purpose of the trip was probably designed to affirm the resurrection story with Peter who had been an actual eyewitness to the resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 15:5).

Why does this matter?

I was once talking to a Muslim about the dating of the Qur’an and the New Testament. Islam states Jesus was never crucified, and therefore, never risen. The Qur’an was written some six hundred years after the life of Jesus which makes it a much later source of information than the New Testament. It seems the evidence that has just been discussed tells us that the historical content of the Gospel (Jesus’ death and resurrection) was circulating very early among the Christian community. As I just said, historians look for the records that are closest to the date of event. Given the early date of 1 Cor. 15: 3-8, it is quite evident that this document is a more reliable resource than the Qur’an. Furthermore, to say the story of Jesus was something that was “made up” much later contradicts the evidence just presented.

Note: Here is a resource that responds to some Jesus Mythers (e.g., the usual list that includes Robert Price), who attempt to say 1 Cor 15: 3-11 is an interpolation.

Sources:

1. Hacket Fisher, D.H., Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper Torchbooks. 1970),  62.

2. Barnett, P.W., Jesus and the Logic of History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1997),  138.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Lapide, P.E., The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Ausburg 1983), 98-99.

6. Porter, S.E., and Dyer, B.R., The Synoptic Problem, Four Views (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), Kindle Locations, 2052-2062

7. Bauckham, R. Jesus and the Gospels: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company) 2006.

8. Ibid.

9. Wilckens, U., Resurrection, trans. A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: St. Andrew. 1977), 2

10. Jeremias, J. New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus, trans. John Bowden (New York: Scribner’s. 1971), 306.

11. Ludemann, G, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A Historical Inquiry (Amherst, NY: Promethus, 2004), 37.

12. Crossan, J.D. & Jonathan L. Reed. Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (New York: Harper. 2001), 254.

13.  Sanders,  E.P.,The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin Books), 1993

14.  Hoover,  R.W., and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus,What Did Jesus Really Do? ( Farmington, Minnesota: Polebridge Press, 1996),

466.

15. Jones, T.P., Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2007), 89-94.

16. Ibid.

What Did The Disciples Mean When They Said “Jesus is Risen!”

When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Explanations try to show how something happened. That is, what is the cause for something that has happened. As I have noted elsewhere, the resurrection story started very, very, early. Also, there is an excellent post on the empty tomb issue over at Wintery Knight’s blog.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what explains the resurrection appearances. First, let’s observe the list of appearances:

• Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, shortly after his resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18)
• Jesus appears to the women returning from the empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10)
• Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12,13; Luke 24:13-35)
• Jesus appears to Peter ( Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
• Jesus appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23).
• Jesus again appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. At this time Thomas is present (John 20:24-29).
• Jesus appears to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 28:16; John 21:1,2)
• Jesus is seen by 500 believers at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6)
• Jesus appears to James ( 1 Corinthians 15:7)
• Jesus appears to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20).
• He appeared to his disciples (Luke 24:50-53).
• He appeared to Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

I will go ahead and offer some comments from various scholars and what they say about the appearances and the experiences of the disciples:

E.P. Sanders:

That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know. “I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation. Many of the people in these lists were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause. Moreover, a calculated deception should have produced great unanimity. Instead, there seem to have been competitors: ‘I saw him first!’ ‘No! I did.’ Paul’s tradition that 500 people saw Jesus at the same time has led some people to suggest that Jesus’ followers suffered mass hysteria. But mass hysteria does not explain the other traditions.” “Finally we know that after his death his followers experienced what they described as the ‘resurrection’: the appearance of a living but transformed person who had actually died. They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it.”[1]

Bart Ehrman:

It is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution. We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death. Thus, for the historian, Christianity begins after the death of Jesus, not with the resurrection itself, but with the belief in the resurrection.[2]

Ehrman also says:

We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.[3]

 Ehrman also goes onto say:  

 Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record.[4]

Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don’t doubt at all that some disciples claimed this. We don’t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty-five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don’t think he is making it up. And he knew are least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (Galatians 1:18-19).[5]

Reginald Fuller:

The disciples thought that they had witnessed Jesus’ appearances, which, however they are explained, “is a fact upon which both believer and unbeliever may agree.[6]

Fuller goes onto say:

Even the most skeptical historian” must do one more thing: “postulate some other event” that is not the disciples’ faith, but the reason for their faith, in order to account for their experiences.  Of course, both natural and supernatural options have been proposed. [7]

What did the disciples see? Let’s now look at some of the comments by how some scholars account for the appearances:

Marcus Borg

The historical ground of Easter is very simple: the followers of Jesus, both then and now, continued to experience Jesus as a living reality after his death. In the early Christian community, these experiences included visions or apparitions of Jesus. [8]

Rudolph Bultmann

The real Easter faith is faith in the word of preaching which brings illumination. If the event of Easter is in any sense in historical event additional to the event of the Cross, it is nothing else than the rise of faith in the risen Lord, since is was this faith which led to the apostolic preaching. The resurrection itself is not an event of past history. All that historical criticism can establish is that the first disciples came to believe the resurrection.[9]

John Dominic Crossan

When the evangelists spoke about the resurrection of Jesus, they told stories about apparitions or visions. People have visions…. there is nothing impossible about that. But were these post-resurrection stories accounts of historical visions or apparitions? What sort of narratives were they? Were they histories or parables? [10]

Gerd Lüdemann

At the heart of the Christian religion lies a vision described in Greek by Paul as ōphthē—-“he was seen.” And Paul himself, who claims to have witnessed an appearance asserted repeatedly “I have seen the Lord.” So Paul is the main source of the thesis that a vision is the origin of the belief in resurrection….When we talk about visions, we must include something that we experience every night when we dream. That’s our subconscious was of dealing with reality. A vision of that sort was at the heart of the Christian religion; and that vision, reinforced by enthusiasm, was contagious and led to many more visions, until we have an appearance to more than five hundred people. [11]

So having read these comments, keep in mind that several early followers of Jesus certainly did experience supernatural visions such as Stephen (ACTS 7:55–56), Peter (see Acts 10), see Paul (ACTS 16:8; 18;9).  Remember, a subjective vision is a specific type of dream or hallucination in that it has a religious subject. Nevertheless, it is still simply “a product of our minds and has no cause or reality outside of our mind (see Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004), pp. 111–112.

Ehrman has released another book on Christology.

In the book  he devotes two chapters to the resurrection. He tends to lean on the Lüdemann hypothesis that the disciples had visionary experiences. In it he says:

It is undisputable that some of the followers of Jesus came to think that he had been raised from the dead, and that something had to have happened to make them think so. Our earliest records are consistent on this point, and I think they provide us with the historically reliable information in one key aspect: the disciples’ belief in the resurrection was based on visionary experiences. I should stress it was visions, and nothing else, that led to the first disciples to believe in the resurrection. -Bart D. Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York: Harper One, 2014),  183-184.

So here Ehrman sides with the visionary language that Crossan, Borg and Lüdemann use. The good news is that Ehrman goes onto to define what he means by “visions” of Jesus. He describes visions as something that are either “veridical” or “nonveridical.”  Veridical visions means people tend to see things that are really there while nonveridical visions the opposite-what a person sees is not based any kind of external reality.  It is the latter that leads to what is called the hallucination hypothesis. In other words, skeptics assert that nonveridical visions can be attributed to some sort of psychological explanation. Ehrman then punts to his agnosticism again and says he doesn’t care if the appearances can be attributed to either “veridical” or “nonveridical” visionary experiences or anything else. This is rather confusing in that Ehrman first says it is visions that can explain the resurrection appearances. Given Ehrman and others like Lüdemann punt to the vision hypothesis, Bryan goes on to say the following about the quotes from Bultmann, Borg, and Crossan.

In his book The Resurrection of the Messiah, Christopher Bryan responds to Lüdemann:

One may grant that such visions as Lüdemann describes were common in antiquity and are so still—I  will confess to having had two such experiences myself. Yet however common such visions may have been or are (and in sense, the commoner they were or are, the stronger this objection becomes) neither in antiquity nor in the present are they normally regarded as evidence of resurrection. On the contrary they are taken to be at worst hallucinations, and at best (as I take them to be) genuine communications of the comfort about the departed from beyond the grave. But in neither case are they considered to be declarations that the departed one has risen from the dead. That, however, is what the texts claim about Jesus. That is what Peter and Paul actually do say. Why do they do that? Lüdemann’s hypothesis leaves that question unanswered. Hence, it does not explain what Ludemann himself says needs to be explained. [12]

Bryan goes on to say the following about the quotes from Bultmann, Borg, and Crossan:

If the experience of the first Christians was the kind of experience that Bultmann, Borg, and Crossan suggest—visionary and internal, simply the conversion of their hearts to God’s truth and the real meaning of Jesus life and death—then why on earth did they not say so? The language to describe such experiences was clearly available, so why did the first Christians not use it? Why did they choose instead to use the language of resurrection, words such as egeiro and anistemi, words which, we have noted, were normally used in quite different connections and whose use here was therefore inviting misunderstanding of experiences that would, in fact, have been perfectly acceptable to many in the ancient world who found resurrection ridiculous?”  Why did the first Christians bring “resurrection” into their proclamation at all (other than future open)—unless they genuinely believed that something had happened that could be only be spoken of in this way? [13]

Building on what Bryan says, Peter Walker says:

“Resurrection” (anastasia) in Greek was a word which has already developed a  clear meaning. It referred to a physical raising back to life within this world of those whom God chose –“the resurrection of the just” “on the last day” (cf. Matthew 22:28; John 11:24). So when the disciples claimed Resurrection for Jesus, they were claiming that God  had done for one man what they were expecting him to do for all his faithful people at the end of time (what Paul refers to as the “hope” of Israel [Acts 23;26:6]. If they had meant merely that Jesus was a good fellow who did not deserve  to die and whose effect on people would surely continue beyond his  death, they would have used some other word. They would not have dared to use this word, which meant one thing and only one thing—God’s act of raising from physical death. That is what they meant. And that is what they would have been heard  to mean. [14]

Furthermore, the use of the word “ōphthē” (the Greek word for appeared) shows the Gospel writers did believe that Jesus appeared physically. “There you will see ( ōphthē) him” (Matt. 28:7); “The Lord has risen and has appeared (ōphthē) to Simon” (Luke 24:24). When they used “ōphthē” here, it means that He appeared physically to them. So when Paul gives his list of appearances in 1 Cor. 15:3-8, the issue becomes whether the appearance to him is the same as it was to the disciples. Bryan says:

There is no indication that he wants  to regard the last item in that series as essentially different from the others. Second, he uses the word “ ōphthē” of the appearances to himself as he uses of the appearances to the others. He regards it as the same kind.  He saw the risen Lord as they did.  There is no doubt the post resurrection body of Jesus (after the ascension) had to be somewhat different than the body the disciples saw. [15]

So in other words, Paul employs the same Greek verb as the tradition, (“he was seen”), to describe his personal experience of the risen Christ.  Hence, Paul’s experience was the same in character as that of the preceding disciples. To see more, see our post called “What Did Paul See?”

Let’s return to Bryan’s comment: “Why did the first Christians bring “resurrection” into their proclamation at all (other than future open)—unless they genuinely believed that something had happened that could be only be spoken of in this way?”

Were there other options on the table other than “resurrection”? Let’s look at some of them:

 Apparitions

We just saw some like Borg and Crossan postulate the possibility of apparitions or visions. Apparitions is a word used for visual, paranormal related manifestations of deceased loved ones. People in the ancient world as well were familiar with apparitions. Therefore, the witnesses to the resurrection could of described the appearances of Jesus as apparitions. Most of this is discussed in Dale C. Allision’s Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters. As far as apparitions Allison says, “I am sure that the disciples saw Jesus after his death. [16] But he concludes that the apparitions of the dead do not explain completely these appearances.[17] He goes onto say: “Typical encounters with the recently deceased do not issue in claims about an empty tomb, nor do they lead to the founding of a new religion. And they certainly do not typically eat and drink, and they are not seen by crowds of up to five hundred people.” [18]

Ironically, Crosssan says in his book with Jonathan Reed that resurrection is not the same thing as apparitions. They say:

Resurrection is not the same thing as apparition. The question is not whether apparitions or visions occur or how they are to be explained. The ancient world assumed their possibility; for example the slain Hector appears to Anchises at the end of the Trojan War and the start of Virgil’s Aenied. The modern world does too; for example, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders-IV judges them not as mental disorders but as common characteristics of uncomplicated grief. That might be especially so, then and now, after the sudden, tragic , or terrible death or disappearance of a beloved person. Even if, therefore, no Christian texts had mentioned apparitions or visions of Jesus after his crucifixion, we could have safely postulated their occurrence. But, and this is not the point, apparition is not the same as resurrection or anything like enough to invoke its presence. (19)

Translation/Exaltation

Translation is seen in Elijah and Enoch –they did not die, but were simply  translated to heaven (2 Kings 2:11; Genesis 5:24).  Jews were no doubt familiar with the translation stories. Also, within the extra-canonical Jewish writing called Testament of Job 40, an account of translation was given as a category to describe recently deceased people as well as to the living. Translation is defined as the bodily assumption of someone out of this world into heaven. But the witnesses to the resurrection didn’t utilize the translation category. Once again, Cross and Reed agree that Resurrection isn’t the same thing as exaltation. They say:

Resurrection is not the same as exaltation. Within Jewish tradition, certainly very holy persons were taken up to God rather than being consigned to an earthly tomb, for example, Enoch from among the Patriarchs or Elijah form among the prophets. The Greco Roman equivalent was apotheosis; for example, Augustan coins showed Julius Caesar’s spirit ascending like an upward shooting star to take its place among the heavenly divinities. Those were uniquely individual cases and had no relationship to the fate of others. If one wanted to say that about Jesus, the proper terms were exaltation, ascension, apotheosis, not resurrection. Put  another way, with regard to Jesus, you could not have resurrection without exaltation, but you could have  exaltation without resurrection. Jesus could be at the right hand of God without ever mentioning resurrection. (20)

On top of these comments, it should be noted that within the Jewish martyrdom tradition in 2 Maccabees 7 it tells the story of  the torture and execution of the seven brothers, who refuse to violate the Torah.  One of the brothers says to Antiochus, “The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws” (v. 9). Another brother warns the tyrant, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life” (v. 14).  In this case, we see that their martyrdom should lead to their exaltation. Thus, the Jewish martyrs in 2 Macc 7 believed they would be raised on the last day when God came. However, Jesus predicted His imminent death and resurrection, ahead of the general resurrection. This is unique. Also,  Paul said “Christ is the first fruits of those who sleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Hence, Jesus was not another Jewish martyr who had been vindicated by God. Instead, His resurrection was the first of its kind.

Immortality of the Soul

Paul nor the other witnesses refer to the resurrection of Jesus as immortality of the soul. And if Paul and others were trying to attract non Jews to the Jesus movement, it would have been pointless to push a material resurrection on them.  As Ben Witherington says:

It is sometimes claimed that the stress on the physicality of the resurrection of Jesus is pure apologetics. I have always been mystified by this claim. If the gospels were written in the last third of the first century, when the church not only had a viable Gentile mission but also was already well on the way to being a largely Gentile community, why would a community trying to attract Gentiles make up a resurrection story, much less emphasize the material resurrection of Jesus? This notion was not a regular part of the pagan lexicon of the afterlife at all, as even a cursory study of the relevant passages in the Greek and Latin classics shows. Indeed, as Acts 17 suggests, pagans were more likely than not to ridicule such an idea. I can understand the apologetic theory if, and only if, the Gospels were directed largely to Pharisaic Jews or their sympathizers. I know of no scholar, however, who has argued such a case.[21]

Hallucinations

I believe the best explanation, consistent with both scientific findings and the surviving evidence . . . Is that the first Christians experienced hallucinations of the risen Christ, of one form or another. . . . In the ancient world, to experience supernatural manifestations of ghosts, gods, and wonders was not only accepted, but encouraged.”–Atheist Richard Carrier―The Spiritual Body of Christ‖ in Empty Tomb, pg. 184.

To posit the hallucination hypothesis, this puts us back to something like the apparition category. As N.T Wright says:

Everybody knew about ghosts, spirits, visions, hallucinations, and so on. Most people in the ancient world believed in some such things. They were quite clear that that wasn’t what they meant by resurrection. While Herod reportedly thought Jesus might be John the Baptist raised from the dead, he didn’t think he was a ghost. Resurrection meant bodies. We cannot emphasize this too strongly, not least because much modern writing continues, most misleadingly, to use the word resurrection as a virtual synonym for life after death in the popular sense. An important conclusion follows from all this, before we look at the Jewish material. When the early Christians said that Jesus had risen from the dead, they knew they were saying that something had happened to him that had happened to nobody else and that nobody had expected to happen. They were not talking about Jesus’s soul going into heavenly bliss. Nor were they saying, confusedly, that Jesus had now become divine. That is simply not what the words meant; there was no implicit connection for either Jews or pagans between resurrection and divinization.  (22)

Resuscitation

Also, remember that resurrection is not the same thing as resuscitation. As Crossan and Reed say:

It did not mean that an almost revived Jesus had been revived once taken down from the cross. Individuals could survive an interrupted crucifixion, as Josephus mentions in his Life. He begged Titus for three acquaintances already on crosses after the destruction of Jerusalem , in 70 C.E. and, although, “two of them died in the physicians hands, the third survived.” (421). So also could criminals hung by strangulation be taken down from London’s eighteenth century Tyburn Tree and resuscitated (“resurrected” as they put it). But the Christian traditions’ on “after three days” or “on the third day” is its way of emphasizing that Jesus was really and truly dead. Only a visit to the tomb after such an initial period could certify the person was actually dead. That is why in John 11:17 notes that ‘when Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.” He was, in other words, certainly and securely dead. (23)

 Back to Resurrection

It seems that no matter how hard scholars or skeptics punt to subjective visions, apparitions, or hallucinations, the real question at hand is why the early Jesus movement stuck with the resurrection category.  Perhaps they stuck  with “resurrection” because that is exactly what happened  to Jesus!  (John 11:25). As Crossan and Reed say,

To say Jesus had been raised from the dead was to assert that the general resurrection had begun. Only for such an assertion was “resurrection’ or “raised from the dead” the proper terminology. The general resurrection was, it were, the grand finale of apocalypse, the final moment when a god of justice publicly and visibly justified the world, turned it from a  place of evil and violence to one of goodness and peace. To announce the resurrection of Jesus was to claim such an event had already started. (24)

One final thought: The lesson here is to try to attempt to understand the context of the resurrection claim. If we actually attempt to do this, false analogies like Big Foot, Elvis, and UFO sightings will begin to look incredibly silly!

Sources:


[1] E.P. Sanders , The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin Books, 1993),  279-280.

[2] Bart Ehrman,  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, (Third  Edition New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 276.

 [3] Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University, 1999), 230

 (4] Ibid, 231.

 [5] Ehrman,  The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 282.

 [6] Reginald  Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology (New York: Scribner’s, 1965), 142.

[7] Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (New York: Macmillan, 1980),

[8] Ibid, 2, 169, 181.

 [9]  Rudolph Bultmann, “The New Testament and Mythology,” in Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, ed. Hans Werner Bartsch, trans. Reginald H. Fuller (London: S.P.C.K, 1953-62), 38, 42.

 [10] John Dominic Crossan, A Long Way from Tipperary: A Memoir (San Francisco: HarperSanFransisco, 2000), 164-165.

[11] Gerd Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology. Translated by John Bowden. London: SCM, 1994 (1994), 97, 100.

[12] Christopher Bryan, The Resurrection of the Messiah (Oxford University Press, USA, 2011), 163-164.

[13] Ibid, 169-170.

 [14] P.W. Walker, The Weekend That Changed the World (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 63.

 [15] Bryan, The Resurrection of the Messiah, 53.

 [16] Dale Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T&T Clark, 2005), 283-284.

 [17] Ibid.

 [18] Ibid.

19. J.D. Crossan & Jonathan L. Reed. Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts 9New York: HarperSanFrancisco, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 259-260.

20. Crossan and Reed, 259-260.

21. Ben Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, 165.

22. N. T. Wright. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 62.

23. Crossan and Reed, 260-261.

24. Ibid.

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