|The Virgin Mary appears to St. Bernard
by Fra Bartolommeo
I tell you what. I’m going to make this debate much easier for Nick and the other Christians participating in this discussion. Nick and I have already agreed to accept the following three points as historical facts for this discussion:
1. The empty tomb.
2. The first gospel, Mark, was written no earlier than the mid 60’s AD and the other three gospels were written one to several decades later.
3. None of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses.
In addition, I will agree to accept the following additional Christian claims as historical fact:
4. The Eleven, the women, James, and the “Five Hundred at once” all believed they had truly seen Jesus in post-resurrection appearances.
5. Many of these “eyewitnesses” were willing to die for their belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
6. Paul sincerely believed that he saw, in some sense, the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus Road.
7. The Creed in I Corinthians 15 was formulated within five years of Jesus’ death.
8. No early Christian contested the accuracy of this Creed.
9. Paul discussed the Creed and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus with Peter and James on his trip to Jerusalem.
10. Paul met some or all of the “five hundred” witnesses while in Jerusalem or at some other time.
11. Paul knew additional details about the life of Jesus, his parables, sermons, and birth/childhood history, he just did not discuss them in his epistles.
|Monument to the Appearance of the
Virgin Mary to Benoite Rencurel
Now, by accepting all these Christian assertions, what is the most probable explanation of these historical facts? Is it that the decomposing flesh of a three-day-dead first century Jewish prophet was reanimated by an ancient middle-eastern god?
I don’t think so. Is it possible allowing for supernatural/miracle claims? Yes. But it still is not the most probable explanation…by far. So what would explain these historical facts AND be much more probable to be the cause of these beliefs/facts based on collective human experience? Let me answer that by giving an analogy:
|Portuguese newspaper with photos
of large crowds claiming to see the
Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal
A widow, Mrs. Jones, lives alone in Sheboygan. One night Mrs. Jones is suffering once again from her chronic sinus headaches. She tosses and turns in bed, unable to sleep. However, in the middle of the night, a bright light appears in the night sky and shines into her bedroom window. The light gets closer, and brighter and brighter, until….the Virgin Mary is standing in her bedroom. The Mother of Jesus tells Mrs. Jones that since she has been such a faithful and devout believer, she will be healed of her chronic sinus headaches.
The next morning when Mrs. Jones gets out of bed, her headache is gone. “I am healed!” she exclaims with joy. “The Blessed Virgin Mother has healed me!”
Mrs. Jones heads down to the local parish hall where she tells everyone present of her healing and the appearance by the Virgin Mary…and within the next few days… every Roman Catholic within a 25 mile radius of Sheboygan is seeing the Virgin Mary, either in appearances to individuals, or in appearances to large groups (of believers only), or, in images of her, such as in paint stains on the side of their garage, or in their burnt toast.
So, my dear Christian friends, which is more likely: All these devout believers are really “seeing” the 2,000 year-deceased mother of Jesus, or, they are caught up in mass hysteria?
Think about that.
by Carl Heinrich Bloch