Five Reasons to Doubt the Resurrection

“And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” – Matthew 28:15

Introduction

How do you know it’s not just happening in your head?

As someone who grew up in an environment where people claimed to hear from God on a regular basis, this was one of the first big questions I had to face. I knew the Mormons had the “burning in the bosom” to confirm their faith, and I had enough self-awareness to know that, given the right circumstances, I could easily fool myself into mistaking my thoughts and dreams for God’s thoughts and dreams. What distinguished my personal experience from confirmation bias and wish fulfillment? What made Christianity different from any other religion?

For many years I found my answer in the empty tomb of Jesus. The resurrection was the epistemic foundation of my faith, the rock upon which everything else could stand. Even after I started to see cracks in everything else, the resurrection was the one thing I could point to and say, “See, it’s not just happening in my head.” That is, until I began to look deeper into the evidence.

I started seriously looking into the case for the resurrection in 2009. At the time I was strongly primed to agree with the verdict of evangelical scholars like Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, William Lane Craig, and N. T. Wright. Carefully reading through Wright’s 700-page volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, I fully expected to find his thesis confirmed, that “the only possible reason why early Christianity began and took the shape it did is that the tomb really was empty and that people really did meet Jesus, alive again, and… the best historical explanation for all these phenomena is that Jesus was indeed bodily raised from the dead.”[1] After finishing the book and following many of the citations, however, I found that I had more questions than answers; and, far from being extinguished, those questions only grew stronger as I poured over Mike Licona’s equally massive work a few years later.

Perhaps it was because of my experience with ecstatic end-time movements, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that scholars like Wright and Licona weren’t taking some of the alternatives as seriously as they should. As much as I wanted to agree with their confident conclusions, it seemed quite easy for me to imagine a completely natural explanation for the birth of Christianity that could account for all the so-called “minimal facts”. Instead of finding that “anyone who examines the evidence fairly will inevitably come to the conclusion that the resurrection happened,”[2] I found that the evidence itself gave me numerous reasons to be skeptical. The more I tried to shore up my faith with the help of history, the more brittle it became—until I no longer felt like I could call myself a Christian.

There are many reasons to doubt Christianity’s central claim, but these are the five historical problems that most disturbed me when I was trying to shore up my faith. I have yet to see a good explanation for any of these from within the ranks of believing scholarship, but I remain open.

I. The nature of Paul’s conversion experience

Even though Paul wasn’t there at the beginning, he is our most important witness to the resurrection, because he provides the only incontestable firsthand eyewitness testimony to an appearance of the risen Jesus we have. That in itself is astounding—and seldom appreciated by apologists—but an even bigger problem arises from the way Paul describes his experience.

In 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul says Christ appeared to him after the resurrection just like he appeared to Peter, James, and the other apostles. He seems to distinguish this experience from subsequent visionary experiences by the phrase “last of all”—a phrase which, when taken together with 1 Corinthians 9:1, suggests that Paul believed he had truly seen the risen Jesus, not in a symbolic sense as in the visions of Daniel or Revelation, but in a normal, this-worldly sense just like you can see any living person.[3]

According to Acts 26:19, however, Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was in fact a “heavenly vision”—a vision which, according to Acts 9:7, Paul’s traveling companions could not see. The usual apologetic response is to say that Paul’s word must take priority over Luke’s word here, since 1 Corinthians is earlier than Acts and Paul is the one who had the experience in the first place.[4] And yet even Paul himself, when recounting his conversion experience elsewhere, seems to use language more appropriate to a vision than to a physical appearance (Gal. 1:12, 16; cf., Gal. 2:2; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Cor. 12:1, 7).

In Galatians 1 he describes his experience as “a revelation of Jesus Christ,” using the same language he uses throughout his letters to describe non-bodily visions. The Greek word for “revelation” there is apocalypsis. It’s the same word he uses in 2 Corinthians 12 to describe his experience of being caught up to the “third heaven,” and in that case he says he doesn’t know whether it was “in the body or out of the body”. And in Galatians 1:16 he says that this revelation took place “in him”—not “to him”, but “in him”.

In other words, we have very little reason for thinking that Paul’s experience was a physical appearance of the risen Jesus like the ones described at the end of Matthew, Luke, and John. Paul places his experience on par with the experiences of the other apostles, but the only depictions we have of his experience are completely different, and—let’s face it—much less compelling than the ones we find about the other apostles in the Gospels.[5]

As soon as we pull at this thread, however, it threatens to unravel the whole cloth. For as D. F. Strauss observed long ago, if the fundamental nature of Paul’s experience is called into question, the fundamental nature of the other “appearances” Paul mentions are called into question with it.[6] Especially given that 1 Corinthians 15 is the earliest text recounting these traditions, and that Paul’s experience is the only incontestable firsthand eyewitness testimony we have, what basis is there for thinking that the experiences of the other apostles weren’t similar in character to Paul’s?

Of course, anyone familiar with the Gospels might retort that there is a quite obvious basis for thinking that the experiences of the other apostles weren’t similar in character to Paul’s, namely that they not only saw Jesus but also touched him and ate with him (Mt 28:9; Lk 24:38-43; Jn 20:27; 21:9-13). There are, however, several reasons for doubting these traditions, as we will see below.

II. Discord between the accounts

Reading the different accounts of Jesus’ ministry, death, and burial in each Gospel side by side, we can see a significant degree of overlap between the accounts. In each account of Jesus’s final night, for example, we learn that Judas betrayed him, that Peter denied him, that the Jewish leadership condemned him, that Pilate delivered him over to be flogged and crucified, and that he died on a cross between two other men with the inscription “King of the Jews” above his head. Details differ, but the gist is the same.

Turning the page to the resurrection narratives, however, we are confronted by a staggering lack of agreement. There are no appearances in Mark, just the mysterious expectation of a meeting in Galilee (Mk 14:28; 16:7). Only Matthew tells of an appearance to the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Mt 28:16-17). Only Luke tells of an appearance to a pair of disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-31), and he is the only one who narrates the ascension (Lk 24:51; Acts 1:9). Only John tells of the appearances to Thomas and the seven disciples by the Lake of Galilee (Jn 20:24-29; 21:1-22). In none of the Gospels do we see an appearance to James or the “more than five hundred brothers” mentioned by Paul (1 Cor 15:6-7). And of all the things the risen Jesus is reported to have said, only one stock phrase—“Peace be with you”—is recorded by more than one Gospel writer (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19). How could memories diverge so widely on something as unforgettable as the words of the Messiah from beyond the grave?

And the problem isn’t just the lack of corroboration between the accounts; it’s the numerous irreconcilable conflicts between them. At the end of Mark the women flee from the tomb and “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid,” yet in Matthew they depart from the tomb “with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Mk 16:8; Mt 28:8). Mark’s Jesus tells the disciples that he will meet them in Galilee, and he does so in Matthew, but Luke’s Jesus appears only in or around Jerusalem, and he actually tells the disciples not to leave the city (Mk 14:28; 16:7; Mt 28:16-17; Lk 24:6-7, 49). In Luke, moreover, all the appearances take place on Easter day, while in Acts they take place over a forty day period! What are we to make of such a mess?

John Dominic Crossan puts the problem starkly:

“Even a reader totally innocent of questions about source or genre notices a drastic change in moving from the passion and burial stories to the resurrection and apparition ones. More specifically, it is very simple to compose a single harmonized version of the former narratives up to the finding of the empty tomb but flatly impossible to compose one for the latter traditions. If all those accounts derived from composite memory and historical recall, it is quite remarkable that an almost hour-by-hour remembrance prevailed for the death and burial of Jesus but an almost total discrepancy prevailed for what was, I would presume, even more important, namely, the extraordinary return of Jesus from beyond the grave to give the disciples their missionary mandate and apostolic commission.”[7]

III. Signs of legendary development

Christian apologists often claim that the Gospels cannot contain significant legendary accretions because they were written within a generation of the events they ostensibly record, while legends generally take centuries to develop.[8] Given the nature of the evidence we have, however, there is good reason for wondering whether this claim itself is an apologetically motivated myth.

To illustrate why, consider the resurrection narrative in one of the non-canonical sources, the Gospel of Peter, which most scholars (both liberal and conservative alike) date to the early or mid second century.

According to the Gospel of Peter, at the time of Jesus’ resurrection the tomb was being watched, not just by a couple guards as in Matthew, but by a whole troop of soldiers, a centurion named Petronius, the Jewish scribes and elders, and (just for good measure) by a “multitude from Jerusalem and the region round about” (31-33). All together this crowd witnessed “three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them: and of the two the head reached unto the heaven, but the head of him that was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, ‘Hast thou preached to them that sleep?’ And a response was heard from the cross, ‘Yea’” (39-42).

Whatever their conclusions about the canonical Gospels, most scholars wouldn’t hesitate to say that Peter’s resurrection narrative is chock-full of legendary accretions, accretions that rest on but go far beyond earlier traditions (e.g. Matthew’s guards, Luke’s two angels). So whatever generalizations might be made about how long it usually takes for legends to develop, the Gospel of Peter (and the same point could be made from other non-canonical writings from around the same time) gives us a specific example that is directly relevant to the subject at hand.

And here’s the problem: Peter was written only a few decades after John. It stands, in fact, at relatively the same distance in time from John (the latest canonical Gospel) that Mark (the earliest canonical Gospel) stands from Jesus himself. So if we are in agreement that Peter’s resurrection narrative is largely legendary, by what rationale of dating can we still insist that the canonical Gospels must be categorically different?

The plain and simple fact of the matter, established by a close reading of each Gospel side by side, is that the canonical Gospels clearly do contain numerous examples of legendary development. Even Mike Licona, a conservative Baptist scholar, tacitly admits this, citing the angel(s) at the tomb and the resurrection of the saints in Matt. 27:52-53 as possible examples of what he (euphemistically?) calls “a literary device” on the part of the Gospel writers, which they employ to drive home “their belief that a divine activity had occurred.”[9]

But what Licona and others like him fail to do, despite all their best efforts, is to show how these “literary devices” are not part of a larger trend of legendary development. If the Gospel of Peter can turn Matthew’s two guards into a hundred, then why can’t Matthew (or Matthew’s source) be just as creative? Why can’t the two guards be another example of the elasticity of ancient biographical standards, showing Matthew’s belief that a divine activity had occurred? Given the lack of independent corroboration for that detail, and the clear apologetic value it holds for Matthew’s narrative, there is good reason for thinking that it too is probably legendary.[10]

But then the floodgate is opened and it can’t be shut. If we can attribute the bodies of the saints coming out of their tombs and appearing to many in Jerusalem to Matthew’s creative license, then why can’t we do that with any of Jesus’ appearances? John’s story of Jesus’ appearance by the Lake of Galilee (Jn. 21:1-17) bears so much similarity to Luke’s story of Peter’s first encounter with Jesus (Lk. 5:1-11) that it becomes quite sensible to ask whether one of the authors moved the story to a different setting for their own literary purposes, or even if this might be the result of memory-conjunction error, the combining of two separate memories to create one hybrid memory. And what about the anachronistic content of Jesus’ final words in Matthew?[11] Or the 40 days of Acts? Or the ascension narrative? And on and on the questions come.

And aside from the suspiciousness of any one tradition, there is the more general observation that the scope of post-resurrection material grows with each Gospel: Mark is the earliest, and he contains no actual record of any appearances, but only the expectation of one in Galilee (Mk 16:7); then comes Matthew, who spends 190 words on two appearances (Mt 28:9-20) and then Luke, who spends 641 words on three appearances (Lk 24:13-53); and finally John, who spends 930 words on four appearances (Jn 20:14-21:25).[12] And just as the scope of post-resurrection material grows with each Gospel, so also do the themes of physical proof (an obviously important apologetic motif) and the displacement of Galilee with Jerusalem (which had greater prophetic significance; e.g. Isa 59:20) as the primary theater of the risen Jesus’ activity. Is it just a cruel coincidence of history that so much material is distributed in such a manner as to suggest legendary development?

IV. Unrealistic features of the traditions

One of the more puzzling features of the resurrection narratives is how the appearances of the risen Jesus are all short-lived and sporadic: Jesus appears in the middle of a room, gives a brief word of comfort or exhortation, and then disappears just as quickly as he appeared (Lk 24:31, 36-37; Jn 20:19, 26). Equally puzzling is why the appearances should be constrained to the days immediately following the crucifixion with few to none at all occurring soon afterward.

Strange features like these underscore the stark difference in both the quality and the quantity of the descriptions of Jesus prior to his death and those after his death. Indeed, such features seem unrealistic and eerie for someone who is supposed to be physically resurrected. And yet, as Dale Allison has shown at length, they perfectly fit the phenomenon of bereavement hallucinations or visions of the recently deceased.[13] “Whether or not they are persuasive, the truth of the matter, welcome or not, is that the literature on visions of the dead is full of parallels to the stories we find in the Gospels.”[14] In other words, there is ample evidence to suggest that the experiences of the other apostles were in fact similar in character to Paul’s.

Regarding the risen Jesus’ ability to appear and disappear out of nowhere, Wright has argued that such things are best explained by what he calls the “transphysicality” of Jesus’s resurrected body.[15] To Wright, this explains why the NT writers talk about the resurrection in ways that cannot be explained against the background of Jewish thought. What Wright does not consider, however, is how often those same features are reported in visions of the recently deceased. To quote Allison once more,

“Modern experiences of apparitions often involve, on the phenomenological level, what might be termed ‘transphysicality’. As indicated on the previous pages, apparitions can be perceived as solid and can even sometimes be touched. And yet they also appear and disappear just like the Jesus of the Gospels and, if I may so put it, live outside of this world. So those who regard the encounters with the risen Jesus as related to visionary experiences will be astounded neither at the ‘transphysicality’ of the resurrected Jesus nor by Paul’s use of ‘spiritual body’.”[16]

And what about the high concentration of appearances early on followed by few or none at all soon afterward? To my knowledge, neither Wright nor any other proponent for the historicity of the resurrection has tried to explain why the risen Jesus should have stopped visiting his followers. And yet the literature on bereavement hallucinations shows us that “the number of recognized apparitions decreases rapidly in the few days after death, then more slowly, and after a year or more they become far less frequent and more sporadic.”[17] Indeed, “The cases reported to us tend to occur most frequently within a week of the death, and the number falls away as the length of time since the death increases.”[18]

V. Dissonance reduction strategies

Of course, the disciples would have experienced Jesus’ death as more than just the loss of a loved one. After all, they had hoped that he was the long-awaited deliverer of Israel (Mk 8:29; Lk 24:21; Jn 1:41; Acts 1:6) and he was crucified precisely because he encouraged that association (Mk 14:61-62; 15:2, 26). As far as they were concerned, then, his death would have been experienced both as the loss of a dear friend and as a crushing blow to their eschatological expectations.

Based on what we can tell from the sources, in other words, the situation of the disciples in the days after Jesus’ death was very similar to that of other apocalyptic movements after the failure of their eschatological expectations. Which invites the question: How do such groups typically respond in those situations? What usually happens when prophecy fails?

As it turns out, social psychologists and historians have been asking precisely this question for over half a century, and they haven’t come back empty-handed. In a 1999 survey of some of the most important studies on the social and psychological dynamics of failed prophecy, Jon R. Stone observes that “disappointed believers tend to adjust their predictions and beliefs both to fit such disconfirmations and to fit changing empirical conditions.”[19] Instead of completely abandoning their expectations, apocalyptic groups tend to “reconceptualize the prophecy in such a way that the element of ‘failure,’ particularly the failure of the Divine to perform as promised, is removed.”[20] The two primary ways they do this are (a) by reinterpreting the prophecy to better fit with reality through a process of “spiritualization” and/or partial fulfillment, and (b) by projecting the still-unfulfilled elements (usually the most important parts of the prophecy) into the future.[21]

One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the response of the Millerites to William Miller’s proclamation that Christ would return to the earth on October 22, 1844—a date commonly referred to as the Great Disappointment. Like the disciples, many of the Millerites gave up everything in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the kingdom. After the expected day came and went, however, many Millerites came to believe that the prediction had in fact come to pass, but that instead of Christ coming to the earth as they previously thought, October 22, 1844 marked his entering the inner sanctuary in heaven in preparation for his return to the earth.[22] These reinterpretations were accommodated by the creative exegesis of several biblical texts and bolstered by a series of visions reported by Ellen G. White—and they are now a central pillar of Seventh-Day Adventist theology.[23]

Also instructive are the responses of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the failure of their eschatological predictions in 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918, and 1925. Despite their initial disappointment, in all five of these instances the Witnesses discovered through a closer reading of Scripture that the predictions had, in fact, been partially fulfilled, or that significant developments related to the predictions had actually occurred on the dates in question. Unlike the original predictions, however, the “events” identified to substantiate this claim were of a heavenly (read: nonempirical) nature and therefore not open to falsification.[24] Thus, 1878 marked the time when the “nominal Christian Churches were cast off from God’s favor”; 1881 marked the point at which “death became a blessing” to the saints; 1914, the year WWI began, marked the “End of the Time of the Gentiles” (i.e. the Christian nations); 1918 marked the moment Christ “entered the temple for the purpose of judgment”; and 1925 marked the establishment of a “New Nation” with Christ as its head.[25] The unfulfilled portions of the original predictions were simply projected into the future.

What relevance do these examples of ex eventu rationalization have for the study of Christian origins? More, I think, than many apologists care to admit.[26] The parallels are striking, for instance, when we see the NT writers talk about the present experience of the kingdom in terms of Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of God in heaven, sending the Spirit, establishing the new covenant, and other largely nonempirical events, while leaving more concrete aspects of Jewish eschatological expectation (like the salvation of Israel, the general resurrection, and the restoration of creation) firmly in the future.[27] We see it again in the way they habitually reinterpret OT prophecies along these same lines, finding the most malleable parts fulfilled in the birth of the Christian movement while projecting the most substantial parts into the future.[28] We see it in the way Matthew and Luke spiritualize Jesus’ declaration that the high priest would “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” by adding the phrase “from now on.”[29] And we see it in the ascension narratives of Luke-Acts, which provide a suspiciously easy answer for why the appearances of the risen Jesus eventually ceased.[30]

In other words, as much as defenders of the resurrection resist the implications of comparative research, the evidence strongly suggests that the early Christians engaged in the same adaptive strategies as other apocalyptic movements after the failure of their expectations. Faced with the dissonance between expectation and reality, they “adjusted their predictions and beliefs both to fit such disconfirmations and to fit changing empirical conditions.”

Conclusion

One of the most common tropes of evangelical Christianity is the idea that, if a person follows the evidence wherever it leads, it will invariably lead them to faith. Even in the typically more circumspect world of biblical scholarship, one regularly encounters leaps of rhetoric that send essentially the same message. Wright speaks, for example, of the “somewhat desperate attempts of many scholars over the past two hundred years” to find “an explanation which provides a sufficient condition for the rise of early Christian faith but which, by fitting into post-Enlightenment epistemological and ontological categories, or even simply mainstream pagan ones, causes no fluttering in the critical dovecotes.”[31] And despite all their best efforts, he says, “no such explanation has been found.”[32]

What should we say to such things? I can only speak for myself, of course, but the more I study the rise of early Christianity, the more I find this kind of rhetoric to be profoundly out of touch with reality. My doubts about the resurrection did not arise through a post-Enlightenment prejudice against miracles or the supernatural.[33] They came, rather, through a critical-historical reading of the biblical data. I hoped to find something public and solid, something I could see and touch, something that could take me beyond the epistemic ghettos of personal experience, tradition, and authority. Perhaps I haven’t followed the evidence far enough. But from where I stand now, for all the reasons given above, I seriously doubt it.


 

[1] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 8.

[2] Rice Broocks, Man, Myth, Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 95. See also Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 608: “The only legitimate reasons for rejecting the resurrection hypothesis are philosophical and theological in nature: if supernaturalism is false or a non-Christian religion is exclusively true. However, if one brackets the question of worldview, neither presupposing nor a priori excluding naturalism, and examines the data, the historical conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead follows.”

[3] Wright stresses repeatedly that “the ancient world as well as the modem knew the difference between visions and things that happen in the ‘real’ world” (The Resurrection of the Son of God [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003], 690).

[4] See, e.g., Ibid., 393. Note, however, Wright’s suggestion that Paul’s vision was actually induced by his meditating on the throne-chariot vision of Ezekiel 1 (Ibid., 397; Paul: A Biography [New York, NY: HarperOne, 2018], 47-53).

[5] Indeed, it’s a small step from here to the speculative suggestions of Freud, Lüdemann, and others that Paul’s experience was produced by his own subconscious. For a less speculative (but still suggestive) treatment of the psychology of Paul’s conversion experience, see J. G. Gager, “Some Notes on Paul’s Conversion,” New Test. Stud. vol. 27, pp. 697-704.

[6] David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1902), 740-741.

[7] John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1993), 395.

[8] See, e.g., Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation into the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 32-33; Justin Brierley, Unbelievable?: Why, after ten years of talking with atheists, I’m still a Christian (London: SPCK, 2017), 137.  

[9] Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010), 597; 185-86.

[10] See, e.g., the arguments of Peter Annet, The Resurrection in Answer to the Tryal of the Witnesses (London: M. Cooper, 1744), which Dale C. Allison regards as “still mostly convincing” (Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and its Interpreters [New York, NY: T & T Clark, 2005], 311).

[11] If Acts and Paul are any indication, the biggest controversy in the early church was over the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan (e.g. Acts 10; 15; Rom 3-4). To have the risen Jesus say things like “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) and “You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) would therefore be extremely pertinent to those later controversies, building a suspiciously convenient bridge from the Judeo-centric focus of Jesus’ career to the multiethnic Sitz im Leben of the early church (cf. Mk 7:27; Mt 10:5-6).

[12] To be clear, I am not arguing for a direct literary dependence of each Gospel on the one before it, but simply for the development of legendary material across several decades, captured at various stages and in various contexts by the Gospels written throughout those decades.

[13] Resurrecting Jesus, 269-299.

[14] Ibid., 270.

[15] RSG, 608-15.

[16] Resurrecting Jesus, 293.

[17] William F. Barrett, On the Threshold of the Unseen (New York: E Dutton, 1917), 144.

[18] Celia Green and Charles McCreery, Apparitions (London: Edith Hamilton, 1975), 188.

[19] Jon R. Stone, Expecting Armageddon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy (New York, NY: Routledge, 2000), 13.

[20] J. Gordon Melton, “Spiritualization and Reaffirmation: What Really Happens When Prophecy Fails,” in Expecting Armageddon, 149.

[21] See the comments of Stone, Zygmunt, and Melton in Expecting Armageddon, 13-18, 71-73, 100, 149.

[22] Leroy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers (Washington, DC, 1954), 881.

[23] J. N. Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement: Its Rise and Progress (Washington, DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association, 1905), 185-97.

[24] Joseph F. Zygmunt, “Prophetic Failure and Chiliastic Identity: The Case of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” in Expecting Armageddon, 72.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Wright strongly resists comparing the early Christians to groups like the Millerites, but his rationale is puzzling. “The real problem,” he says, “is something that any first-century historian should recognize: that whatever it was that the early Christians were expecting, wanting, hoping and praying for, this was not what they said, after Easter, had happened” (RSG 699). I agree. And this is exactly what we should expect if they reconceptualized their previous expectations to better fit with reality, as the Millerites and Witnesses did.

[27] See, e.g., Allison, The End of the Ages has Come: An Early interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2013), 147-52.

[28] See, e.g., the way Jer 31 is handled in 2 Cor 3 and Heb 8, or the way Joel 2 is handled in Acts 2, or the way Amos 9 is handled in Acts 15.

[29] Compare Mk 14:61-62, Mt 26:63-64, and Lk 22:67-69. For a general discussion of Jesus’s eschatological predictions and their subsequent reinterpretation, see my debate with Andrew Perriman on the Unbelievable? radio show and podcast with Justin Brierley.

[30] Wright seems to admit the ad hoc nature of the ascension in RSG 654-55.

[31] RSG, 706.

[32] Ibid., 707. Wright continues on the same page: “Nobody was expecting this kind of thing; no kind of conversion-experience would have generated such ideas; nobody would have invented it, no matter how guilty (or how forgiven) they felt, no matter how many hours they pored over the scriptures. To suggest otherwise is to stop doing history and to enter into a fantasy world of our own, a new cognitive dissonance in which the relentless modernist, desperately worried that the post-Enlightenment worldview seems in imminent danger of collapse, devises strategies for shoring it up nevertheless.”

[33] I still think Hume’s argument against miracles is deeply flawed.

89 thoughts on “Five Reasons to Doubt the Resurrection

  1. Edward T. Babinski

    Excellent points.

    James D. G. Dunn concluded in his enormous tome, Jesus Remembered, that The Gospel of John’s narrative is not reliable, nor the claims it makes for Jesus’s quasi-divine status. (In his earlier work, Evidence for Jesus, Dunn didn’t imagine that Jesus spoke even one word reported in John.) Dunn admits there is little to support the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, and little evidence that Jesus supported a mission to the gentiles, and no evidence that Jesus saw himself as any kind of messiah (the term does not even appear in Q), nor is there much left of the “Son of Man,” except for a few uncertain eschatological allusions. Dunn argues that Jesus did not claim any title for himself. Jesus may have believed that he was going to die, but he did not believe he was dying to redeem the sins of the world. “If Jesus hoped for resurrection it was presumably to share in the general and final resurrection of the dead.” There is astonishingly little support for what Jesus’ last words were. There is a certain squirming as Dunn admits that Jesus believed in an imminent eschatological climax that, of course, did not happen. “Putting it bluntly, Jesus was proved wrong by the course of events.” Then he goes on for four pages trying to argue that we shouldn’t be too concerned about this.

    Dunn’s account of the resurrection notes all of the weaknesses of the tradition: The link of Jesus’s resurrection to a falsely imminent general resurrection, confusion as to what sort of Jesus the witnesses were seeing, a persistent theme of failure of the witnesses to recognize Jesus (in Matthew 28:17 the disciples are seeing him in Galilee yet “some doubted,” not just Thomas, see also stories in Luke and John), confusion as to where they were seeing Jesus (“He has gone on before you to Galilee, there you [his disciples] will see him”—repeated five times in Mark and Matthew. Or, in Jerusalem? per latter Gospels, Luke and John. On earth or in heaven?).

    Dunn also asks, “Where did the author of Luke-Acts think the risen Jesus was when he was not visible to the disciples? The phrase in Acts 1:4, ‘while he was staying/eating with them,’ could be taken to indicate lengthy periods, though the implication of the parallel episodes in Luke 24:32,51 is that ‘appearances’ were of relatively short duration… Was the resurrected Jesus during his alleged ‘forty days’ on earth dematerialized at times, or somehow ‘in hiding?’… Such questions may seem to be crude or even crass, but it is the author’s own account, with his insistence on ‘convincing proofs’ (Acts 1:3) which prompts them!”

    Nor is it clear why Jesus had to leave the earth if he could dematerialize and rematerialize, hide and reveal himself, and probably travel instantly to heaven and back. Equally unclear is why Jesus has remained absent for so long (or at least had another forty day picnic with his followers since then). See, “The Lowdown on God’s Showdown.”

    Which is not to say that Dunn does not affirm the resurrection — he does, but since he admits so many weaknesses and doubts concerning the written accounts he seems to prefer a visionary explanation.

    +++++

    Acts 1:2-3, 12, states that the resurrected Jesus spent “forty days” telling his apostles about the “kingdom of God.” A person can talk a lot in forty days, but the author of the book of Acts shares only a couple sentences allegedly spoken by the resurrected Jesus. The same author depicted a resurrected Jesus walking incognito to Emmaus, delivering a lengthy sermon to his traveling companions “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). A hollow boast without divulging what Jesus said. Compare all the times apologists have claimed that Jesus’s disciples memorized and preserved Jesus’s parables, speeches and conversations practically word for word before the died. But apparently listening to the resurrected Jesus for forty days they preserved a couple sentences at most. What we see when comparing Gospels in their relative order of composition is that the number of words allegedly spoken by the resurrected Jesus (or merely implied) grew over time, from the Gospels of Mark and Matthew to Luke-Acts and John. See, “The Word About the Growing Words of the Resurrected Jesus”
    https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/03/word-about-growing-words-of-resurrected.html

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  5. Hey. There’s a lot in this I take issue at, but let me start with this. You suggest that the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to Paul in Acts is simply a revelation, an internal mind event that did not happen outside of his head. However, I’m pretty sure that is unsustainable when analyzing Luke-Acts. All the resurrection appearances in Luke and elsewhere in Acts are undeniably physical (Luke 24; Acts 1:6–11, Acts 10:41), and so, at most, the appearances to Paul are, at best, a less clear example of a physical appearance. Furthermore, the narratives of Paul’s appearance in Acts actually seems to suggest that the appearances are physical. Acts clearly didn’t think the appearance was restricted to Paul’s head since Acts narrates that the people travelling with Paul saw a light and heard a sound. In Acts 9:7, the people with Paul “heard the sound” that spoke to Paul but “saw no one”. In Acts 22:9, the people travelling with Paul “see the light” and Paul ends up blinded for three days. So clearly, these accounts record something beyond Paul’s internal perception.

    This also coheres with the accounts in Paul’s letters. Clearly, despite the physical nature of the resurrection in Acts, Acts still makes it clear that the people travelling with Paul didn’t understand the nature of what was happening and that only Paul received the message. Thus, it was a revelation that happened “in him”. Furthermore, as far as I’m concerned, the scholarship has shown that Paul believed in a physical resurrection of Christ per his letters.

    1. taterskank

      “You suggest that the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to Paul in Acts is simply a revelation, an internal mind event that did not happen outside of his head.”

      That’s what Gal. 1:12-16 indicates. You can’t assert Paul’s own description was a veridical experience without begging the question (assume Christianity is true a priori) because Jesus can only truly be “revealed” to Paul if some form of Christianity is true in the first place.

      “However, I’m pretty sure that is unsustainable when analyzing Luke-Acts.”

      Luke was modeling Paul’s Damascus Road vision story after Old Testament “call visions” such as we find in Ezekiel 1-2, Daniel 10. There are also parallels with the conversion of Heliodorus in 2 Macc 3. Comparing Ezekiel 1-2 and Dan. 10 with Acts 26 there is almost the exact same identifiable sequence in each. It’s a “call vision” involving a bright light, the person falls down, he hears a voice, is told to “stand up on his feet” in the same verbatim Greek (στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας σου) and, finally, is told to carry out a specific theological mission.

      In Paul’s own epistles he never corroborates any of the extra-mental details – light, voice, companions, etc. Due to the amount of similarity with OT call visions and the fact that there is no independent corroboration of this event, it’s equally likely that Luke was just modeling Paul’s experience after the “call visions” as it is that he was recording what actually happened to Paul. Therefore, the story by itself can’t serve as evidence for its own historicity.

      Furthermore, as far as I’m concerned, the scholarship has shown that Paul believed in a physical resurrection of Christ per his letters.

      This is irrelevant if Paul thought Jesus went to heaven immediately after the resurrection and was just being “spiritually revealed” to everyone from there. What Paul says in 1 Cor 15:3-8 is consistent with *all* of the appearances coming from heaven like his did. He makes no distinction regarding the nature, quality, or type of appearances and does not give any evidence of an intermediate period where the Risen Jesus physically walked on the earth before ascending. That two step sequence develops later in Luke/Acts.

      1. Acts is pretty clear that we’re dealing with a physical revelation, and nothing in Galatians contradicts what we see there.

        You claim Luke is basing his vision off of OT calls, but that’s simply false. Language and allusions might refer to this or that OT story, but that’s true for any historical fact of the Gospels or elsewhere. To say that it was invented based off of them is an additional claim without evidence.

        Paul thinking Jesus went to heaven after being raised from the dead is quite irrelevant. Jesus’ body is still made of physical stuff, and appeared as such from heaven to individuals on Earth, as Acts records. Acts records an appearance of a physical Christ who is already in heaven.

      2. taterskank

        Galatians 1:12-16 cannot be argued to be anything more than a subjective spiritual experience and Paul does not corroborate any of the physical details that Acts does. Paul did not write Acts. The author of Acts had a different view of the Resurrection because he was writing after the empty tomb story had been invented and so the concept had turned into a wholly physical revivification by his time.

        I gave an argument showing that the data is equally explained by modeling the episode after OT call visions. Since we do not have any independent corroboration of this event from Paul or any of the supposed “companions” then you’re just left with the story as evidence for itself which is circular. Luke didn’t need to invent the episode wholesale. He was probably aware that Paul claimed to have had a vision then depicted it like call vision stories he was familiar with. Given the evidence, this is totally plausible and at least equally likely.

        It does not matter if Paul believed Jesus’ body was made of “physical stuff.” He thought Jesus was “appearing” or being “revealed” to him from heaven. If this type of experience counted as “seeing Jesus” and he makes no distinction between the appearances, then you can’t claim the others were more physical than Paul’s experience, given the earliest evidence. All the physical stories grow in the telling and were not written by eyewitnesses. Paul is the only “eyewitness” source we have but, obviously, the testimony is impugned if the “eyewitnessing” took place during a visionary experience that may not have had anything to do with reality.

      3. As I explained earlier, there’s nothing Paul says, including in Galatians 1:12-16, that doesn’t corroborate with Acts. There is no spiritual resurrection anywhere in the New Testament; that’s a defunct view.

        “I gave an argument showing that the data is equally explained by modeling the episode after OT call visions.”

        You didn’t give any argument. You asserted it.

        As you’ve been explained to on countless occasions, “making no distinctions” in the appearance list is irrelevant. It’s just speculation that this implies they were the same. A physical Jesus appeared to Paul, and so this logic would suggest that all the appearances were physical. But this is false: 1 Cor. 15 is just a summary of the people to whom Jesus appeared. In fact, 1 Cor. 15 is incompatible with internal revelation to each individual, since it reports on group witnesses of Jesus, including “the Twelve” and “the 500”. If all these people had a collective experience with the risen Christ, it wasn’t internal to any one of them. That solidly demonstrates, from Paul’s letters, that there were physical appearances going around. The analogy to Paul’s experience is really irrelevant because Paul’s personal revelation isn’t original to the Corinthians creed (which ends, at most, at v. 7) and so cannot be taken as any sort of indication, obviously, of the nature of the other experiences.

      4. taterskank

        It doesn’t matter if it “doesn’t contradict Acts.” The point is Paul himself DOES NOT CORROBORATE ANY OF THE PHYSICAL DETAILS! Paul’s own words are, by definition, a more reliable source than a later anonymous story especially when it shows signs of being modeled after other call vision stories.

        Arguing that the “resurrection was physical” does not therefore mean “they really saw Jesus.” If the physically resurrected Jesus was believed to have been immediately exalted to heaven and only appeared spiritually to them then obviously it does no good to assert “but they believed in a physical resurrection.”

        “since it reports on group witnesses of Jesus, including “the Twelve” and “the 500”. If all these people had a collective experience with the risen Christ, it wasn’t internal to any one of them”

        Groups of people in church every Sunday claim to “see” or “experience” Jesus without him actually being there so you’re argument is a non-sequitur.

      5. No one uses Paul to corroborate physical “details”. And, again, saying that Acts modeled some language or whatnot on some OT calls is one thing, but claiming it is an invention based off of them is another and hasn’t been supported by anything you’ve given.

        The resurrected Jesus i) seems to not have been immediately exalted to heaven ii) and even if he did, that doesn’t exclude physical appearances, because an exalted Jesus making a physical appearance is what Acts 9 and 22 shows.

        As I noted earlier, the idea that all resurrection appearances were the same because the Corinthians creed doesn’t make distinctions is possible but speculation. Secondly, Paul’s revelation is not original to the Corinthians creed, which at most ends at v. 7, and so his experience is doubly irrelevant to the nature of the appearances in the actual creed. Finally, group appearances are noted, and so they can’t be internal/spiritual. You show the extent of your ignorance when you suggest that Churches every Sunday claim that Jesus made an appearance to all of them, let alone in a manner that coincidentally calls every one of them individually to a new movement and mission. Someone should let you know that has … never happened. Also google the medical literature – collective hallucination is an undocumented phenomenon.

      6. taterskank

        In order to claim the Acts account is historical without circular reasoning you need some independent evidence. Paul does not provide any, therefore you’re left with using the Acts story as evidence for itself – circular.

        I showed the story is equally likely explained by Luke modeling it after OT call visions. You have not shown any explanatory deficiency and until you do so you cannot claim historicity is the more probable explanation.

      7. taterskank

        And you’re just asserting the Acts story is historical. Dale Allison does not provide any independent evidence. My explanation is equally likely unless you can show its not. Also, Paul does not give any evidence of the Risen Jesus on earth physically appearing. You’re just assuming that because you’re reading the later developed legendary stories into his testimony.

      8. A collective experience is external, not internal. Allison provides plenty of evidence, though he admits it doesn’t demonstrate his case. Nevertheless, it’s plausible. You have no explanation because you offered no reason to think why your hypothetical was true. You just threw out a hypothetical and expect me to put it on par with Allison’s argumentation.

      9. taterskank

        A collective experience is external, not internal.

        Once again you’re just begging the question by assuming the story actually happened as depicted. You have the claim that other “companions” were there just like you have the claim of others in Dan. 10:7 and in Heliodorus’ conversion from 2 Macc 3. You do not have any independent report from the companions nor do you have Paul corroborating this in his epistles.

        You have no explanation because you offered no reason to think why your hypothetical was true. You just threw out a hypothetical and expect me to put it on par with Allison’s argumentation.

        You’ll have to demonstrate exactly why my hypothesis fails to explain the data. Otherwise, you’ll have to concede that my hypothesis is at least equally likely which necessarily entails that historicity is no longer the more probable explanation.

      10. No one’s begging the question. If me and eleven other people see a fireworks at the same time, for us all to have seen it, it can’t be internal to any individual one of our minds. Group hallucinations are not a thing in the medical literature, don’t forget.

        I googled Daniel 10:7 and it seems to be irrelevant. In this passage, the people with Daniel have no experience. But in Acts, they hear the voice and see a light. I also googled the account of Heliodorus and saw no relevance in it. An explanation on your part is utterly lacking.

        Allison offers evidence. You, on the other hand, not only offer no evidence, but I just found out that there’s nothing in the texts of Daniel or Heliodorus to suggest any modelling going on. You also keep forgetting that borrowing language/themes from an OT calling text is not the same as inventing it based off of that, of which there is no evidence. Allison has evidence, you have conjecture. I think I know which side to pick.

      11. taterskank

        “No one’s begging the question. If me and eleven other people see a fireworks at the same time, for us all to have seen it, it can’t be internal to any individual one of our minds.”

        1 Cor 15 does not say the Twelve all saw Jesus “at the same time.” That’s in regards to the 500 which you don’t have any independent evidence of it actually ever occurring. Moreover, a mass ecstatic religious experience like people share in church equally explains the data. Also, your comparison to fireworks is not analogous to ancient superstitious people claiming to have visions/revelations of a formerly dead man from heaven.

        Do you even know what begging the question means in this context? Begging the question means you are assuming the historicity of the narrative when that is what you’ve yet to prove. You have a later author CLAIMING other companions experienced the event. You cannot just assume the event happened as depicted when that hypothesis has not been shown more probable than the literary theme hypothesis.

        “I googled Daniel 10:7 and it seems to be irrelevant. In this passage, the people with Daniel have no experience.”

        Daniel 10:7 shows they did experience something because “terror overwhelmed them so they fled and hid themselves.” They “do not see the vision” just like the companions in Acts 9:7 “saw no one.”

        “Saul’s traveling companions hear what happens, but see nothing. This is also a common element in punishment and repentance stories: the people surrounding the victim experience something, but not everything. In 2 Macc. 3:24~27, for instance, the guards see the horse and its rider threatening to trample Heliodorus. They are deeply impressed, but not injured: they are still able to carry Heliodorus out of the temple. In Acts 9, Saul is struck blind and is taken to Damascus by his companions. In both stories, their literary function is to provide evidence to the reader that the event really did take place, and was not merely imagined by the person at the heart of it.” – Rieuwerd Buitenwerf, Jesus, Paul, and Early Christianity, pg. 72

        Allison offers evidence. You, on the other hand, not only offer no evidence, but I just found out that there’s nothing in the texts of Daniel or Heliodorus to suggest any modelling going on.

        Wrong. I gave six data points.

        1. It’s a “call vision”
        2. involving a bright light
        3. the person falls down
        4. he hears a voice
        5. is told to “stand up on his feet” in the same verbatim Greek (στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας σου)
        6. and, finally, is told to carry out a specific theological mission.

      12. The obvious implication is that the twelve say it together, and the appearance to the 500 is without doubt. Clearly, Paul reports in what he considers collective appearances which, therefore, aren’t spiritual. There’s no room for escape here.

        Churches have nothing similar to appearance sightings. You repeat this refuted garbage, and this is the second time I note this refutation. You’ve become easy fodder for me. Churches report nothing like a collective Jesus appearance. You must be outright lying or are just deluded at what happens in churches. Have you never been in one?

        Daniel 10:7 crushes your claim. They see nothing, hear nothing. It just says they felt trembling, LOL. It doesn’t say them coming into contact with any external stimuli. The cringe from this awful argument is so bad. Acts says that. No comparison. They hear the voice and see a light. Paul outright gets blinded.

        You didn’t give any six points of data. Check your past comments. And the data you give here is meaningless: what passage is that from? What are you citing? Are you comparing a text to Acts? Which one? Huh?

        From your next comment, you seem to be comparing to an Ezekiel text. But this is irrelevant. See the paper by Allison I showed earlier – Allison does the analysis of the comparison between the Acts and Ezekiel text. Allison’s conclusion? Acts is HISTORICAL. LOL! My man, taterskank, you become easier and easier every time you respond.

      13. taterskank

        The obvious implication is that the twelve say it together,

        No it’s not “obvious” at all actually. Only the 500 have the appearance “at once.”

        and the appearance to the 500 is without doubt. Clearly, Paul reports in what he considers collective appearances which, therefore, aren’t spiritual. There’s no room for escape here.

        You have no description of what these people saw or experienced and you have no firsthand report so you can’t claim a mass ecstatic worship experience is implausible. Also the word for “appeared” does not necessarily indicate a physical sighting with the eyes so you’re left with a non-sequitur in the end when trying to argue the appearance was veridical.

        Churches have nothing similar to appearance sightings.You repeat this refuted garbage, and this is the second time I note this refutation. You’ve become easy fodder for me. Churches report nothing like a collective Jesus appearance. You must be outright lying or are just deluded at what happens in churches. Have you never been in one?

        Sure they do. Just visit any charismatic or Pentecostal church on Sunday and you’ll see what I mean. Groups of people collectively say they “see” or “experience” Jesus in the metaphorical sense without him physically being there. The word “ophthe” had this sort of connotation so there is nothing implausible about this scenario. You just don’t like it.

        Daniel 10:7 crushes your claim. They see nothing, hear nothing. It just says they felt trembling, LOL.

        The text says they experienced something so you’re wrong. The “companions” are added as props to the story just as in Acts. There is no independent evidence that these companions were even there so you’re still left with “Acts says so therefore it’s true” which is a question begging non-sequitur.

        It doesn’t say them coming into contact with any external stimuli. The cringe from this awful argument is so bad. Acts says that. No comparison. They hear the voice and see a light. Paul outright gets blinded.

        Acts says so. Therefore it’s true? What kind of logic is that?

        You didn’t give any six points of data. Check your past comments. And the data you give here is meaningless: what passage is that from? What are you citing? Are you comparing a text to Acts? Which one? Huh?

        I gave you an explicit comparison to the vision of Ezekiel. Stop being dishonest.

        From your next comment, you seem to be comparing to an Ezekiel text. But this is irrelevant. See the paper by Allison I showed earlier – Allison does the analysis of the comparison between the Acts and Ezekiel text. Allison’s conclusion? Acts is HISTORICAL. LOL! My man, taterskank, you become easier and easier every time you respond.

        And what is his evidence for concluding it’s historical? Without appealing to the Acts story itself (which is circular) what evidence does Allison appeal to in order to argue there actually were companions and that they also saw a light and heard a voice?

      14. This desperation is feast-worthy.

        The Twelve definitely had a collective experience per the Corinthians creed. There’s nothing there to suggest that when it says that Jesus appeared to “the twelve”, it meant one after the other. The Gospels also suggest the twelve all experienced it at once. This is extremely weak stuff. The appearance to the 500 simply seals the deal. This “mass ecstatic worship experience” escape is such obvious garbage and is vague enough to be meaningless. We know similar things don’t happen to do, we know collective hallucinations are not a thing per the medical literature, and so we know that didn’t happen. Paul is telling us physical appearances to groups took place. I’m almost mind-bent on how desperate you’re getting.

        “Sure they do. Just visit any charismatic or Pentecostal church on Sunday and you’ll see what I mean. Groups of people collectively say they “see” or “experience” Jesus in the metaphorical sense without him physically being there.”

        In fact, this is bold-faced lie. There’s no charismatic church at all on Earth that claims collective appearances of Jesus, let alone ones involving being called on a new mission where they were previously unbelievers. However, it is often enough that atheists lie about charismatic churches.

        You’ve already been handled on Daniel 10:7. No external stimuli, no one gets blinded, they just get scared. Clearly has no relevance to Acts, just like the Heliodorus account.

        You go on to show you don’t know what circular reasoning is. Allison provides the evidence in his paper, there’s no point quoting 3 pages here. You literally have the paper yourself. You keep quoting its analysis on Ezekiel. Why all of a sudden do you pretend not to know about Allison’s argument? Go read it.

      15. taterskank

        The Twelve definitely had a collective experience per the Corinthians creed.

        Ok and where is your evidence for this?

        The Gospels also suggest the twelve all experienced it at once.

        I think you mean the Eleven.

        Paul is telling us physical appearances to groups took place.

        This is begging the question. All we have is him equating his “vision” of Jesus (which came from heaven) with the other appearances. You have no evidence that Paul thought the appearances were different and you have no evidence that these were veridical encounters once we’re in the realm of “visions” counting as “seeing Jesus.”

        You’ve already been handled on Daniel 10:7. No external stimuli, no one gets blinded, they just get scared. Clearly has no relevance to Acts, just like the Heliodorus account.

        The point is that “accompanying companions” are part of the literary theme. It was never that they all experience the same thing. Jesus Christ you’re annoying.

        Allison provides the evidence in his paper, there’s no point quoting 3 pages here. You literally have the paper yourself. You keep quoting its analysis on Ezekiel. Why all of a sudden do you pretend not to know about Allison’s argument? Go read it.

        Last chance to provide the evidence. Otherwise, I’ll take it as you have none. I already know the answer anyway. There is none! Allison is simply appealing to the Acts account itself as evidence just like you are which is entirely circular! Thus, you’re left with a fallacious circular argument and my hypothesis explains the data equally well. Checkmate!

      16. Eleven/twelve difference is irrelevant. Paul says “the twelve” saw the resurrected Jesus, not “A then B then C then …” etc. Of course, you consider reading things a form of kryptonite for you.

        I’ve already wiped the floor with your confusion on conflating Paul’s physical appearance with the other appearances in the list, so no need to repeat myself there. Per Daniel 10:7, there is no “literary theme” of accompanying companions. That’s not a literary theme at all, we’re not told that these were “companions” in any way, or that they were on travel, or anything of the sort. You’re reading everything into the text. Other people happened to be with Daniel in the same place and they got scared. That’s all you’ve got. No themes, no nothing.

        Your words on Allison are, as usual, bold-faced lies. So we know that you read Allison’s paper since you keep quoting its work on Ezekiel, and then boldly lie that Allison is appealing to Acts when showing the plausibility of the Paul’s experience, when in fact his whole argument is based on what we find in Paul’s epistles. After this bold-faced lie, you write “Last chance to provide the evidence. Otherwise, I’ll take it as you have none.” Umm, you’ve been given the citation of a paper that you have downloaded. Pp. 824-826 of that paper. Is it too much for you to click a few buttons and read it? Pathetic. The humiliating stupidity of these responses always surprises me.

      17. taterskank

        I have given an equally likely explanation of the data that explains the Acts story without it actually being historical. You have not shown how my hypothesis fails to explain the data. Allison’s article is a complete red herring. All you’ve done is beg the question of historicity. Paul himself does not give any evidence for a physical appearance, a light, a voice, or any companions seeing anything. That all comes from Acts, not Paul’s own firsthand testimony. Paul’s firsthand claim in Gal. 1:12-16 sounds like a totally subjective spiritual experience that occurred “in him.” He equates this experience with the “appearances” to the others in 1 Cor 15:5-8. If you want to claim Paul thought the appearances to the others were different as in “more physical” then you have the burden of proof to show that. You can’t just assume it because given the wording “appeared (ophthe) to them and appeared (ophthe) to me too” it’s equally likely that he saying they were all the same type of experience. If they were all the same type then the resurrection argument fails because it was originally based on these people thinking they were “experiencing the presence” of Jesus from heaven which puts it on par with every other subjective religious experience from history.

      18. This conversation is becoming redundant. I show, over and over, that your theories are gibberish and misrepresentations of the data, and all you do is … keep repeating that it’s actually “equally likely”. Based on nothing and just purely ignoring the facts refuting you.

        Allison’s article is a red herring? Nope, Allison actually shows the evidence for why the event in Acts is historically plausible and that his analysis concludes it happened. How on Earth is that a red herring to a conversation where the question is raised as to whether the report of Acts happened? Same subject.

        The fact is that the account in Gal. 1:11-16 is completely consistent with the appearance in Acts. The fact is that his appearance is never equated with the others in 1 Cor. 15, that’s just speculation based on him not writing out how they’re different. And if they were the same, that would of course, only mean that they were all physical, because Paul’s was, of course, physical.

      19. taterskank

        The fact is that his appearance is never equated with the others in 1 Cor. 15,

        Prove it. “Appeared to them and appeared to me too” without making a distinction is exactly what we would expect if he was equating them.

        that’s just speculation based on him not writing out how they’re different.

        You’re speculating they were different when that is not in the text.

        And if they were the same, that would of course, only mean that they were all physical, because Paul’s was, of course, physical.

        Acts does not say he saw a physical person. Rather, Paul experienced a “bright light” and “heard a voice” from heaven. If all the appearances were like this then so what?

        The burden of proof is on you to show these people really saw Jesus since you’re the one claiming he was resurrected. If you can’t do that then the resurrection argument fails.

      20. “Prove it.”

        Dude, the one making the positive claim is the one that needs to prove it. Amazing how few things you know. All you’re saying is that Paul quotes a creed that lists a number of people who had Jesus appear to them, and then says “I saw Jesus too”. They might be the same, but that’s speculation. We really have no idea. They could only be the same if Paul’s experience was physical, since the group appearances Paul lists can only be physical. And no, charismatic churches do not report collective appearances of Jesus every Sunday. You boldly lied about that.

        Acts says Paul saw a physical person. As Allison notes in the paper that you’ve read, physical heavenly beings were thought to shine very brightly. Thus, the extremely bright light Paul saw and that the people with Paul saw was the light being emitted by the physical Jesus. This isn’t very hard stuff.

        Why do you keep trying?

      21. taterskank

        Dude, the one making the positive claim is the one that needs to prove it

        Exactly. You made the claim he was not equating them so prove it!

        They might be the same, but that’s speculation.

        Per the earliest and only firsthand source it’s at least equally likely. That’s a big problem for you.

        And no, charismatic churches do not report collective appearances of Jesus every Sunday. You boldly lied about that.

        They feel like they are “experiencing the presence” of Jesus. That’s what I mean. They feel like they “see” or experience him metaphorically. Just like Paul does when he says “God revealed His Son in me.”

        Acts says Paul saw a physical person.

        No it does not. Jesus is up in heaven.

        As Allison notes in the paper that you’ve read, physical heavenly beings were thought to shine very brightly.

        Which makes sense if Luke wanted to invent the story. He was familiar with the “bright light” theme and employed it in his narrative.

      22. “Exactly. You made the claim he was not equating them so prove it!”

        LOL! No, no, you’re the one claiming that Paul equated them. Jesus, you’re such a snake. Over and over, we find that you’re only speculating that Paul equated them.

        “They feel like they are “experiencing the presence” of Jesus.”

        Charismatic churches don’t and have never claimed appearances of Jesus. It’s amazing how you don’t see the difference. Willful ignorance is powerful.

        The latter part of your comment is self-contradictory and so can be ignored. As Allison notes on pp. 813-814, physical heavenly beings were thought to shine/be very bright. Thus, the source of the physical light that was seen in Acts 9 and 22 was the physical Jesus. This means Acts says that Paul saw a physical person, whether or not he was all the way up there “in heaven” or just in the sky (which seems obvious – Jews didn’t think there was a physical place “up there” that you go to after death). You then claim the bright light is a “theme”, which is … plainly wrong. Wait what? Huh? A theme? No, no, kiddo, it’s just what is physically emitted by heavenly beings per angelic beliefs. That’s not a literary theme. My gosh. It’s almost amazing to think that these comments that appear to my notifications are not only written by a real person, but are serious and intended as responses to me.

      23. taterskank

        LOL! No, no, you’re the one claiming that Paul equated them.

        You said “The fact is that his appearance is never equated with the others in 1 Cor. 15,” which is a positive claim so you have the burden to demonstrate it. I pointed out that the wording is exactly what we would expect if Paul was equating them. Paul does not say “Jesus appeared to the others physically, they touched his body before watching him ascend to heaven then appeared to me in a vision only after the Ascension.” That distinction is never made. The wording makes more sense if all the appearances were understood to be the same. You literally have no evidence based reason to assume they were different, given what Paul says.

      24. The positive claim is proven by the fact that Paul never says “these are the same”. That Paul does not say “these are the same” proves that he didn’t claim they’re the same. You’re claiming he thought they’re the same even though he doesn’t say so, based on him not saying anything. Which means it’s speculation. You positively claimed they’re equated, but don’t find a need to back up your own positive claims. Only other people need to give evidence – you, no, of course not.

        “I pointed out that the wording is exactly what we would expect if Paul was equating them.”

        And the wording is exactly what we would expect if he wasn’t equating them and thought nothing of the similarness of the experience. Amazing how that works.

        So, as we’ve found once again, you’re speculating based off of Paul not explicitly saying “these are different in their nature”. You’re allowed to speculate, but you need to admit it’s speculation. Right now, you’re just lying.

      25. taterskank

        The positive claim is proven by the fact that Paul never says “these are the same”. That Paul does not say “these are the same” proves that he didn’t claim they’re the same.

        That’s a fallacious argument from silence.

        You’re claiming he thought they’re the same even though he doesn’t say so, based on him not saying anything. Which means it’s speculation.

        Pot calling the kettle black. You’re “speculating” Paul thought they were different.

        And the wording is exactly what we would expect if he wasn’t equating them and thought nothing of the similarness of the experience. Amazing how that works.

        Haha! No, he literally uses the same verb for each appearance and makes no distinction regarding the nature, quality, type or mode of appearance. This is more expected under the hypothesis of equating them rather than distinguishing them. You’re backwards in your thinking.

      26. Jesus, you repeat the same refuted points each time no matter what is said. Hopeless. Your claims of fallacy are obvious garbage:

        -the fact that Paul doesn’t equate them proves there’s no explicit equating; not an argument from silence
        -in fact, your argument is the argument from silence: Paul didn’t say “this is how they’re different, therefore they’re not”

        In the end, all you have is a creed that lists people who saw Jesus physically (because there were collective appearances) and your conclusion is that Paul’s must have been identical. This would imply Paul’s was physical, but even though Paul’s was physical per Acts, that’s a non-sequitur from the silence of the creed.

      27. taterskank

        Your reasoning skills are severely flawed. First of all, I’m not making a deductive “necessary” claim. That cannot be done with history. It’s about probability i.e. inductive or inference to the best explanation. The way to approach the problem is this – ask yourself what we would expect to see? given –

        Hypothesis A: Paul thought the appearances were different.

        vs

        Hypothesis B: Paul thought the appearances were the same or similar in nature.

        Paul does not give any evidence for A. But the wording “appeared to them and appeared to me” is obviously more expected under hypothesis B.

        If you cannot admit this then you are just being willfully ignorant and/or intentionally dishonest.

      28. This wreck of logic is a hilarious disappointment. Now, your argument is just an assumption that Paul was even thinking about the nature of the experiences rather than just giving a list of who Jesus appeared to. Pathetic. Let’s summarize.

        i) I’ve shown the appearances in 1 Cor. 15:3-7 are physical because of the collective appearances recorded
        ii) I’ve shown Paul’s appearance in Acts is physical and that this part of Acts is plausibly historical per Allison’s work
        iii) I’ve shown there’s nothing to equate the experiences in vv. 3-7 with v. 8 (especially since they’re different sources), although if this speculation were true, it would be unsurprising, because we can tell all were physical anyways.

    2. taterskank

      Acts 26:13
      About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

      15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

      ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

      Compare this to Ezekiel’s vision.

      Ez. 1:4
      “I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal”

      Ez. 1:28
      “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”

      Ez. 2:1
      “He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.”

      Ez. 2:3-4
      ‘He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’

      So here we have the shared common themes of a “bright light,” “falling down and hearing a voice,” then being told to “stand on your feet” in the same verbatim Greek στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας σου – Acts 26:16, Ez. 2:1 and, finally, receiving instructions to carry out a specific theological mission. Almost the exact same sequence is found in Daniel 10 as well so these three accounts are sufficient to establish the existence of a shared literary theme.

  6. Also, Tim O’Neill noted that even tho Paul probably believed Jesus’ body was in some sense physical it would have been created out of *new* matter (not out of old body). Therefore, just because Paul believed Jesus’ appearance was *in some sense* physical it says nothing about where the old body went. And that *physical* body has some very odd properties such as appearing and disappearing.

    So, I don’t see the significance of Paul insisting that Jesus’ resurrection was somehow physical.

    1. See the response to the very comment by O’Neill that you’re quoting. O’Neill gets outright refuted. The Greek term for Jesus being raised that Paul uses refers to a sleeping person getting up. That means that whatever is being raised is the same thing that became dead, the same body, not a new one. O’Neill’s analysis on the resurrection is pretty bad, if you haven’t found out yet. https://faithfulphilosophy.wordpress.com/2018/12/29/a-response-to-tim-oneill-on-the-resurrection-of-jesus/

      Silence in Acts about any appearance is not a problem at all. Charismatic churches do not experience collective hallucinations. That’s a laughable, garbage internet myth that gets repeated blindly by motivated atheists to try to argue against the resurrection. Please do some research before repeating myths.

      1. Some of my friends (former Chriistians) told me they experienced perfectly understandable sentences, when they put themselves in proper state of mind — tho admittedly those weren’t charismatics and are probably minority. Given ancient authors propensity for using exaggerated numbers, five of them experiencing something close in time could easily become 500, just like numbers of ancient armies tend to be inflated tenfold or more.

        And wishing that silence in Acts is no problem doesn’t make it so. Something like that would be precisely something we would expect to be attested in multiple places.

      2. They experienced “perfectly understandable sentences”? What? I’m not sure how this grammatically incoherent sentence does anything to my argument.

        “Given ancient authors propensity for using exaggerated numbers, five of them experiencing something close in time could easily become 500”

        I don’t see how this could “easily” happen at all. How do you go from a tenfold inflation, per your later point, to a hundredfold inflation?

        I don’t need to wish anything, really. The Acts silence means little. I can’t see it self-evident at all that this is “precisely” what should be attested in many places. Acts is about the specific narrative of Peter and Paul, largely, in the early church. Not sure why the 500 need to be lodged in there.

      3. taterskank

        Every time Paul (our earliest source) talks about “experiencing Christ” it’s always in a spiritual way – ὤφθη (ōphthē) 1 Cor 15:5-8 whereby he places his “vision” in the list of appearances without distinction, “inner revelation” in Gal. 1:12-16 (God revealed His Son in me), “visions and revelations” in 2 Cor 12:1, was “known through revelation and the scriptures” in Rom. 16:25-26, “made his light shine in our hearts” – 2 Cor 4:6 and his “mystery was made known through revelation” in Eph. 3:3-5.

        Paul’s notion of the Risen Jesus seems to be purely spiritual/mystical. “Visions” and “revelations” are the only ways Paul says the Risen Jesus was experienced. Thus, only the spiritual seeing/experiencing hypothesis actually has evidence while the physical seeing hypothesis does not. I’m going with the hypothesis supported by evidence. Given what our earliest source says you have no evidence based reason to conclude the appearances were more physical than spiritual visions/revelations.

      4. taterskank

        Paul’s firsthand description does not corroborate anything physical at all. Acts is not a firsthand source. Paul does not give any evidence for physical appearances at all.

      5. Paul’s firsthand description concords perfectly withe the Acts description. Since the Acts description is likely historical, per Allison’s work and its concordance with the description in the epistles, Paul clearly had a physical experience.

      6. taterskank

        “i) I’ve shown the appearances in 1 Cor. 15:3-7 are physical because of the collective appearances recorded”

        Non-sequitur. Groups of people thought they saw the Virgin Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt. Moreover, you have no firsthand description of any of these “group appearances.” All you have is the claim which is placed alongside Paul’s “vision” of Jesus without distinction.

        ii) I’ve shown Paul’s appearance in Acts is physical and that this part of Acts is plausibly historical per Allison’s work

        Allison is speculating whether or not Paul conceived of his experience as like Ezekiel’s. He was not arguing for the historicity of the Acts narrative. You were dishonestly representing his work and you have not provided any independent evidence that the companions, light, or voice are historical details vs embellishment of the OT call vision theme.

        iii) I’ve shown there’s nothing to equate the experiences in vv. 3-7 with v. 8 (especially since they’re different sources), although if this speculation were true, it would be unsurprising, because we can tell all were physical anyways.

        I showed that equating of the appearances is more expected given what Paul says. I have the more probable interpretation that you.

        Game over.

      7. “Non-sequitur. Groups of people thought they saw the Virgin Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt.”

        Credible citation needed that groups of people spiritually saw Mary.

        As we can tell from basic reasoning, a collective experience is not individual to any single one of them and so is external.

        “Allison is speculating whether or not Paul conceived of his experience as like Ezekiel’s. He was not arguing for the historicity of the Acts narrative.”

        Allison is showing evidence that the Ezekiek-like account in Acts is in verisimilitude with Paul’s epistles. Another bold-faced lie about Allison’s work. You’ve written many at this point.

        As I’ve shown in the other comment, the revelatory description of Paul’s appearance in Gal. 1:11-16 is in perfect concordance with the Acts description, further verifying historicity.

        “I showed that equating of the appearances is more expected given what Paul says”

        Actually, you speculated that i) the similarity in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 extends to the nature of the appearances, rather than just the appearances, without evidence and that ii) Paul was familiar with the nature of the other appearances.

        But it would be not surprising if the speculation of equating was true, because we’ve seen per above that it was all physical.

      8. taterskank

        Where in the Pauline epistles does Paul say he saw a light, heard a voice or any companions saw anything? Also, where does Paul say the Risen Jesus was experienced in a way that was not a vision or was on earth after the resurrection?

      9. taterskank

        1. Paul doesn’t give any evidence for those things.
        2. Therefore he believed then anyway?

        What kind of fallacious crap reasoning is that?

        The fact that he gives no evidence means you have no evidence based reason to think Paul believed those things. All that stuff develops later.

        Also, it’s funny that you ask for a credible source about the Virgin Mary sightings when you yourself have no credible source describing the appearance to the 500. All you have is a CLAIM that happened. There is more evidence for the Virgin Mary sighting than there is for the appearance to the 500.

      10. The first part of the comment is a strawman. The simple fact is that there are no credible reports that anyone experienced a group hallucination of Mary. A credible source describing the appearance to the 500 is the very early Corinthians creed. You’ve failed on all counts.

      11. > They experienced “perfectly understandable sentences”? What? I’m not sure how this grammatically incoherent sentence does anything to my argument.

        I meant to say perfectly audible sentences ie auditory hallucinations. Not that you couldn’t discern it from context, you just didn’t want to. They claimed *presence* of Jesus of some kind.

        >I don’t see how this could “easily” happen at all. How do you go from a tenfold inflation, per your later point, to a hundredfold inflation?

        Big numbers in ancient world were often figures of speech. If one can inflate it tenfold, another might hundredfold.

      12. Umm, no, it’s not that I didn’t want to. Sometimes you should take a bit of responsibility for being unclear rather than projecting the blame onto others.

        We can’t really move forwards, in any case, because you’re arguing from anecdotes. That’s not evidence at all. Once you find some more data on this, we can discuss it.

        I know that big numbers are figures of speech, but that isn’t really that important. If it wasn’t 500, maybe it was 50. Or even 30. So what? What does that change?

      13. Where are these credible citations of collective spiritual hallucinations of the Virgin Mary? I always see this ridiculous claim but fail to ever get a paper on it. It’s funny that if this was actually something that happened, there wouldn’t be this one stock reference that everyone gives (without ever bothering to give a citation) but there would be a variety of documented times where this happens.

      14. And if Catholics aren’t enough for you, how about Coptic church:

        > According to witnesses, Mary appeared in different forms over the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mary in the Zeitoun district of Cairo, Egypt, for a period of 2–3 years, beginning on April 2, 1968, some ten months after the Six-Day War. It was a mass apparition, reportedly witnessed by many thousands of people, including Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and captured by newspaper photographers and Egyptian television. The apparitions each lasted from a few minutes up to several hours and were sometimes accompanied by dove-shaped luminous bodies. There have been conversions to Christianity and claims of miraculous cures associated with the apparitions. A month into the events, the apparitions up to that point were approved by Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria.

        I prefer Catholic apparitions because they have somewhat rigorous way of verifying this stuff — much more rigorous than “Paul said so” — but even this is better attested than what we got from Paul. It happened only 10 years ago, Egyptian president witnessed it (not just some nobodies), and there were double the people.

        Someone here is deluded, but it is not ‘taterskank’.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Marian_apparitions

      15. “And if Catholics”

        The truth is that it is not a Catholic position that this took place, and so this is an ineffectual claim.

        Now you go on to provide a really powerful source – Wikipedia! Wow, this is amazing stuff. Not. Wikipedia itself gives two citations for this claim:

        1) Coptic Church Review, Vol. 13–17, 1992, p. 42.
        2) Marsot, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid, and Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid. A short history of modern Egypt. Cambridge University Press, 1985, 126.

        The first one is an incoherent citation. How can a quote be from pg. 42 of 4 different volumes of the Coptic Church Review? I checked the Review myself, and the quote isn’t even found there.

        The second citation is quite embarrassing: the author claims all this crazy stuff happened to what he claimed was being recorded on the television, newspapers, churches, and so forth, and even the President, and offers not a single further citation for it. That may suggest that there were no Mary apparitions, otherwise local sources, which are well documented in the time, would have mentioned something about it. In fact, this book may have entirely invented the event.

        In other words, a simple rabbit hole down your Wikipedia source turns you up with nothing. Unfortunately for you, I’m a long time editor at Wikipedia and so it’s easy for me to sort myself through this wishful attempt to invent sources for false claims.

      16. On apparition of Mary in Zaitoun we have two New York time articles

        (I apparently can’t post two links in one post, so google “VISIONS OF VIRGIN REPORTED IN CAIRO; Coptic Bishop Among Those Who Tell of Apparition” for another NYT article)

        coptic(dot)net has another article if you search site for “Zaitoun” and stmaryztn(dot)org has more articles and some videos.

        So unless, NYT was in on it, I don’t see how it was manufactured. And given that we have four sources, (two of them from the same year) it is already better documented than anything Paul said.

      17. I did some further research and found some photos and things like that. The claim is that there were lights on and off for a couple years, consistently, and that some interpreted this light to be the Virgin Mary. The interpretation is in dispute, but the fact that such a massive number of people and independent sources reported and confirmed it, there must have been these lights, whatever their source or nature was.

      18. Irrelevant. It is also possible that whatever the 15 saw at Knock was also a lantern. Or nothing. Point is, group of people seeing at most something mundane (mirage in the desert?) and interpreting it as physical presence of the supernatural. Even Catholic church occasionally accepts it even tho they are fairly skeptical and have far more stringent criteria than “someone wrote that it happened to some other people.”

      19. “Irrelevant. It is also possible that whatever the 15 saw at Knock was also a lantern.”

        Sorry, huh? A lantern spoke to them and converted them to a religion they previously didn’t know existed? Gotcha. Once again, you’re left without a real comparison.

      20. Umm, before Jesus started appearing to people, they didn’t yet believe he was resurrected. The appearances clearly function in these NT texts as calls to a new faith. In the same list in the Corinthians creed where the 500 appear, Paul’s own appearance is listed, which is obviously for the function of conversion. Appearances in all the Gospels confirm this trend. The idea that appearances are meant for those who are already believing Christians is just not letting the evidence speak for itself.

      21. Irrelevant. They believed in Jesus and were therefore already a part of new religious movement. Paul makes no distinctions between those who were already in Jesus movement and those who weren’t. So, Paul and only Paul was someone totally new to the movement. The rest are bereavement hallucinations plus maybe some lantern in cases of groups.

      22. “Irrelevant. They believed in Jesus and were therefore already a part of new religious movement.”

        The facepalm has never been worse in my life. Oh brother. Not thinking it can get worse, though, you say something even dumber:

        “Paul makes no distinctions between those who were already in Jesus movement and those who weren’t.”

        Oh gosh. This is sufficient to show you’ve no clue what you’re talking about. In fact, everything you say is irrelevant. The fact that certain members happened to be members followers of the teacher Jesus during Jesus’ lifetime is quite irrelevant. When Jesus died, Jesus died. There was no movement. Then, appearances began happening, and the appearances are what formed the new religious movement. There was no “new religious movement” prior to this. In other words, every single person was a new convert. Paul is even more special because he actually didn’t know Jesus at all and converted a few years later after being an initial persecutor of the new Jesus movement.

        Bereavement hallucinations are a refuted attempt to desperately escape the appearances. N.T. Wright writes;

        “However, precisely because [bereavement hallucinations] were reasonably well known [in the ancient world] (…) they could not possibly, by themselves, have given rise to the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead. They are a thoroughly insufficient condition for the early Christian belief. The more ‘normal’ these ‘visions’ were, the less chance there is that anyone, no matter how cognitively dissonant they may have been feeling (emphasis added), would have said what nobody had ever said about such a dead person before, that they had been raised from the dead. Indeed, such visions meant precisely, as people in the ancient and modern worlds have discovered, that the person was dead, not that they were alive.” (N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God)

        But it doesn’t even take this basic logic to refute the hypothesis. The 500 and the twelve are groups who Jesus appeared to, and medical science has established that hallucinations don’t happen in groups at a time.

      23. P.S. I forgot to discuss perhaps the stupidest part of your comment:

        “plus maybe some lantern in cases of groups.”

        Yes, that’s right. Several disciples saw a lantern and concluded that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus, that’s stupid. It’s amazing the kind of logical incoherence that atheism forces you into.

      24. You are willfully misunderstanding me and arguing in circles. What do you think Jesus was doing during his lifetime? Gathering followers. So yes, there was a movement. And we have already established that something as simple as reflected light from the lantern might convince someone that someone else has appeared physically (ie not in their heads). This completely destroys your argument that appearances to multiple people cannot be explained because group hallucination don’t happen. They don’t have to. All it takes are individual bereavement hallucinations plus a lantern.

      25. “What do you think Jesus was doing during his lifetime? Gathering followers.”

        Umm, no, not “during his lifetime”, perhaps the last 3 years of it though.

        “So yes, there was a movement.”

        That wasn’t a new religious movement. Please show me which part of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels, prior to the resurrection, is indicative of a new religious movement. Jesus was a rabbi (teacher) who taught on the kingdom of God and had some disciples. This was not some movement or anything until later. You are guilty of careless anachronism.

        “And we have already established that something as simple as reflected light from the lantern might convince someone that someone else has appeared physically”

        Actually, not really. The questions about the Mary lights in Zeitoun are still massive. It’s not clear what’s going on there.

        “This completely destroys your argument that appearances to multiple people cannot be explained because group hallucination don’t happen.”

        Group hallucinations don’t happen. That’s a medical fact.

        “All it takes are individual bereavement hallucinations plus a lantern.”

        I destroyed the bereavement escape hatchet in my last response.

    2. I guess I forged this documantary, then, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVU8bhbQInw

      Not that it helps you in the least as if you only scrolled a bit upwards you would have noticed these — all approved by the Holy See — all multiple apparitions:

      >In the 1870s, the people of Ireland were still experiencing the aftermath of the Great Irish Famine, which left countless unemployed, starving, and homeless. In a small parish church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, a group of 15 men, women, and children witnessed multiple apparitions that included St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and Mary.

      > Also known as the Virgin of the Golden Heart, Our Lady of Beauraing appeared 33 times to 5 children in Belgium between 1932 and 1933. The five children were walking home from school one day, when Albert (one of the visionaries) pointed out a lady dressed in a long white robe who was standing near a railroad nearby. All of the children present witnessed this miracle, and the lady returned to them 32 more times over the course of a few months.

      > In Medjugorje, Mary is also known as the Queen of Peace. She first appeared to 6 Herzogovinian children in 1981, all of whom are still alive. For several years, the young visionaries reported seeing Mary on a hill in Bosnia on a daily basis, but some of them no longer receive apparitions. All of the witnesses were given 6 “secrets” from Mary, which they will have permission to reveal once the apparitions cease altogether.

      > A miraculous image, known as Our Lady of Liesse, appeared to the three knights during their captivity, by way of the angels. When the Muslim princess saw it, she desired immediate conversion and escaped with the three knights to follow through with her wish. Once she was baptized, the image of Our Lady of Liesse became the basis for a church named in her honor.

    3. They believed in Jesus and where therefore already a part of new religious movement. So no. Paul and only Paul was someone totally new to the movement. Paul makes no distinctions. The rest are bereavement hallucinations plus some lantern for group examples.

  7. As for “appearing to the 500,” that — if happened as described — is a big enough event that silence in Acts becomes a problem. So it ends up like “zombie apocalypse” in Matthew. Although I don’t know of any collective hallucinations, collective experiences where many people feel “filled with the spirit” or something like that are, as far as I know, common in charismatic churches. Probably that happened to some people, and Paul rounded it up to 500.

  8. > Credible citation needed that groups of people spiritually saw Mary.

    https://www.coraevans.com/blog/article/this-is-the-most-complete-list-of-marian-apparitions

    Enjoy:

    >In the 1870s, the people of Ireland were still experiencing the aftermath of the Great Irish Famine, which left countless unemployed, starving, and homeless. In a small parish church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, a group of 15 men, women, and children witnessed multiple apparitions that included St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and Mary.

    > Also known as the Virgin of the Golden Heart, Our Lady of Beauraing appeared 33 times to 5 children in Belgium between 1932 and 1933. The five children were walking home from school one day, when Albert (one of the visionaries) pointed out a lady dressed in a long white robe who was standing near a railroad nearby. All of the children present witnessed this miracle, and the lady returned to them 32 more times over the course of a few months.

    > In Medjugorje, Mary is also known as the Queen of Peace. She first appeared to 6 Herzogovinian children in 1981, all of whom are still alive. For several years, the young visionaries reported seeing Mary on a hill in Bosnia on a daily basis, but some of them no longer receive apparitions. All of the witnesses were given 6 “secrets” from Mary, which they will have permission to reveal once the apparitions cease altogether.

    > A miraculous image, known as Our Lady of Liesse, appeared to the three knights during their captivity, by way of the angels. When the Muslim princess saw it, she desired immediate conversion and escaped with the three knights to follow through with her wish. Once she was baptized, the image of Our Lady of Liesse became the basis for a church named in her honor.

  9. Another point here: it seems that this post actually adds up to very little. My earlier comment pointed out that Part 1 of this post did a bad job understanding Paul’s conversion experience, as either recorded by Paul or Luke-Acts. However, the rest of it does a bad job as well. In fact, virtually all of it can be conceded without a dent being made in the resurrection argument. Yes, let me agree with you that Matthew, Luke, and John, written (perhaps decades) later than and depend on Mark, and offer up numerous instances of legendary development past the Markan account. Mark itself contains little to virtually zero legendary description, without even describing the resurrection appearances themselves but simply stating that it will happen later in Galilee, and only having about 140 words devoted to the whole resurrection. However, what isn’t noticed in this post is that the entire case for the resurrection can be made on the basis of Mark and Paul alone. All instances of legendary development argued for throughout this post can be granted entirely and yet the historicity of the resurrection isn’t weakened by even a minuscule amount.

    1. taterskank

      Except that Paul is the earliest and only verified firsthand source. It’s also the only source we have by someone who claimed to have met Peter and James. The problem is Paul does not give any evidence of of anything other than “visions/revelations” of Jesus. Since the burden is on the Christian to show these people really saw Jesus, then the argument fails because claiming someone’s vision/revelation was veridical requires begging the question – assume Christianity is true a priori.

      1. Since you last wasted my time on these points, I’ve done plenty of research and seemingly unrelated topics. However, the rabbit hole I found myself in turns out to be immensely important. The reality is that the evidence overwhelmingly shows that the author of Luke-Acts knew Paul. The evidence is clear that Luke-Acts didn’t know of Paul’s letters, and yet the correlations between these two texts is vastly extensive. See Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: Volume 1, 237-250.

        Thus, we can say that the author of Luke-Acts, an individual named Luke himself, knew and traveled with Paul, and describes an appearance experience that coheres perfectly with the one given by Paul himself. The one in Luke is physical, and so we can then be extremely sure that Paul historically had a physical appearance.

      2. taterskank

        Now you’re changing your approach. Originally you said you could prove the resurrection with just Paul and Mark. Now, after pointing out that Paul only gives evidence of “visions” of Jesus, you want to use Acts! Haha! But Acts doesn’t help you because it’s still a “vision from heaven” and all the other physical details are equally explained as being literary themes from other Old Testament call visions. The Allison article does not argue for the historicity of the light, companions, voice, etc. He just speculates or wonders if Paul would have described the experience like Ezekiel did. Allison leaves it an open question whether or not the experience happened as described but he makes sure to point out that Luke definitely was drawing upon Ezekiel 2:1 when copying the Greek there.

        In any case, you’re wrong about Luke knowing Paul, or at least that is highly contested in modern scholarship. The author of Luke/Acts never says he knew Paul. Scholars give different interpretations over why he includes the “we” passages in Acts.

        “Although Acts nowhere identifies its author, by the end of the second century it was argued, as Irenaeus (ca. 180 Ce) does, that Luke was the obvious candidate, and that attribution remains conventional today. This identification was based on the reference to a “Luke” in Philemon 24 and in two other letters attributed to Paul (Col 4.14; 2 Tim 4.11), in conjunction with passages in Acts in which the author seems to present himself as a traveling companion of Paul. Irenaeus pointed to these passages (Acts 16.10–17; 20.5–15; 21.1–18; 27.1–28.16), in which the text shifts from third-person to first-person plural narration, as proof that Luke had been Paul’s inseparable collaborator (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.14.1). Many modern scholars challenge the assumption that the “we” passages demonstrate personal familiarity with Paul. In fact, Luke’s larger narrative construction results in a presentation of Paul that is inconsistent with biographical and theological details in Paul’s own letters. For example, Luke’s denying Paul the formal status of “apostle” is almost unimaginable for an actual companion of Paul. In his letters Paul repeatedly claims to be one divinely called to be an apostle (e.g., Rom 1.1; 1 Cor 1.1; Gal 1.1), and he recognizes the existence of other apostles besides the twelve (1 Cor 15.5–7)….Although there is good reason to doubt that the evangelist Luke was a companion of Paul, it is clear that Luke greatly admired Paul and viewed his missionary career as decisive for establishing Christianity in Asia Minor and Greece….According to its opening words, Acts was written after Luke’s Gospel, which scholarly consensus dates to 85–95 Ce (though some arguments have been advanced for an early second-century date). The considerations on the relation between Luke and Paul just reviewed support a late first- or early second-century date. Discrepancies between the undisputed Pauline letters and the narrative about Paul in Acts (including Luke’s restriction of the title “apostle” to the twelve) have long been recognized, and a temporal gap between letters written in the 50s Ce and Acts written forty to fifty years later does much to clarify the situation. At the end of the first century Paul’s image was undergoing revision (as is shown by the Pastoral Epistles; see 1 and 2 Tim; Titus, pp. 1725–44). For example, Luke does not hesitate to portray Paul as subject to Jewish law; this depiction is consistent with Luke’s emphasis on the continuity between the history of Israel and of the church. Moreover, according to Luke it was not Paul’s theological arguments but the conversion of Cornelius through Peter, ratified by the apostolic council (Acts 10.1–11.18), that established that Gentile Christians were not required to observe the law of Moses in its entirety. Such contradictions arise because Acts preserves an image of Paul from a period many decades after his death, and because Luke’s rhetorical presentation addresses new issues for Christians of his day who lived in changed circumstances (e.g., the inclusion of the Gentiles was the major issue for Paul, while for Luke it is the retention of Jewish believers in community with them). Thus Paul’s role in Acts is dictated not primarily by actual biographical details but rather by the needs of Luke’s theology and the social circumstances of his readers.” – Oxford Annotated Bible, 5th ed, pp. 1557-1558.

      3. “Now you’re changing your approach. Originally you said you could prove the resurrection with just Paul and Mark. Now, after pointing out that Paul only gives evidence of “visions” of Jesus, you want to use Acts!”

        LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL

        Sorry, context is too hard for you, I understand. This post argues that the resurrection narratives in Matthew, Luke, and John, contains a lot of legendary development. I conceded that for the sake of argument. Perhaps it went over your little head that the Acts narrative about Paul’s conversion isn’t part of Acts resurrection account. No “legendary development” there.

        Allison argues for the historicity of whether Paul had an Ezekiel-like call as is described in Acts.

        The only valid interpretation of the “we” passages is that the author of Luke-Acts is claiming to have been with Paul. That’s the straight forward meaning of the text, and the rest is ad hoc and conjecture. Sometimes, you should try not to circumvent the plain meaning of a text.

        The quote you give is simply repeating claims and not addressing evidence. You’re only quoting one side of an argument. That Luke-Acts doesn’t explicitly call Paul an “apostle” is just because the word “apostle” means “one of the twelve” in Luke-Acts. Your quote also says this:

        “For example, Luke does not hesitate to portray Paul as subject to Jewish law; this depiction is consistent with Luke’s emphasis on the continuity between the history of Israel and of the church.”

        This is so vague that further argumentation is needed if this is going to be taken seriously. This seems like a very hypothetical “inconsistency”, probably one found rather than actually there.

        Now I addressed your reference, what about mine? See Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: Volume 1, 237-250. Keener’s case is so extensive that I find it impossible to get around it.

      4. taterskank

        “Allison argues for the historicity of whether Paul had an Ezekiel-like call as is described in Acts.”

        No he does not but even if he was, he is not convincing because he does not provide any extra corroborative evidence for any of the physical details! All you’re left with in the end is the story as evidence for itself – circular! Moreover, Paul’s own letters do not mention an auditory voice, a bright light, or any companions. Thus, the evidence for historicity is no better than embellishment on the part of Luke or Luke’s sources.

        “The only valid interpretation of the “we” passages is that the author of Luke-Acts is claiming to have been with Paul.”

        You’re basically saying it is impossible to be otherwise which is the boldest claim you could make.

        “Irenaeus’ notion that the author of Luke-Acts was an attendant of Paul likewise comes from speculation over a few passages in Acts where the author ambiguously uses the first person plural (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). However, scholars studying these passages in Acts, such as William Campbell in The “We” Passages in the Acts of the Apostles (p. 13), have pointed out:

        ‘Questions of whether the events described in the “we” sections of Acts are historical and whether Luke or his source/s witnessed them are unanswerable on the basis of the evidence currently available, as even the staunchest defenders of historicity and eyewitnessing acknowledge. More important, the fact that Acts provides no information and, indeed, by writing anonymously and constructing an anonymous observer, actually withholds information about a putative historical eyewitness, suggests that the first person plural in Acts has to do with narrative, not historical, eyewitnessing.’

        Thus, the attribution to Luke the attendant of Paul is likewise unsound, being based on speculation over vague narrative constructions in the text.

        It is possible that the “we” sections may derive from an earlier literary source that was used by the author of Acts when constructing the narrative. This possibility has been argued by Stanley Porter in “The ‘We’ Passages in Acts as a Source regarding Paul” (chapter 2 of The Paul of Acts). This source may have been authored by a companion of Paul, and possibly even Luke. Such a source would not entail, however, that the author of Luke-Acts was an actual eyewitness of Paul, or had witnessed the events in Acts. Rather, the author of Acts may have drawn upon (limited) source material that possibly derived from an eyewitness, which does not entail that the bulk of Acts is based on eyewitness experience. If Luke did author such a literary source, however, it could explain why his name was later conflated with the authorship of Luke-Acts, even if he was not the final author of the text.” – Matthew Ferguson, Why Scholars Doubt Traditional Authors Of The Gospels.

        And that takes care of that.

        “The quote you give is simply repeating claims and not addressing evidence. You’re only quoting one side of an argument.”

        Haha! That’s rich! I quoted the OAB which is the academic standard in Biblical studies while you quote the evangelical Craig Keener! Of course he’s going to assert traditional authorship. Let’s get this straight. You do not get to claim something controversial as fact. That is not how this works. Remember, I know more about this stuff than you do and have been doing it a lot longer. You’re not going to be able to pull a fast one on me or tell me something I haven’t heard before.

        “That Luke-Acts doesn’t explicitly call Paul an “apostle” is just because the word “apostle” means “one of the twelve” in Luke-Acts.”

        No, he explicitly excludes Paul the title because he gives clear criteria for who was considered a formal apostle – you had to be present during Jesus historical ministry until he ascended. Paul calls himself an apostle. This is a contradiction which is not expected if the author was an actual companion.

        “Now I addressed your reference, what about mine? See Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: Volume 1, 237-250. Keener’s case is so extensive that I find it impossible to get around it”

        I don’t need to “address” it when it’s against mainstream scholarship. Traditional authorship is extremely controversial. Stop asserting your fanatic fringe views as facts. Get lost.

      5. “No he does not but even if he was, he is not convincing because he does not provide any extra corroborative evidence for any of the physical details!”

        He admits his case falls short of demonstration. It’s simply additional evidence for the account. Your accusation of circular reasoning later in that paragraph is incoherent, unfortunately.

        “You’re basically saying it is impossible to be otherwise which is the boldest claim you could make.”

        No I’m not. I’m just pointing out the obvious: interpreting the “we” passages as anything other than a claim to have been a companion with Paul is ad hoc, conjectural, etc. It’s what the text straight forwardly means. Provide the evidence for a better interpretation.

        You then give a quote by Campbell, which is actually based on outdated scholarship. Campbell bases his argument on Luke-Acts being anonymous, but this is not so. Gathercole has shown that the original Gospels appeared with the four names attached to them. Gathercole, “The Alleged Anonymity of the Canonical Gospels”, JTS (2020). So Luke actually appeared on the original manuscripts, further strengthening the tie to Paul.

        “It is possible that the “we” sections may derive from an earlier literary source that was used by the author of Acts when constructing the narrative. ”

        I’ve heard this conjecture, but this is based on nothing, i.e. is conjectural, and goes against the evidence. Keener shows overwhelming evidence that Luke-Acts was a companion of Paul, and we now know that Luke did appear on the original manuscripts and the “We” passages just solidify this.

        “You do not get to claim something controversial as fact.”

        This is embarrassing. I cited Keener’s irrefutable argumentation, not just his opinion. You’ve failed again. Your embarrassing attempt to get around Keener is that it’s “against” mainstream scholarship, which is an appeal to authority fallacy and ignores the simple fact that Luke as companion is a mainstream position. Double fail.

  10. Pingback: Untangling the Apostle Paul, the Gospels, and the Resurrection, Part Four – Triggermanblog

  11. Pingback: Untangling the Apostle Paul, the Gospels, and the Resurrection: Part 5 – Triggermanblog

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