I should probably give my motive for the thread. I have always been a fan of Greco-Roman history and used to read anything I could get my hands on. I enjoy early Christian History and also have an interest in the textual criticism of the NT. It is kind of like reading a who-done-it novel or piecing together a puzzle. I especially enjoy reading the criticisms of John Crossan and Marcus Borg. My goal in this thread is not to try to negate anyone's faith or 'disprove' the divinity of Jesus. My goal is to try to have a somewhat scholarly and rational discussion on a subject I have always been interested in.
I also find the study of early Jewish history interesting. For example I find the historical record compelling and I believe there is strong historical evidence for the resurrected Jesus. There were any number of early Jews that claimed to be messiahs but they were inevitably put to death by the Romans and that was the end of their movement. In Jesus' case initially when He was crucified He was seen as another failed messiah just like all the others. That all changed and the same guys that had just gone back to their fishing all of a sudden were prepared to dedicate their lives to Him.
The individual I read most on the subject is N. T. Wright who is currently the Bishop of Durham. Here is one piece that he has written on the subject.
You mention Crossan and Borg from the Jesus seminar. Wright has debated both Borg and Crossan. In fact they have jointly written books debating the "Historical Jesus". I have read the one with Borg and have ordered the one with Crossan.
I also have been following along but I am one of those that don't have the breadth of knowledge to discuss this in any depth. I have read both Crossan and Borg and also viewed a video series by Ehrman. In contrast to their views I also read N.T. Wright. The primary difference in my view is that Wright accepts the possibility of the miraculous whereas the others don't.
For example, in my view Wright makes a strong case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus on historical grounds. To make that case though you have to accept the possibility that the miraculous is a possible explanation. Those from the "Jesus Seminar" don't accept the possibility, so as a result the possibility of a bodily resurrection is actually an impossibility. Wright comes to the conclusion that from the available evidence the most logical explanation is that the bodily resurrection is historical, whereas the others come to the conclusion that the most logical explanation is that the resurrection is metaphorical.
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. Wright assumes that it is possible. Is it conclusive? No. But I still maintain that Wright makes a better case than those from the "Jesus Seminar".
This particular talk centers on the vocation of Jesus and then gives a cursory summary of a small part of the historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus at the end.
There are two approaches to the story of the Historical Jesus -- the secular and the theological. These two approaches overlap at times and the conclusions are not always mutually exclusive. It should come as no surprise that the major disagreements revolve around claims of the miraculous. NT Wright is associated with the latter school and his work is certainly well-respected in the field of NT scholarship, among both secular and religious. As a Christian, his interpretations of the texts is liberal enough to make the fundamentalist Christian cringe but also Conservative enough to not offend the traditional sensibilities of the mainstream Christian.
I agree that Wright isn't fundamentalist in that he doesn't always read the Bible literally in the way that you would a science text but he does take the Bible very seriously and does believe that it is the book that God wants us to have. As a matter of fact, he suggests that by reading it literally one is taking too low a view of scripture. I think that the best term for Wright is orthodox.
Also, you bring up a good point about faith and it mirrors the one I made earlier regarding presuppositions. Which side of the story you are on depends on the presuppositions you bring to the table. Ultimately, a belief in the existence of the miraculous will depend on your world view and whether or not your subscribe to the notion of the supernatural.
Just my own thought on this. Anyone who considers themselves a Theist has to believe in the miraculous. We exist. As Theists we accept that there exists some form of intelligent designer. This ID'er might have used an evolutionary process or instant creation but there still remains the fact that something exists instead of nothing. So in the end to not accept the miraculous for a Theist means that you believe in a creator that only produced one miracle which is the one that kicked everything off. (Deism)
As I discussed earlier, the inhabitants of antiquity possessed a world view very far removed from ours today. Everything and anything about this existence is so foreign to us that we cannot comprehend the true context of the period in which these stories took place. If we say we can, we are only fooling ourselves. We simply cannot fathom what it would be like to inhabit a world without physics, astronomy, chemistry, universities, TV's, cars, books, telephones, magazines, radio, newspapers, and so on . For the majority of those in the first-century, an appeal to divinity or supernatural forces was the only rational and plausible explanation for the mode of operation of the world and man's place within it. Most first-century inhabitants of the Empire explained things via superstition by appealing to unseen forces and deities. God(s) were in control of all facets of existence and the miraculous was not a rare exception, rather it was the norm.
I doubt that there is anyone who surpasses Wright's knowledge as an historian of 1st century Judaism.
What you say may be true but I would be inclined to accept the miraculous if I were to meet someone, in the flesh, that I had viewed being killed just days earlier. Either the miracles as told in the NT happened or they didn't, and if they did, then it is logical to assume something very much out of ordinary or natural.
Furthermore, anything out of the ordinary, whether an epileptic having a seizure or the sudden appearance of a comet in the night sky, had something to do with the unseen supernatural activity of these disembodied spirits or gods. This was true whether you were a Pagan, Jew, or Christian. Claims of supernatural events might be met with fear, but rarely, if ever, with outright rational skepticism. Someone might believe a story was fabricated but it would be rare to find someone who would hold the view that it would be unreasonable to conclude such things being claimed were irrational and unbelievable.
The claims weren't universally accepted. Even amongst the disciples there was disbelief initially.
Now, if we were to look at such claims as recorded in antiquity, a Christian would likely dismiss the miraculous events attributed to Mohammad on the same grounds that a secular Historian would dismiss the miraculous events early Christian authors have attributed to Jesus. They would likely put on the hat of the secular historian and by employing the same methods would likely state such claims were either the result of superstitious urban legend and folk tale or outright fabrications. Likewise, a modern Orthodox Jew would dismiss the claims in a like manner, most likely seeing them as outright fabrications. The same would hold for a Muslim evaluating the Jewish and Christian literature. The only time they would agree would be when claims of the miraculous overlapped with each respective religious tradition.
Absolutely, but that doesn't mean that some things are historical and some aren't. Mind you, even Josephus agreed that Jesus did miraculous things.
In short, if you divorce yourself entirely from the familiarity with the dogma and cut off any emotional attachments and biases, what would be the most plausible and unbiased answers to these questions?
Nobody can divorce themselves entirely from their dogma, be it Christianity, Islam, Atheism or whatever.
There were any number of would be messiahs in that period and some with a much larger following than Jesus. Look at Judas Maccabeus around 150 BC or Simeon ben Kozibah (sp?) around 135 AD. They had much larger followings than Jesus but when they were put to death by the Romans their movements came to a grinding halt. When Jesus was put to death his followers went back to their fishing etc, but then something changed everything. All of a sudden they were even more committed to the movement than they had been prior to the crucifixion. It seems to me that it isn't at all illogical to think it reasonable the best explanation is their own account.
The same goes for Paul. There he was with position and presumably wealth in his community. All of a sudden he makes a 90 degree turn, in a way that in secular terms can only be described as an extremely poor career move. Once again, it seems sensible to believe his own account even if it does sound implausible.
None of this follows if the miraculous is impossible, but we have no way of knowing if that is true or not. I believe that if a god can create all that we know that he can also intervene within his creation whenever it suits him.
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.
The closest they get to the miraculous is that they suggest that Paul Peter and Mary Magdelene saw some form of apparition. They suggest that this is the same experience that people still have after losing someone that they are close to.
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.
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?
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.
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 couldnâ€™t happen to anyone, and Daniel said would, to all Godâ€™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 â€” 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. Matthewâ€™s story is often seen as anti-Jewish apologetic â€” 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 â€” that some say Jesusâ€™ body was stolen, and others say it wasnâ€™t â€” bears witness to my more fundamental point, that in the first century â€˜resurrectionâ€™ wasnâ€™t about exaltation, spiritual presence, a sense of forgiveness, or divinization; it was about bodies and tombs. If someone had been able to say â€˜oh, donâ€™t you understand? When I say â€œresurrectionâ€, all I mean is that Jesus is in heaven and he is my Lord, that Iâ€™ve had a new sense of Godâ€™s love and forgiveness,â€™ 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 â€˜said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid,â€™ 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 â€” an empty tomb, a rolled-away stone, an angel â€” 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 wasnâ€™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 â€” it was a belief about Jesusâ€™ pre-crucifixion humanity more than about his risen body â€” 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 Jesusâ€™ body being neither abandoned (as though he had simply â€˜gone to heavenâ€™ and was now a â€˜spiritualâ€™, â€˜non-bodilyâ€™ 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 â€˜bodilyâ€™, 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 Jesusâ€™ 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 â€˜what happenedâ€™. No historical narrative is ever quite that. But they challenge todayâ€™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.
Thanks for making this a discussion and not a debate.
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.
I think that Wright might respond this way. It does appear to have been a hard sell but then Jesus was not what they had anticipated a messiah to be. He didn't defeat the Romans and he didn't rebuild the temple. He went even further in that he said that trying to defeat the Romans militarily was wrong. He preached that they were to love their enemy, turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. He claimed that if they carried on the way they were it would have terrible consequences which it did in 70AD.
He also preached that their whole temple centered religion was being changed. They didn't have to go to the temple anymore to receive forgiveness. He preached a forgiveness that could be received directly without going to the temple.
This whole idea would be very threatening to the Jewish nation. I don't find it surprising that it wasn't accepted all that well. Mind you we know much more about Paul's ministry to the Gentiles than we do James' ministry to the Jews so we aren't all that sure about just how successful he was.
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.
I certainly agree with that. It is also consistent with the message that Jesus taught.
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?
I don't think his point was that Christians would not be able to convince people of the resurrection if it wasn't true. I think his point is that they wouldn't have even tried to convert anyone. As I said earlier they had all gone back to their fishing etc after the crucifixion, and that is where they would have stayed if they hadn't encountered the resurrected Jesus.
It was more than just a few followers.
1 Cor 15 writes:
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After 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. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
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.
If we are following this through from one stage to the next I believe that there is an answer to this. On the broad assumption that you have looked at Wright's polemic and been convinced by the case that he makes then it follows that you would then be prepared to give credibility to the things that he is reported to have said. Jesus said that we would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower them in their mission. It seems to have worked. :)
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 again is that without the resurrection the apostles wouldn't have even tried to convince anyone of anything. The only reason that the Christian church came into being is that the apostles absolutely believed in the resurrected Jesus.
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.
That is fair enough and a logical conclusion. I would add however that there are many very intelligent and thoughtful people, such as Wright, who have come to a very different conclusion as to what best makes sense of the world then and the world now.
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.
This in many ways is a "chicken and egg" discussion. If the resurrection is historical then you view the scriptures the same way and vice versa. It is also true that if you reject one you reject the other.
Wright has put both the scripture and the resurrection in their historical context and come to the belief that they can be trusted. Obviously you and others come to a different conclusion. I don't accept that it is a rationalization just as I'm not accusing Borg and Crossan as rationalizing their position.
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.
First century Jews anticipated their resurrection at the end of time. My understanding is that there was nothing in Judaism that suggested that anyone would be resurrected in the middle of human history.
Having read the links you provided earlier I think it is fair to say that Crossman and Borg approached the subject with what we can both agree to be a healthy, and indeed necessary, skepticism whilst Wright has approached the subject with a distinct philosophical bias in favour of the miraculous. Do you dispute this? Do you still think the two approaches are equally valid?
Actually, yes I do. They all had established beliefs from earlier on. Here is a quote from wiki.
quote:The seminar treats the gospels as historical artifacts, representing not only Jesus' actual words and deeds but also the inventions and elaborations of the early Christian community and of the gospel authors. The fellows placed the burden of proof on those who advocate any passage's historicity. Unconcerned with canonical boundaries, they asserted that the Gospel of Thomas has more authentic material than the Gospel of John.
While analyzing the gospels as fallible human creations is a standard historical-critical method, the seminar's premise that Jesus did not hold an apocalyptic world view is controversial. Rather than revealing an apocalyptic eschatology, which instructs his disciples to prepare for the end of the world, the fellows argue that the authentic words of Jesus indicate that he preached a sapiential eschatology, which encourages all God's children to repair the world.
One of my problems is that I have not studied this subject aside from reading Wright, Crossan and Borg and skimming Josephus.
As for your point on Mormanism I think the point I'm trying to make is different than the point you argued. I'm simply suggesting that I can't see a reason for Christianity to come about at all without the resurrection. Without the resurrection Jesus is just another failed messiah. It is in my view the most reasonable answer for the complete turnaround of the disciples, as well as Paul, after the crucifixion. The fact that it spread as rapidly as it did is another question altogether.
One statement Wright made in his address that would give one pause is: "No Christian group or sect in the first two centuries following the death of Jesus denied the resurrection and his appearance to the disciples." This statement is true or false depending on how you define resurrection and appearance. I will attribute this statement to a poor choice of words; unfortunately, it might very well lead someone to a false conclusion about the uniformity of early Christian beliefs.
I'd be interested in seeing a link to that. I have read a lot of Wright and he has pointed out the beliefs of the gnostics, and their essentially deistic faith many times.
Claims of Visions, apparitions, and visitations from beyond are not exactly something unique to Christianity, nor is the belief in resurrection. In fact, if we are to believe the story, the Gospels themselves tell us that "Herod believed Jesus to be John the Baptist raised from the dead." Inhabitants of antiquity(and even inhabitants here in the twenty-first century) often believed they were being visited by angels, spirits, or deities.
To the best of my knowledge no other would be messiah ever had this claim made about them. Once they were put to death their movement ended.
The moral here is that if you are looking for a supernatural explanation to events then you will certainly find them. This approach is sufficient for a theologian immersed in Christian orthodoxy but from the perspective of a historian whose goal is to be exhaustive, this won't fly.
I realize I'm repeating myself but it does largely depend on whether the historian in question is able to accept the possibility of the miraculous. That won't predetermine is final conclusion but if you are like those from the "Jesus Seminar" and had already discounted that possibility then it does largely influence the outcome. By the way, I agree that Wright did early on accept that the miraculous was a possibility which certainly influences his findings. As I said, none of us are completely objective.
My Christian faith is just that, a faith. Yes I believe that the historical evidence supports my faith, but it certainly doesn't prove it. In my view my faith does make some sense of human history in general and it does make a lot of sense of what I have experienced in my life.