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Author Topic:   Interrogation of an Apostle
Jon
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Message 1 of 48 (604067)
02-09-2011 9:05 PM


Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
What practices are used by investigators who must sift through numerous eyewitness accounts of an event to sort out what happened and did not based on consistencies/inconsistencies in the accounts given? When considering whether or not a particular aspect of the incident did or did not occur, what value might consistent accounts add to support the incident's happening? What effect might inconsistent accounts have on the believability of the account?

One of the methods used by scholars who look through the New Testament in search of the 'historical Jesus' is what Robert Stein calls the Criterion of Multiple Attestation:

quote:
Stein in The Synoptic Problem (1987):

We still must ask how our knowledge of the relationship between the synoptic Gospels assists us in historical criticism. One way is by means of the "Criterion of Multiple Attestation." Essentially this criterion works as follows: Assuming that the Markan, the Q, and the unique Matthean (M), Lukan (L), and Johannine material come from different sources, if a teaching or activity of Jesus is witnessed to in a number of these sources rather than just one (e.g., John or M), the probability of its historicity or authenticity is much greater. In other words, each source of the Gospels acts as a witness before the judgment seat of history, and the more independent witnesses (i.e., sources) that can give testimony, the stronger the case. An example of how this works is as follows. Did Jesus teach that the kingdom of God had actually come in some way in his ministry? ... We find support for this view in the Markan material (Mark 2:2122), the Q material (Luke 11:20/Matt. 12:28), the M material (Matt. 5:17), the L material (Luke 17:2021), and in John 12:31. With this kind of multiple support from a fivefold tradition, certainly any burden of proof should then lie with those scholars who would deny that Jesus taught that in his coming the kingdom of God had arrived in some unique way. (p. 142)


quote:
Ehrman in The New Testament (2004):

In any court trial, it is better to have a number of witnesses who can provide consistent testimony than to have only one, especially if we can show the witnesses did not confer with one another to get their story straight. A strong case will be supported by several witnesses who independently agree on a point at issue. So too with history. An event mentioned in several independent documents is more likely to be historical than an event mentioned in only one. This principle does not deny that individual documents can provide reliable historical information, but without corroborating evidence it is often impossible to know if an individual source has made up an account, or perhaps provided a skewed version of it. (p. 218)


Ehrman gives the examples of John the Baptist encountering Jesus, Jesus' brothers, and Jesus' teaching in parablesthings multiply attested, and so more likely to be true.

For this thread, I'd like to examine some of the techniques used in detecting false accounts given multiple different tellings, and then apply those techniques to the post-resurrection appearance accounts in the gospels and try to determine whether the gospel accounts are trustworthy evidence of a resurrection or not. For this purpose, I think we can ignore the 'empty tomb' story, and just stick to the appearances, which occur in Matt. 28:1620, Luke 24:1353, and John 20:1121.1

When we apply whatever lie-detecting tools we might have to the accounts of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, what can we conclude about the veracity of the claims? And, if the claims are likely true, does this validate the resurrection account? If the claims are likely false, does this invalidate it?

When we interrogate the apostles, do we find them lying or telling the truth?

Jon
__________
1 Perhaps to this list we could also add the short and long endings of Mark, even though they don't appear to be original to his gospel.
__________
Ehrman, B. (2004) The New Testament: a Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP.
Stein, R. (1987) The Synoptic Problem: an Introduction. Michigan: Baker Books

Edited by Jon, : subtitle, sources, etc.

Edited by Jon, : clarity


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Jon
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Posts: 4340
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Joined: 12-29-2005
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Message 4 of 48 (604094)
02-10-2011 12:56 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Trae
02-09-2011 11:35 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
You have not established that the witnesses did not confer with one another to get their story straight.
...
How many witnesses can the Mormons produce for their beliefs? Do Catholic saints perform miracles? Tens of thousands or perhaps millions of Catholics can give witness. Are Asian beliefs more probable since they have more witnesses? Are protestant beliefs less probable as they have less? Just something to consider.
...
Ultimately, that they build on each other is a huge hurdle to overcome in establishing theyre independent witnesses

Did you read the passages this thread is supposed to be about?

Can you show that the accounts you are presenting are not heresy.

Obviously they are; but that's all we've got to work with.

Can you establish chain of custody?

No, but that's all we've got to work with.

Youre also failing to present your witnesses, nor have you established their identity.

That's not relevant here; I'm more interested in what is said rather than in who is saying it. Afterall, the former is all we've got to work with.

Lastly, because you have not established chain of custody, and because youre not able to present the actual evidence it not only is likely your evidence has been tampered with, but there is actual evidence that your evidence is tainted.

What 'evidence'? All we've got are the accounts in the gospels; chain of evidence is irrelevant. The accounts aren't likely from first-hand witnesses, but their all we've got to work with.

If consistency is that important, how important is inconsistency?

That was one of the big questions I raised in the OP; I was hoping we could figure it out with some good discussion.

Jon

Edited by Jon, : niceness...


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Jon
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Joined: 12-29-2005
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Message 6 of 48 (604164)
02-10-2011 12:00 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by PaulK
02-10-2011 2:02 AM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
We must remember that Luke is NOT an eye-witness account and Matthew is very unlikely to be. And you've hit on one of the ares where there are reasons to doubt John.

Whether they were direct eyewitnesses or not, they pass off their accounts as at least originating with eyewitnesses (they are told from an eyewitness perspective), and since they are as close to eyewitnesses as we've access to, I don't think too much more can be made of that fact in line with the topic at hand.

We can tell that there are two rival traditions. In one the post-resurrection appearances took place in Galilee, while the other places them in Jerusalem. Matthew follows one line, Luke follows another and John appears to be trying to have it both ways.

It is implausible that the author Matthew would forget about the miracles of Pentecost or that the story would be lost to him. Likewise it is implausible that the author of Luke would be so against appearances in Galilee if he believed in those stories.

Okay, so are you saying that given the multiple accounts which do not agree, it is likely that the supposed event underlying these accounts is a fabrication?

And if Christians were disputing over two incompatible stories at the time when Matthew and Luke were written how can we trust either story ?

When different witnesses testify to the same event, but fail to agree on even the most conspicuous details, should their accounts be regarded as untrustworthy?

What does that let us say about the main event itself, the resurrection?

Jon


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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Posts: 4340
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Message 9 of 48 (604232)
02-10-2011 3:03 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by PaulK
02-10-2011 1:51 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
I don't believe that the unknown author of Matthew mentions his sources at all.

But he presents his story from an eyewitness perspective; the matter in question is whether we can determine if his account (or any of the gospel accounts) represents a fabrication (either on his part or on the part of one of his sources) or whether it may be trustworthy (either because he saw it himself or copied it from a source that saw it).

So once again, who says it isn't overly important; the issue is whether we can conclude a fabrication occurred at any point in the chain from witness to gospel writer regarding the resurrection appearances.

I said nothing about the origin of those traditions, although if there was an underlying event we cannot rely on it being much like either one (clearly it cannot closely resemble both !)

I think it could resemble both; nothing prevents the resurrected Jesus from revealing himself to his disciples in several instances in several different places. Ignoring some of the minor contradictions that this would present, we must wonder what the likelihood is that the accounts given would not have any overlap supposing they describe a true eventthe resurrection of Jesus.

Jon


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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Posts: 4340
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
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Message 10 of 48 (604233)
02-10-2011 3:03 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by GDR
02-10-2011 2:10 PM


Re: N T Wright
I'm short of time so I'll just say this and post a couple of links. The central point in both gospels and epistles is that Jesus was bodily resurrected. As Paul says, "if this isn't true then we are to be most pitied" or that essentially we are living a lie and wasting our time.

And this is at the heart of the problem: they all agree that Jesus was resurrected, but aside from that, none of their stories are corroboratory (except, maybe John 20:1920 and Luke 24:3640, which may just be an instance of same-source borrowing).

Imagine a man on trial for murder. His buddies decide to come up with the alibi that he was with them in the coffee shop when the murder took place. Upon being interrogated, however, the investigators discover that despite agreeing on the one facthe was in the coffee shop, they all present a different account of what they were doing and talking about. While it is possible that all of the things they describe may have taken place, what is the likelihood that none of their accounts would overlap on any of the details were their story true? And what does that tell us about the believability of the scenario this man's alibi proposes?

(I can't get your links to load right now, but I will look at them later when I get some time!)

Jon


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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Message 12 of 48 (604255)
02-10-2011 4:32 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by PaulK
02-10-2011 3:37 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
But you aren't dealing with the points I raised. If there was something so important as Pentecost, why would the author of Matthew omit it ? If there were appearances in Galilee why is the author of Luke so determined to deny them ? If there was something really important and impressive then why did the stories not stop with that ?

Look at Mark.

quote:

But he presents his story from an eyewitness perspective;

Does he ? In what way ?

Yes; he is a narrator who relates the story. There are no 'and my sources tell me...' anywhere. Which means he is either copying it from a source that got it from a source, etc. that witnessed the events/fabricated the story; or, he himself has witnessed/fabricated the account.

No matter which of these we assume, our methodology for determining the reliability of his account in light of the other gospels' accounts will be rather the same: we compare what is said in one account against what is said in another.

Jon


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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Message 16 of 48 (604390)
02-11-2011 5:43 PM


The Material at Hand
In any case of texts this old reporting on traditions that were likely oral before being written down, it is impossible to know whether the author is an eyewitness or just a transcriber/copier of reports available to him. Even when the author claims to have witnessed the event himself, we cannot be sure he actually did, or that his claim of witnessing is not just the result of a direct copy from another text.

Ultimately, we must look at the content of the text when judging itauthorship will only tell us so much (eyewitnesses, afterall, can lie as easily as anyone). And this is all the better since we'll never know the source, and worrying about it endlessly just gets us nowhere. In addition an account needn't be witnessed first hand to be true; non-primary sources may not be as accurate on the details, but providing they have attempted to remain faithful to the original (which we determine by looking at the text), then their accounts will be about as good as anyotherwise we couldn't say we know something after we read the newspaper!

Finally, no matter the source, all we've got to work with is the text itself; so despite any reservations about relying on second-hand sources, there is nothing we can do about it.

Jon


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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Message 19 of 48 (604431)
02-11-2011 11:35 PM
Reply to: Message 18 by Modulous
02-11-2011 7:09 PM


Re: The Material at Hand
There is an unusual commonality in the confusion his appearance caused in each case.

Do you suppose this is good reason to think that people who reported seeing Jesus did not at first 'recognize' him? Perhaps even support the notion that they at least saw something?

I don't think we have the kind of material that lends itself easily to historical analysis through such things as multiple attestation.

Our sources are slim indeed; but we use the same number of sources for drawing other conclusions which are probably not far off, for example, the issues Ehrman points out (from OP).

I'm sure, if Jesus had gained the local notoriety the stories suggest and could draw a crowd as suggested - that there were unscrupulous conmen who at least considered capitalising on people inclined to follow.

We'd almost think such popularity might make it less likely that folk wouldn't recognize him wherever he wentespecially men who had previously spent nearly every second of their lives with him!

At best we can say that the doubt/confusion is an interesting issue, it would be interesting to see if there are any ideas as to why that was mentioned.

That brings up another criterion often used in determining 'witness' reliability, which is the Criterion of Dissimilarity:

quote:
Ehrman in The New Testament (2004):

... sometimes a saying or deed attributed to Jesus does not appear to support a Christian cause. A tradition of this kind would likely not have been made up by a Christian. Why then would it be preserved in the tradition? Perhaps because it really happened that way. Dissimilar traditions, that is, those that do not support a clear Christian agenda, are difficult to explain unless they are authentic; they are therefore more likely to be historical. (p. 220)


So, might it be that the sightings of 'Jesus' really took place?

Jon
__________
Ehrman, B. (2004) The New Testament: a Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP.


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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Message 24 of 48 (604461)
02-12-2011 11:45 AM
Reply to: Message 20 by Modulous
02-12-2011 10:42 AM


Re: The Material at Hand
The Criterion of dissimilarity only gets us to conclude that Jesus was executed, I think. Given he died - it is naturally in support of Christianity that a resurrection occurred. In this case we might say that sightings occurred, but this tells us as much about the post-death activities of the King of the Jews as the sightings of Elvis tell us about the King of Rock n Roll.

Oh of course. I do not mean to suggest that Jesus was actually walking around after being resurrected; the texts don't seem the best support for that at all. However, what I think the sources definitely seem to point to is that there was a man (men?) going around claiming to be Jesus, and whom the apostles of the pre-death Jesus could not really recognize as Jesus.

Strangely, even back then the reports were very difficult to believe, and many folk seemed to have trouble swallowing the claim that Jesus was actually resurrected. Perhaps this should tell us just how little evidence and few sightings there may have actually been!

If you have access to any NT Wright's work - I think he's probably the best source of pro-resurrection history (at least I've seen his name cited relatively often), do you have any idea how he supports the notion?

Unfortunately I don't. But I'll be checking the libraries here to see what I can come up with!

Jon


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

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Jon
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Message 25 of 48 (604463)
02-12-2011 11:48 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by Phat
02-12-2011 11:15 AM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
Personally, I believe that the Apostles were sincere. I believe they were honest.

One can be sincere and honest, and still flat-out wrong. We cannot know until we examine what they've said.

Jon


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Jon
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Message 29 of 48 (604811)
02-15-2011 3:03 AM


Gary Wills
In a book I recently acquired, scholar Gary Wills lays out the following for an interpretation of the unrecognizable Jesus:

quote:
Wills in What the Gospels Meant (2008):

...the stranger (who is Jesus) makes as if to "pass on beyond" the disciples ([Luke] 24.28)which is a sign of divine unapproachability in the Sacred Writings. When Moses asked the Lord to show him his glory, God responded:

"My face you cannot see, for no mortal man may see me and live." The Lord said, "Here is a place beside me. Take your stand on the rock and when my glory passes by, I will put you on a crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33.2023)
That was in the era of Moses, of the Promise. But in the era of Jesus, of the Promise fulfilled, the Messiah reveals himself...
...
[In Mark, a] storm comes up so severe that in the early morning hours the disciples are "tortured" at the oars, trying to keep control of their boat, and they lose confidenceas the Israelites lost trust in their God and turned to the Golden Calf while Moses was on the mountain. Jesus knows of their ordeal.
And toward the fourth watch of the night, he comes toward them, treading along on the water, and he went on to pass them by. But they, when they saw him treading along on the water, concluded he was a ghost and they shrieked, for all of them saw him and were dumbfounded. But straightway he addressed them, and he said. "Take heart. I AM."(6.4850)
We saw, in the story of the walk toward Emmaus [quoted above], how "passing by" the disciples is a sign of God's Presence. Joel Marcus cites other scriptural passages, based on this model, to show that "the verb parelthein ('to pass, to pass by') became almost a technical term for a divine epiphany" (M 426).
...
Matthew, unlike Luke and John, describes no appearance of the risen Jesus to his male followers in Jerusalem. Jesus meets the women as they are speeding away from the tomb and instructs them to tell the men that he will meet them in Galilee, on a mountaintop, presumably the one where he delivered his Sermon on the Mount in this Gospel. When he appears to them there, some are at first not sure that it is he (28.17)which fits the numinous aura of his risen appearances (see Mk 16.1114, Lk 24.1335, Jn 20.14, 21.4). It also accords with the tradition, treated earlier, by which the Lord "passes by" in the Sacred Writings and is glimpsed only indirectly. There is great psychological acuity in this matter-of-fact recording of mystery.
....
Paul, who had seen the risen Jesus, says that the risen body resembles the one that dies as little as a seed resembles a full-grown plant [I Cor. 1:15]; but there is some continuity between the spiritualized state and the past earthly life, a truth Jesus teaches in the most concrete way.
...
Mary Magdalene is back near the tomb, distraught and weeping, when she sees a person she takes to be the gardenera difficulty at recognizing the risen Jesus that is experienced by almost all the disciples. (pp. 3, 3637, 106, 150, 201)

Thus, Wills offers three different interpretations relating to the unrecognizable Jesus:

  1. In keeping Jesus' face initially hidden, it reaffirms his association with God, based on the "passing by" legends of Scripture;
  2. Jesus, like all who are resurrected, is naturally quite different from his pre-death form;
  3. The difficulty in recognition is on the disciples, and not necessarily the fault of Jesus.

Granted, these interpretations are not all strictly compatible, but I don't think they are necessarily meant to be, as each one is drawn out with relation to the message delivered in an individual gospel. However, the part that interests me, for the purpose of this thread, is whether there may be any potential truth and/or value behind the interpretations offered here by Wills, and how we might find evidence to support them.

How plausible does all this sound?

Jon
__________
Wills, G. (2008) What the Gospels Meant. New York: Penguin Group.


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Jon
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Message 31 of 48 (605069)
02-16-2011 7:53 PM
Reply to: Message 30 by ICANT
02-16-2011 3:41 PM


Re: Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts
Do you have any specific lies or truths recorded in the texts you presented that you would like to discuss?

If you do please present them for discussion.

From the OP:

quote:
Jon in Applying the Art of Lie-detecting to the Resurrection Accounts (Message 1):

For this thread, I'd like to examine some of the techniques used in detecting false accounts given multiple different tellings, and then apply those techniques to the post-resurrection appearance accounts in the gospels and try to determine whether the gospel accounts are trustworthy evidence of a resurrection or not. For this purpose, I think we can ignore the 'empty tomb' story, and just stick to the appearances, which occur in Matt. 28:1620, Luke 24:1353, and John 20:1121.1
__________
1 Perhaps to this list we could also add the short and long endings of Mark, even though they don't appear to be original to his gospel.


The purpose of this thread is to look at the accounts given and apply lie-detecting techniques to them to determine if there is a detectable lie. My question to you: When you apply some of the techniques laid out in the OP, do you find the accounts likely to be true or likely to be false, and why?

Jon


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Jon
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Message 32 of 48 (605249)
02-17-2011 11:22 PM


N. T. Wright
Well, the library got a few of the Wright books in I requested; here is some of what he says on the matter regarding the resurrection and the unrecognizable Jesus:

quote:
Wright in Simply Christian (2006):

It is extremely difficult to explain the rise of Christianity, as a historical phenomenon, without saying something solid about Jesus's resurrection.
....
Nobody was expecting anyone, least of all a Messiah, to rise from the dead. A crucified Messiah was a failed Messiah. When Simeon ben Kosiba was killed by the Romans in ad 135, nobody went around afterward saying he really was the Messiah after all, however much they had wanted to believe that he had been. God's kingdom was something that had to happen in real life, not in some fantasyland.
     Nor was it the case, as some writers are fond of saying, that the idea of "resurrection" was found in religions all over the ancient Near East. Dying and rising "gods", yescorn kings, fertility deities, and the like. Buteven supposing Jesus's very Jewish followers knew any traditions like those pagan onesnobody in those religions ever supposed it actually happened to individual humans. No. The best explanation by far for the rise of Christianity is that Jesus really did reappear, not as a battered, bleeding survivor, not as a ghost (the stories are very clear about that), but as a living, bodily human being. (pp. 112113)


Wright, then, appears to put the emphasis of evidence for a resurrection not on the information contained in the text but in the social phenomena that followed shortly after Jesus' death: the continued belief in Jesus as Messiah, and the rise and spread of this belief as the Christian faith. On the accounts themselves, Wright goes on to say:

quote:
Wright in Simply Christian (2006):

But the body was somehow different. The gospel stories are, at this point, unlike anything before or since. As one leading scholar has put it, it seems the gospel writers were trying to explain something for which they didn't have a precise vocabulary. Jesus's risen body had many of the same properties as an ordinary body (it could talk, eat and drink, be touched, and so on), but it had others, too. It could appear and disappear, and pass through locked doors. Nothing in Jewish literature or imagination had prepared the people for a portrait like this. If the gospel writers had made something up to fit a preconceived notion, the one thing they would certainly have done is describe the risen Jesus shining like a star. According to Daniel 12:3 (a very influential passage in Jewish thought at the time), this was how the righteous would appear at the resurrection. But Jesus didn't. His body seems to have been transformed in a way for which there was neither precedent nor prophecy, and of which there remains no second example. (p. 113)


quote:
Wright in The Original Jesus (1996):

The stories they told about Jesus' resurrection are mostly quite breathless and artless (Mark 16); Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 2021). They are mostly much more like quick eye-witness sketches, with the details not even tidied up, than like carefully drawn portraits.
     An exception to this is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:1335). They were walking home, deeply sad and troubled, believing their leader to be dead and gone. They were joined by a stranger, who professed not to know what was going on. When they told him, he began to explain to them, working from the biblical texts they already knew, that this had been God's secret plan all along, to liberate Israel and the world, by means of the Messiah suffering, dying, and rising again.
     Their hearts (as they said later) burned within them, as they began to realize the great possibility that after all his death might have been, so to speak, God's secret weaponthe last great move in the battle for the kingdom. God had been working in ways they never even dreamed of, even though they had been there all along in the scriptures.
     Then, when they got home, they invited the stranger in. He quietly assumed the role of host, and broke the bread for their evening meal. They recognized him. It was Jesus himself. Then, as strangely as he had come, he disappeared again. (pp. 7273)


So, regarding Wright's opinions, perhaps we can go on to discuss whether a few of his explanations for the textual oddities1 actually work. One of the first ones I quote is the notion that the strange nature of the accounts results from 'the gospel writers ... trying to explain something for which they didn't have a precise vocabulary'. Does this fit? If we assume that there was a little something inexplicable about the body of the raised Jesus, is this enough to account for the strangeness of the accounts and perhaps even the inconsistency?

The second one I'm interested in examining is Wright's claim that the resurrection accounts are 'like quick eye-witness sketches, with the details not even tidied up' as opposed to 'carefully drawn portraits'. Is it possible to explain away the oddities, vagueries, and initial lack of recognition by the apostles this way? And if it is possible, does it make sense to do so? Would we really see what we see in the text if the accounts were just 'sketches' with untidied details?

I wish I had access to some more on-topic opinions by Wright; I looked over a selection of his books and noticed some that would be particularly relevant to this issue, so I will have to see if I can get my hands on them somehow. I hope this will do for now, though, and help to keep the discussion going!

Jon
__________
1 In this case, not necessarily their apparent disagreement, but perhaps just their 'breathless and artless' form, as Wright puts it.
__________
Wright, N.T. (2006) Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. New York: HarperCollins.
Wright, T. (1996) The Original Jesus: the Life and Vision of a Revolutionary. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

  
Jon
Member
Posts: 4340
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.5


Message 34 of 48 (606635)
02-27-2011 11:32 AM
Reply to: Message 33 by John 10:10
02-19-2011 10:50 AM


Re: Paul's Testimony
The best evidence as to whether the Apostle's testimonies/writings are true is whether the Gospel of Christ they proclaimed becomes true in your life!

Of course that's not evidence at alland if it were, it would only refute the truth of the apostles' writings.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 33 by John 10:10, posted 02-19-2011 10:50 AM John 10:10 has not yet responded

  
Jon
Member
Posts: 4340
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.5


Message 35 of 48 (606643)
02-27-2011 1:47 PM


Maclaren
In an old, worn book sitting tucked away on my shelves I found a take on the resurrection accounts by Alexander Maclaren, who, little did I know, was apparently quite prolific on these matters back in his day.

Granted that this thread seems to be dying, but I figured I would give a little bit of Maclaren's view for anyone who might still be following along.1

quote:
Maclaren in Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Luke (1944):

The divergences of the Evangelists reach their maximum in the accounts of the Resurrection, as is natural if we realise the fragmentary character of all the versions, the severely condensed style of Matthew's, the incompleteness of the genuine Mark's, the evidently selective purpose in Luke's, and the supplementary design of John's. If we add the perturbed state of the disciples, their separation from each other, and the number of distinct incidents embraced in the records, we shall not wonder at the differences, but see in them confirmation of the good faith of the witnesses, and a reflection of the hurry and wonderfulness of that momentous day. (pp. 318319)


This opinion seems very similar to Wright's, who attributed some of the oddities of the resurrection accounts to the shock and joy of the apostles (see Message 32). Whether these explanations are satisfactory or not in explaining the differences of the resurrection accounts cannot be certain, but I do believe I find the following explanations by Maclaren troubling and certainly without support:

quote:
Maclaren in St. Luke (1944):

Differences there are; contradictions there are not, except between the doubtful verses added to Mark and the other accounts. We cannot put all the pieces together, when we have only them to guide us. If we had a complete and independent narrative to go by, we could, no doubt, arrange our fragments. But the great certainties are unaffected by the small divergences, and the points of agreement are vital. (p. 319)


Here, Maclaren appears to simply discount the differences in the reports, with some belief that they can all be worked together to form a solid whole account. But this requires some pretty fancy interpretive gymnastics, as Maclaren shows:

quote:
Maclaren in St. Luke (1944):

Whether the group with whom this passage has to do were the same as that whose experience Matthew records we leave undetermined. If so, they must have made two visits to the tomb, and two returns to the Apostles,one, with only the tidings of the empty sepulchre, which Luke tells; one, with the tidings of Christ's appearance, as in Matthew. (p. 319)


Say what!? Maclaren's reconciliation has our characters running in circlesdoing things two times or more. This raises the question of just how 'different' two or more accounts must be before they can be considered contradictory. Is it contradictory when the angel tells the women two different things? Is it a contradiction when the resurrected Jesus appears in secret to two disciples first in one account, but to Mary first in another? Furthermore, how many differences are needed before we can reasonably consider the accounts to be contradictory, and after which we cannot justifiably reconcile the accounts by simply merging all of their qualities?

Afterall, the accounts are quite different; to get a sense of just how different, examine the parallel arrangement below of the discovery of the empty tomb:


Matt. 28:110
Mark 16:18
Luke 24:112
John 20:110

After the sabbath,When the sabbath was over
as the first day of the week wasBut on the first day of the weekEarly on the first day of the week,
dawning,at early dawn,while it was still dark,
Mary MagdaleneMary MagdaleneMary Magdalene
and the other Maryand Mary
the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices, so that they might
go and anoint him.
And very early on the first day of
the week, when the sun had risen,
went to the tombthey went to the tomb.they came to the tomb,came to the tomb
taking the spices that they had
prepared.
They had been saying to one
another, "Who will roll away the
stone for us from the entrance to
the tomb?" When they looked up,
And suddenly there was a great
earthquake; for an angel of the
Lord, descending from heaven,
they saw that the stone,They found the stoneand saw that the stone had been
which was very large,
came and rolled back the stonehad already been rolled back.rolled away from the tomb,removed from the tomb.
As they entered the tomb,
they saw a young man,
but when they went in, they did
not find the body. While they
were perplexted about this,
suddenly two men
and sat on it. His appearance was
like lightning, and his clothing
white as snow.dressed in a white robe,in dazzling clothes
For fear of him the guards shook
and became like dead men.
sitting on the right side;stood beside them.
and they were alarmed.The women were terrifid and
bowed their faces to the ground,
But the angel said to the women,But he said to them,but the men said to them,
"Why do you look for the living
among the dead?
"Do not be afraid; I know that you"Do not be alarmed; you are look-
are looking for Jesus who wasing for Jesus of Nazareth, who
crucified.was crucifed.
He is not here; for he has beenHe has been raised; he is not here.He is not bere, but has risen.
raised,
as he said.Remember how he told you,
while he still in Galilee, that
the Son of Man must be handed
over to sinners, and be crucified,
and on the third day rise again."
Come, see the place where he lay.Look, there is the place they laid
him.
Then go quickly and tell hisBut go, tell his
disciplesdisciples
and Peter that
'He has been raised from the
dead, and indeed
he is going ahead of you tohe is going ahead of you to
Galilee; there you will see him.'Galilee; there you will see him,
This is my message for you."
just as he told you."
Then they remembered his words,
So they leftSo they went out and fled fromand returning fromSo she ran
the tombthe tombthe tomb
quickly
with
for
fear and great joy,terror and amazement
had seized them; and they said
nothing to anyone, for they were
afraid.
and ran to tell his disciples.
Suddenly Jesus met them and
said, "Greetings!" And they came
to him, took hold of his feet, and
worshiped him. Then Jesus said to
them, "Do not be afraid; go and
tell my brothers to go to Galilee;
there they will see me."
they told all this to the eleven and
to all the rest.
and went to Simon Peter and the
other disciple, the one whom Jesus
loved, and said to them,
Now it was Mary Magdalene,
Joanna, Mary the mother of
James, and the other women with
them who told this to the apostles.
"They have taken the Lord out
of the tomb, and we do not know
where they have laid him."
But these words seemed to them
an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up andThen Peter
and the other disciple set out and
ran to the tomb;went toward the tomb.
The two were running together,
but the other disciple outran
Peter and reached the tomb first.
stooping and looking in, he sawHe bent down to look in and saw
the linen cloths by themselves;the linen wrappings lying there,
but he did not go in. Then Simon
Peter came, following him, and
went into the tomb. He saw the
linen wrappings lying there, and
the cloth that had been on Jesus'
head, not lying with the linen
wrappings but rolled up in a place
by itself. Then the other disciple,
who reached the tomb first, also
went in, and he saw and believed;
for as yet they did not understand
the scripture, that he must rise
from the dead.
then heThen the disciples
went home,returned to their homes.
amazed at what had happened.

Can all these differences be reconciled away? Is it honest of us as readers and interpreters to believe that the accounts, where different, represent only omissions by one another of the apostles? I don't think it is. To bring this back to one of the issues raised in the OP, how would an police investigator react to accounts as different as these?

Suppose there is a man, Chris, suspected of murder. His buddies have gotten together and decided to serve as his alibi, all agreeing to testify that he was with them in the coffee shop when Chris's wife was murdered. Upon further questioning, however, the investigators realize that despite giving similar testimony as to Chris's whereabouts, his friends fail to give corroborating accounts regarding what they did at the coffee shop, what was said, where Chris was sitting, or what they were drinking/eating.

Gathering up all the details of the accounts, it is possible to build a technically non-contradictory picture, but it requires some strange assumptions; for example, we might have to assume that Chris drank four different coffee drinks during their one hour visit to the shop, that Chris and his buddies regularly got up to switch chairs before proceeding on to the next topic of conversation, etc. Worst of all, though, might be the fact that despite Chris's buddies' claims that 25 other people were at the coffee shop who witnessed him there, none of these other people are able to say with any certainty that they did see Chris, and many of them cannot even be found for questioning!


While the stories of Chris's buddies match up on the crucial big picture, is it not faulty reasoning to assume their differing on the details to be unimportant and inconsequential? Suppose we have other rather good evidence that Chris actually went home during his lunch break and was with his wife when she died, that he used his control to open the garage door, and used his personal code to disarm their home's alarm system.

What we would have is the same thing we have in the case of Jesus' resurrection: a lot of good evidence to the contrary (e.g., the fact that people aren't raised from the dead) against piddly and inconsistent witnessing of the resurrected Jesus. Does this really make for a solid case in favor of the resurrection?

Moving on, Maclaren raises a couple if interesting points:

quote:
Maclaren in St. Luke (1944):

But apart from the complexities of attempted combination of the narratives, the main point in all the Evangelists is the disbelief of the disciples. 'Idle tales,' said they, using a very strong word which appears only here in the New Testament, and likens the eager story of the excited women to a sick man's senseless ramblings. That was the mood of the whole company, apostles and all. Is that mood likely to breed hallucinations? The evidential value of the disciples' slowness to believe cannot be overrated. (pp. 321322)


Maclaren unfortunately doesn't attempt to address the issues he raises in this short paragraph, at least not as far as I could find in any of the surrounding chapter. Nevertheless, I think the issue of hallucinations is well worth looking into, especially as Maclaren seems to suggest that at least some of the disagreements may be underlain by excitement-induced hallucinations.

It will be interesting to see what more Maclaren has to say when I read through the online versions of some of his books regarding the accounts given by the other apostles. I'll post some more if I find anything intriguing!

Jon
__________
1 Maclaren's works, including the one quoted here, can be found at Project Gutenberg: Maclaren, Alexander, 18261910
__________
Maclaren, A. (1944) Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Luke. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Edited by Jon, : numbers


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Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

  
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