quote: Here is information on the "Jesus Seminar". It doesn't say that they had decided from the outset of their quest that they had ruled out the miraculous, but it is clear from their findings that this was the case.
In other words, you made it up - but you think it's OK to do that because they came to conclusions you don't like.
Crossan maintains the Gospels were never intended to be taken literally by their authors. He challenges those who would debate whether Jesus "really" walked on water to recognize that, whether history or parable, the larger issue is the meaning of the anecdote. He proposes the historical probability that, like all but one known victim of crucifixion, Jesus' body never made it to a tomb, but was scavenged by animals. Crossan believes in "resurrection" by faith but holds that bodily resuscitation was never contemplated by early Christians. He believes that the rapture is based on a misreading of I Thessalonians.
Nobody is able to come to this completely objectively. As I mentioned earlier. Borg, Crossan etc. start out assuming that the miraculous is an impossibility.
Declaring the nature of the conclusion before the evidence has been analysed is not the way to draw objective conclusions. Whichever side of the argument one happens to be on. Surely the only intelligent way to approach this is to see if the evidence reliably suggests that the miraculous did occur. If no reliable evidence for the miraculous is available then by default, based on experience of the real world, reason and rationality it must be assumed to the miraculous did not occur.
In short no conclusion should be discounted as impossible before investigation has even begun but the burden of proof lies with those making extraordinary claims.
All that I am saying is that prior to discussions such as what were held in the "Jesus seminar" both Crossan and Borg had already come to the conclusion that the miraculous couldn't occur. Prior to entering discussions with Borg and Crossan, Wright had concluded that the miraculous was a possibility.
Paul did you even bother to read the links I put together?
Surely the only intelligent way to approach this is to see if the evidence reliably suggests that the miraculous did occur. If no reliable evidence for the miraculous is available then by default, based on experience of the real world, reason and rationality it must be assumed to the miraculous did not occur.
By it's very nature the miraculous is not repeatable. The claim of Christianity is that the resurrection was a one time in history event. The only evidence available is what we have recorded by those who witnessed it. That is all the evidence we have. We can choose to beleive it or not.
Wright does look at the Bible, other books of that era, as well as the scholarship of others over the last 2000 years and comes to the conclusion that he does, as do Crossan and Borg.
As I said earlier, if we are theistic we believe that the miraculous occured at least once with creation billlions of years ago. If one miracle occured then who is to say that it isn't rational that more than one miracle occured?
All that I am saying is that prior to discussions such as what were held in the "Jesus seminar" both Crossan and Borg had already come to the conclusion that the miraculous couldn't occur.
And what I am saying is that to definitively conclude this before considering any evidence would be wrong. However, as Grizz has stated elsewhere, scepticism is a wholly necessaary requirement for a historian (or a scientist for that matter). I think you are confusing this highly necessary scepticism with a perceived philosophical bias.
If the evidence conlusively suggests miracles then fair enough. Ruling them out on philosophical grounds is not following the evidence.
However taking the non-existence of the fantastic as the default position until conclusively demonstrated otherwise is not just desireable it is absoluetly necessary. The burden of proof is on the out of ordinary.
I think you are confusing the two.
For example - If I told you I had managed to turn water into wine but that I had no evidence of this and could not manage to do it again you would presumably not think there was a 50/50 chance for or against my claim. In fact you would be wholly justified in concluding it deeply unlikely. Wouldn't you?
The default position has to be one of requiring evidence for the fantastic. Not one of assuming equal validity for or against in the absence of conclusive evidence.
Try not to confuse this healthy scepticism with philosophical bias.
I know that. That is what I am asking you to provide evidence for. So far I haven't seen any.
As I agreed I should not have used the word conclusion. Borg and Crossan had come to believe that Christ's ministry could all be dealt with naturally and that the part which involves the miraculous should be read metaphorically. This does not however mean that they necessarily concluded that the miraculous was impossible.
I also agree that Wright early on in his ministry accepted that the miraculous was indeed possible.
Here is some biographical history on Borg. As we can see he took a liberal position early on in his life.
quote:Borg was born into a Lutheran family of Swedish and Norwegian descent, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the 1940s in North Dakota, and attended Concordia College, Moorhead, a small liberal arts school in Moorhead, Minnesota. While at Moorhead he was a columnist in the school paper and held forth as a Conservative. After a close reading of the Book of Amos and its overt message of social equality he immediately began writing with an increasingly liberal stance and was eventually invited to discontinue writing his articles due to his new-found liberalism. He did graduate work at Union Theological Seminary, and obtained masters and D.Phil degrees at Oxford under George Caird. Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright had studied under the same professor, and many years later Borg and Wright were to share in coauthoring The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, an amicable study in contrast. Following a period of religious questioning in his mid thirties, and numinous experiences similar to those described by Rudolf Otto, Borg became active in the Episcopal church, in which his wife, the Rev. Canon Marianne Wells-Borg, serves as a priest and directs a spiritual development program at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland, Oregon.
The only evidence available is what we have recorded by those who witnessed it.
Except that we don't have that.
In the case of Paul's experience on the road to Damasus we do. He also had direct contact with the first disciples. There is much speculation about how close the writers of the 4 gospel accounts were to the witnesses of the resurrection. It is believed by many that Mark was directly connected with Peter. There were certainly enough people around at the time Mark was written to be able to refute that particular gospel if it didn't represent what happened accurately.
There is the question of how accurate the oral tradition was ,and for that matter the question of the role of divine inspiration. There is no question that in the end any position taken is a matter if faith.
Crossan and Borg are theists. Therefore you contradict yourself.
Not at all. That was my point. As Theists they must believe that something miraculous happened to cause there to be something instead of nothing. That is why I wonder why it is so difficult for them, or any other Theist, to not accept the possibility of occurrences that defy natural law occurring at other points in human history.
Wow, what a difference a day makes. I figured the first mention of the resurrection stories would bring about interest in the subject.
GDR, thanks for your presentation and links. I downloaded the debate and lecture to my IPod and have not yet listened in. I have already read a number of Wright's works over the years. I have an on-again/off-again interest in this subject and when I get time I like to keep up with what's going on.
Wright is certainly one of the prominent experts on the Jewish temple culture and the conservative messianic traditions. Many of the points in the argument he puts forth for the historicity of the resurrection are certainly hard to dispute. It is realistic to conclude a conservative orthodox temple Jew would have great difficulty with the idea that an individual who was executed by the pagan authorities should be given serious consideration as a potential messiah. It is also valid and plausible to conclude that an orthodox temple Jew would scoff at the suggestion that such a figure had been resurrected without actually seeing this for himself. Given our understanding of the period, one would be very hard pressed to find any rational argument to counter this conclusion.
Wright's critics will contend, however, that he leaves too many stones unturned and has left a bit too much to the imagination. For Wright, everything seems to boil down to how such a messianic figure like Jesus would appear to the traditional temple Jew. At times, he appears to have an obsession with this issue. There is life outside the temple tradition, however, and we know from the Gospel canon itself that Christianity was a very hard sell within Judaism.
It would be hard for anyone to objectively state by reading the gospels that the Christian campaign to convert the Jews was a success; if anything, it was a failure. It appears there was rare success making the case with the orthodox and only limited success elsewhere within Judaism. The documents indicate early Christians were thrown out of the temple, hunted down, and to a great degree persecuted by the orthodox culture. Indeed, the majority saw the early Christian movement as heretical nonsense filled with absurd messianic claims.
It wasn't until after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE when the temple culture disappeared from the scene that the message would likely become an easier sell. We also know the Christian mission to convert the Jews soured rather quickly due to the lack of success. By 55 CE, Paul of Tarsus was already taking the message to the gentile Hellenistic communities; by 80 CE, the Christian literature was taking on a very anti-Jewish tone and the break from Judaism was taking place.
Most scholars conclude that the very early Jewish converts to Christianity were likely coming from the same pool that Jesus gained popularity with before his death --- those well outside Jerusalem and far away from the establishment. These are the Jews on the outskirts and fringes of society and those who fall well outside the established orthodoxy. Among many Jewish communities outside Jerusalem, and Galilee in particular, there was distaste for the temple culture and the hypocrisy of the dominant temple sects like the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Many Jews were marginalised by the temple authorities and the poor were treated like outcasts and pariah. These were the folks out there in the dessert hanging out with the unorthodox sects and fringe groups like the Hemerobaptists. This crowd was just the type that would be more easily swayed and less likely to see the gospel message as something threatening to their particular Jewish sensibilities.
Regarding Wright's claim that Christians would have a hard time convincing anyone had the resurrection not occurred and people did not have the opportunity to see for themselves:
I simply don't understand this one. According to the documents and claims, the resurrected Jesus appeared only to a very small handful of his close followers for an extremely brief period of time. If seeing is believing, how did they convince Jews or Gentiles that Jesus was resurrected once he disappeared? Also, if the goal was at first to 'save the lost sheep of the house of Israel', as Wright claims, why were the appearances so clandestine and secretive and limited to only a select number of his immediate followers?
The real question to be answered is, what was it about Christianity that appealed to the gentiles and pagans? Christianity may have started as a small Jewish apocalyptic sect, but it became an entirely gentile movement within a generation following the death of Jesus. None of these converts would have witnessed the bodily resurrection of Jesus, nor would they have seen Jesus when he was alive.
Wright seems to be playing the numbers game and making the argument that the Christian message was simply too radical for many contemporaries to accept the beliefs had they not been based on fact. I guess one could make the same assertions regarding the explosion of Islam or even Mormonism. How is it that Joseph Smith was able to convince so many Conservative fundamentalist Christians that he had a new vision of a new covenant, had it not been true? It seems quite odd that conservative Christians who held a literal interpretation of the bible would suddenly believe these strange stories and eventually endure serious hardship and suffering to move halfway across the nation. That makes little sense either, but I certainly wouldn't make the claim that it implies Mormonism is based on facts anymore than I would claim that the spread of Christianity implies it was necessary that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Joseph Campbell would note here that the power of myth is awesome and it makes people accept and do any manner of things. In the twenty-first century, if Oral Robert can convince his followers that though prayer he had raised someone from the dead, I certainly see no reason why members of an apocalyptic Jewish sect could not be sucessful in convincing first-century inhabitants of the empire that Jesus had raised from the dead. Given people with the right dispositions and mind sets, anything is possible. One need only look at some of the beliefs floating around the world today to figure this out.
The point here is simply that people often believe things to be true that are not and group dynamics and peer pressure often have a lot to do with that. Why any religious system takes hold of the minds of people at any particular time and place is probably an issue better addressed by sociologists and anthropologists rather than historians or biblical scholars. What selective pressures allow one particular sect to flourish while others die off?. I lack the expertise to answer this question but I suspect the answers have a lot to do with the social and political environments in which the beliefs take hold.
As a side-item, here are a couple of interesting maps outlining the history of religious thought and the control of the Palestine. I wish I could overlap these map with the political and social crisis that would coincide with the events listed. Notice the steady growth of Christianity and the extremely rapid rise of Islam.
It is true for anyone who adheres to a religious belief system that the way they see the world now is closely tied to the beliefs about what they think happened in the past, not what they see occurring in the present. The epistemological problem for believers in the twenty-first century is that the way the word is seen now has no resemblance to the world described in the religious literature of antiquity. When conflict and confusion arrsies, how should one evaluate the evidence? Should we trust the accounts of early first- century religious literature more than what we see now? Wright will say we should not dismiss the methods of secular research but ultimately should give the latter the benefit of the doubt when it comes to resolving confusion or making decisions.
I often hear Christians asking why it is that the miracles as described in the religious literature of antiquity do not occur with the same frequency or intensity that they did thousands of years ago. For me, the answer is quite simple: Following the enlightenment, we slowly figured out that schizophrenics and epileptics are not possessed by demons and comets are not divine messengers of evil; angels and spirits are not controlling the ebb and flow of nature; tidal waves are not created by giant stadium-sized lobsters flipping over rocks in search of food.
For some odd reason we no longer witness visitations from beyond and we never see people become resurrected after their bodies have begun to decay. The more our knowledge of the world has grown, the more we realize that many of the stories of our childhood no longer make much sense when viewed in the context of what we see going on around us in the here-and-now. This is the reason why I am hard pressed to give the extraordinary stories of antiquity any credibility.
I will repeat what I stated earlier -- I cannot disprove those things recorded in the religious literature of antiquity; I simply see no reason to believe such things do occur, or have. I will also repeat what has already been stated many times by many people - - extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I do not consider arguments such as Wright's that kind of evidence.
Rodney Stark, who is a prominent sociologist dealing with the spread of religious belief systems has this to say about the growth curve of early Christianity:
"I shall assume that there were 1,000 Christians in the year 40 CE. Based on historical analysis, a growth rate of 40 percent per decade seems the most plausible estimate of the rate at which Christianity grew during the first several centuries... So long as nothing changed in the conditions that sustained a 40-percent-a-decade growth rate, Constantine's conversion would better be seen as a response to the exponential wave in progress, not it's cause... The projections reveal that Christianity could easily have reached half the population by the middle of the fourth century without conversions en masse. The Mormons, thus far, trace the same growth curve, and we have no knowledge of their achieving mass conversions." Rodney Stark, the Rise of Christianity. PP 5,10,14.
With holes on his feet, and palms, and a hole in his side, just for doubting thomas.
Here is something that Wright has written. It is also pertinent to the discussion with PaulK.
N T Wright writes:
We are forced to conclude that when the early Christians said that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and gave that as their reason for reshaping their beliefs about resurrection itself on the one hand and Messiahship on the other, they were using the language in its normal sense. That which Aeschylus said couldn’t happen to anyone, and Daniel said would, to all God’s people at once, had happened to Jesus, all by himself. That was what they intended to say. And this brings us, at last, to the resurrection narratives themselves.
The first point to make here is vital. I have argued that the early Christians looked forward to a resurrection which was not a mere resuscitation, nor yet the abandonment of the body and the liberation of the soul, but a transformation, a new type of body living within a new type of world. This belief is embroidered with biblical motifs, articulated in rich theology. Yet in the gospel narratives we find a story, told from different angles of course, without such embroidering and theology — told indeed in restrained, largely unadorned prose. Yet the story is precisely of a single body neither abandoned, nor merely resuscitated, but transformed; and this, though itself totally unexpected, could give rise to exactly that developed view of which I have spoken. The Easter narratives, in other words, appear to offer an answer to why the early Christian hope and life took the form and shape they did.
Were the four gospels, then, all derived from this developed theology? Are they all later narratival adaptations of a doctrinal and exegetical basis, from which of course all traces of dogma and exegesis have, in each case, been carefully extracted? Hardly. It is far easier to say that the stories, or something like them, came first, and that Paul and the other later theologians have reflected deeply upon them, have indeed reshaped and rethought one branch of mainstream Jewish theology around them, but have not substantially modified them.
A few more remarks about the narratives themselves. Matthew’s story is often seen as anti-Jewish apologetic — not surprisingly, because he himself tells us that he is countering a story current among non-Christian Jews of his day. But even if Matthew does represent a later polemic, the debate itself — that some say Jesus’ body was stolen, and others say it wasn’t — bears witness to my more fundamental point, that in the first century ‘resurrection’ wasn’t about exaltation, spiritual presence, a sense of forgiveness, or divinization; it was about bodies and tombs. If someone had been able to say ‘oh, don’t you understand? When I say “resurrection”, all I mean is that Jesus is in heaven and he is my Lord, that I’ve had a new sense of God’s love and forgiveness,’ the dangerous debate about tombs, guards, angels and bodies could have been abandoned with a sigh of relief all round.24
Second, a word about Mark. When Mark says that the women ‘said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid,’ he does not mean they never said anything to anyone. I do not think, in any case, that Mark finished his gospel at chapter 16 verse 8.1 think he wrote more, which is now lost. But I think his emphatic denial that the women said anything to anyone is meant to counter the charge, actual or possible, that if the women really had seen something remarkable — an empty tomb, a rolled-away stone, an angel — they would have been bound to tell everyone they met. This they had not done; so (the charge would run) maybe they had not seen anything much after all? Certainly not, replies Mark: the reason they said nothing to anyone (until, we presume, they got to the disciples) is because they were scared stiff.
Third, a word about Luke and John. They tell, of course, much fuller stories than Matthew and Mark, and it is they who are normally accused of having developed, or invented, these stories to combat the danger of docetic views within the early church, beliefs that Jesus in his risen body wasn’t really a physical human being, but only seemed to be. Leave aside the fact that that is not what mainstream docetism wanted to say anyway — it was a belief about Jesus’ pre-crucifixion humanity more than about his risen body — and concentrate on what Luke and John actually say. Yes, they have him eating food. Yes, he invites them to touch him, to inspect him, to make sure he is a real human being. But these are the same accounts, in the same passages, which have Jesus appearing and disappearing, sometimes through locked doors. If Luke or John wanted to invent anti-docetic, no-nonsense real-body stories, they surely could have done better than this. No: it really does look as if they are telling, with continuing bewilderment, stories which, though astonishing at the time as they still are, provided the basis we are seeking for the transformed belief about resurrection we have outlined earlier: stories about Jesus’ body being neither abandoned (as though he had simply ‘gone to heaven’ and was now a ‘spiritual’, ‘non-bodily’ presence) nor merely resuscitated, like Lazarus, and like (perhaps) the martyrs expected to be, but transformed, so that, though in all sorts of ways still ‘bodily’, and certainly so as to leave an empty tomb behind him, his body was now significantly different, with new properties, in a way that nothing in the Jewish tradition had prepared him or his followers for. Indeed, the one new property which you would have expected them to include, had they been making these stories up on the basis of scripture, they do not. In none of the accounts is there the slightest suggestion that Jesus’ body was shining like a star.
I suggest, in fact, that the gospel stories themselves, though no doubt written down a good deal later than Paul, go back with minimal editorial addition to the very early stories told by the first disciples in the earliest days of Christianity. They are not the later narratival adaptation of early Christian theology; they are its foundation.
This does not mean, of course, that they are photographic descriptions of ‘what happened’. No historical narrative is ever quite that. But they challenge today’s historian, as they challenged their first hearers, either to accept them or to come up with a better explanation for why Christianity began and why it took the shape it did.
Well, spoken like a true believer, but his basic premise is that the Gospels recorded things accurately.. and he is trying to rationalize that position.
Mark the accepted earliest of the Gospels, was written 37+ years later, in a place distantly removed from Jerusalem. It is hard to think that a person from such a distance would understand what actually happened. nor, does your quote address the fact that the gospels had Thomas poking at holes to see if they were real.
The fact that Mark was written by someone who never was in Jerusalem shows the analysis that the Jews of Jerusalem didn't accept the Christian message is correct., and this is where the events supposedly took place.
Somehow, the Gospels don't seem to back up the claim he was resurrected in a new body to me. It seems to be an addition from earlier beliefs.
I know that the cult in Qumram were waiting for their 'great teacher' to come back. Since they are now extinct, I guess that never happened either. The concept of a resurrection seems to be from the fringe groups of Judaism.