Is this the real Explanation for the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection Story?


Christians assert that the only believable explanation for the empty tomb is the Resurrection:  the supernatural (miracle) act of the Hebrew God, Yahweh, in which he raised the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth out of his tomb to appear in the flesh to his disciples.  I say that there are several possible, much more probable, explanations for the empty tomb (if there even was an empty tomb), here is one of them:

Jesus is crucified and buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb by Joseph and Nicodemus. A stone is rolled in front of the tomb. It is late Friday afternoon. The Jews go to Pilate and ask for guards to be placed at the tomb because they fear that the disciples will steal the body and try to claim that Jesus had been resurrected. Pilate agrees and sends soldiers to the tomb. The soldiers seal the tomb and stand guard round-the-clock for the next few days until Sunday morning.

Very early Sunday morning, some of the female followers of Jesus make a trip to the tomb. It is dawn and there is only a hint of light. As they enter the Garden, they can’t yet see Jesus’ tomb and the guards, but in the distance they see a man. It is barely light, so it is hard to see the man clearly, but it looks like Jesus! The man turns to look at them, smiles, and then walks away and is no longer visible. It was Jesus! It looked like Jesus’ face and he smiled at us! The women run back into town telling people along the way that Jesus has been raised from the dead. News of this “miracle” gets back to the Roman soldiers at the tomb. The soldiers break the seal, move away the stone, and look inside. The tomb is empty! In fear for their lives for having failed to guard the body, they flee.

Shortly thereafter, Peter and John come to the tomb and find..the story is true! The stone is rolled back and the tomb is empty. Jesus is risen! They run and tell the other disciples who were still in hiding for fear that they too would be executed. But now they are emboldened! Jesus had said that they would rule with him in the new kingdom! They would sit on thrones! And now Jesus was back, ready to establish that Kingdom. Their fear dissolved, and they boldly preached the coming Kingdom.

Over the next days, weeks, and months Christians began having visions of Jesus and false sightings of Jesus, similar to the false sighting of the women in the garden (men who looked like Jesus, but were not). And within five years, a Creed was formed which included the names of many of the prominent members of the Church as eyewitnesses and even a claim that five hundred at once had seen Jesus.

The Christian message claimed that even the poorest of people would attain riches in heaven after death, and, anyone who became a Christian was allowed to participate in the sharing of food and goods, as the earliest Christians practiced a form of communal living. With a social welfare system in this life and a promise of riches in the next, the new religion was very attractive to the lower classes of the Roman empire, and it spread very rapidly, even in the face of sometimes horrific persecution.

So why was the tomb empty?

Answer: During the brief period of time between Josephus and Nicodemus putting the body in the tomb and the soldiers arriving and sealing the tomb, SOMEONE came and took the body…for reasons we will never know.

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42 thoughts on “Is this the real Explanation for the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection Story?

  1. Good question, I also battled with it.

    Problem is just:
    The Roman guards guarding the body would have been punished for negligence, so they wanted security to be tight.

    If the Jews took Jesus' body, they would gladly show it to the world to stifle the resurrection rumors.

    If the Christians took the body, they would have known that Jesus is not the conqueror of death. He would have lied about his own prophesied resurrection. This is inconsistent with the courage displayed by the disciples to be willing to die for their faith. They would not have died for something they knew to be a lie.

    Thanks for asking the tough questions 🙂

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  2. The question everyone should ask is this: Which is more probable:

    1. A professional soldier makes a silly, sloppy mistake.
    2. A dead body comes back to life to eventually fly off into outer space.

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  3. Hi Gary 🙂

    Thank you for your reply.

    I realized that I could make a lot of arguments… But I was glad I read the motivation for your blog: that religious fundamentalists often commit atrocities in the name of a holy book. I agree with you… The church has also made a lot of mistakes, such as the Medieval Crusaders who killed people for not converting to Christianity. I totally disagree with this action and, quite frankly, it's unbiblical. No-where in Scripture does the Bible encourage en even allow this.

    I am not sure what your history is with churches or church members. I would like to confess… we sometimes mess things up… Sorry for that.

    On the other hand, non-religious ideologies are equally as guilty, motivating Hitler and Stalin. Both sides have made mistakes and I would like to believe that both sides are seeking solutions…

    On a more academic note:

    I guess your question boils down to fundamental worldviews:
    1. Naturalism
    2. Theism

    I am guessing you are a naturalist: e.g. the only things that are real are what we can measure and observe. All phenomenon can be explained without supernatural intervention. The universe is therefore a closed system.

    One of the foundational beliefs of naturalism is that matter is eternal: matter has always existed and matter will always exist. This impossible to prove with 100% certainty.

    Not that theism make any claims with 100% certainty either… It does, however provide answers for the moral issues:

    Science can explain how arsenic works, but it can never tell me whether or not it is acceptable for me to poison my grandmother to gain her property… Most people will acknowledge that this is wrong. But we did not come to that conclusion on scientific terms… The moral nature of an uncreated deity helps us with this.

    I can go left and right with scenarios on the resurrection, but fundamentally we would disagree:
    You would believe that there is no supernatural mechanism for bring someone back to life… and I would.

    William Lane Craig (Ph.D., D.Th.) notes that “As long as the existence of God is even possible, it's possible that He acted in history by raising Jesus from the dead.”

    I hope you hear my heart louder than my reasons 🙂

    Kind regards
    Kobus

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  4. Thank you for your comment, Kobus.

    I am a naturalist, but I am not an absolutist, meaning, that in my world view I DO allow for the possibility of the supernatural. However, I allow for the supernatural as the least probable of all possible explanations for any odd event. Why do I make this assumption? I make this assumption based on collective human experience and my own personal experience.

    If I wake up tomorrow morning and find that my keys are missing, the least likely explanation I will consider is a supernatural explanation, such as that a goblin, an angel, or a demon, took my keys. And I believe that we should use this same logic when it comes to empty tombs and to claims of seeing dead people. All these claims are POSSIBLE…but HIGHLY improbable.

    There are so many much more probable, naturalistic explanations for all the events related to the early Christian belief in a resurrection. For instance, it is much more probable that professional soldiers would make a careless mistake than that a dead body would be resurrected. Even Christians agree that there has only been ONE (alleged) resurrected body. But we have numerous examples in history of professional soldiers making careless, silly mistakes.

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  5. Thanks, Gary, for your respectful reply 🙂

    I also start looking form my keys when they are missing. Hehe

    So, it seems that the Roman guards seem to be troubling you.

    According to Dr. Gary Habermas:

    “Only Matthew reports that guards were placed around the
    tomb, but in any event, I don't think the guard
    story is an important facet of the evidence for the Resurrection. For one thing, it's too disputed by contemporary scholarship. I find it's prudent to base my arguments on evidence that's most widely accepted by the majority of scholars, so the guard story is better left aside.”

    He, however, continues by clarifying scenario of the guards, “Think about the claims and counterclaims about the Resurrection that went back and forth between the Jews and Christians in the first century. The initial Christian proclamation was, 'Jesus is risen.' The Jews responded, 'The disciples stole his body.' To this Christians said, 'Ah, but the guards at the tomb would have prevented such a theft.' The Jews responded, 'Oh, but the guards at the tomb fell asleep.' To that the Christians replied,'No, the Jews bribed the guards to say they fell asleep.'

    “Now, if there had not been any guards, the exchange would have gone like this: In response to the claim Jesus is risen, the Jews would say, 'No, the disciples stole his body.' Christians would reply, 'But the guards would have prevented the theft.' Then the Jewish response would have been, 'What guards? You're crazy! There were no guards!' Yet history tells us that's not what the Jews said.

    “This suggests the guards really were historical and that the Jews knew it, which is why they had to invent the absurd story about the guards having been asleep while the disciples took the body.”

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  6. You also make the claim that the disciples or the women might have mistaken a stranger for Jesus, that they only saw what they wanted to see…

    “The unanimous testimony that the empty tomb was discovered by women argues for the authenticity of the story, because this would have been embarrassing for the disciples to admit and most certainly would have been covered up if this were a legend.”

    In the post-resurrection testimonies, the disciples narrate accounts of them having personal conversations with Jesus, eating with Him and walking with Him.

    After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to:
    1. Mary Magdalene, John 20:10-18
    2. the other women, Matthew 28:8-10
    3. Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, Luke 4. 24:13-32
    5. eleven disciples and others, Luke 24:33-49
    6. ten apostles and others, with Thomas absent, John 20:19-23
    7. Thomas and the other apostles, John 20:26-30
    8. seven apostles, John 21:1-14
    9. the disciples, Matthew 28:16-20
    10. the apostles at the Mount of Olives before his ascension, Luke 24:50-52 and Acts 1:4-9

    The book of the Acts of the Apostles contain the earliest teaching of the resurrection:

    Peter:
    1. Acts 2:32, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”
    2. Acts 3:15 he repeats, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”
    3. He confirms to Cornelius in Acts 10:41 that he and others “ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.“

    Paul:
    4. Acts 13:31, “For many days he was seen by those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.”

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  7. The conversion of Paul (previously known as Saul) is probably one of the strongest affirmations of the resurrection:

    According to Josh McDowell: “Saul was a Hebrew zealot, a religious leader. Being born in Tarsus gave him the opportunity to be exposed to the most advanced learning of his day. Like his father, he possessed Roman citizenship, a high privilege. He seemed to be well versed in Hellenistic culture and thought. Paul's education was Jewish and took place under the strict doctrines of the Pharisees. At about age fourteen, he was sent to study under Gamaliel, one of the great rabbis of the time.”

    “The new sect of Judaism calling themselves Christians struck at the essence of Paul's Jewish training and rabbinic studies. To exterminate this sect became his passion (Galatians 1:13). So Paul began his pursuit to death of “the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 26:9-11). He literally “laid waste the church” (Acts 8:3). He set out for Damascus with documents authorizing him to seize the followers of Jesus and bring them back to face trial.”

    In Acts 9:1-12 Paul claims to have encountered the living Jesus on the road to Damascus. This event radically affected every area of his life:

    1. “Paul's character was drastically transformed. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes him before his conversion as an intolerant, bitter, persecuting, religious bigot – proud and temperamental. After his conversion he is pictured as patient, kind, enduring, and self-sacrificing. Kenneth Scott Latourette says: “What integrated Paul's life, however, and lifted this almost neurotic temperament out of obscurity into enduring influence was a profound and revolutionary religious experience.””

    2. “'Paul's relationship with the followers of Jesus was transformed. “Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus” (Acts 9:19). And when Paul went to the apostles, he received the “right hand of fellowship.”

    3. “Paul's message was transformed. Though he still loved his Jewish heritage, he had changed from a bitter antagonist to a determined protagonist of the Christian faith. “Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, 'He is the Son of God' ” (Acts 9:20).”

    According to Professor Archibald MacBride: “Beside [Paul’s] achievements…the achievements of Alexander and Napolean pale into insignificance.”

    Clement: Paul “bore chains seven times; preached the gospel in the East and West; came to the limit of the West; and died a martyr under the rulers.”

    Lord Lyttleton: “The conversion and apostleship of Saint Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a Divine Revelation.”

    Lyttleton concludes that if Paul's twenty five years of suffering and service for Christ were a reality, then his conversion was true. And if his conversion was true, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, for everything Paul was and did he attributed to the sight of the risen Christ.

    So, I guess my question to would be, Gary: What would be so bad about believing in the Resurrection of Jesus as an actual historical event?

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  8. Hi Kobus. I am happy that you are interested in continuing our discussion.

    Do you have any evidence outside of the Gospels for any debate between the Jews and the Christians regarding the guards, or even the Empty Tomb?

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  9. I do not doubt that the authors of the Gospels and Paul truly believed that Jesus had appeared to numerous people after his death. This is what they had been told…by someone. But the fact of the matter is we have no confirmed eye-witness statements by ANYONE claiming to have seen this resurrected body with their own two eyes. (Paul only claims to have seen a talking bright light.)

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  10. I believe that Paul sincerely believed that he had “seen” the resurrected Jesus. However, what he admits he saw, in Acts chapter 26, in his own words, was a talking, bright light. That's it. A bright light is not the same as seeing a body. Thousands if not tens of thousands of human beings, throughout history, have “seen” bright lights that speak to them.

    If someone told you today that a talking bright light appeared to them on a desert highway and told them that it was Abraham Lincoln; that the bright light told the person he should quit his job and evangelize the world as a pacifist against human trafficking (slavery), in the name of Abraham Lincoln, would you believe this person even if he is someone who is highly respected and highly regarded to be very sensible and level-headed?

    I doubt it.

    Most people would assume that this person's experience of “seeing” a talking bright light was a vivid dream, an hallucination, a delusion, a trick of nature (a shadow), or even lie…before accepting the person's claim that he had really conversed with a dead Abraham Lincoln.

    You believe this story, Kobus, only because it is part of YOUR supernatural belief system, a belief system upon which your entire life is based. Otherwise, I think you would disregard Paul's claim of seeing a talking bright light as highly, highly improbable to be an historical reality.

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  11. You asked: “What would be so bad about believing in the Resurrection of Jesus as an actual historical event?”

    First of all, I believe that being a follower of (many of) the teachings of Jesus is great. Jesus taught compassion, humility, generosity, caring for the poor and sick, and he encouraged pacifism and non-violence for most situations. We should all attempt to follow these teachings. It is my hope that Christianity one days evolves to simply be a movement of the humanistic teachings of Jesus…but a movement that abandons the supernatural claims related to Jesus.

    The belief in the reality of the supernatural is very dangerous, in my opinion. Educated, sane, otherwise good people do terrible things because of their supernatural beliefs.

    In summary, I am not against the humanistic teachings of Jesus, the man. I am against all supernatural teachings. I believe that the world would be a much better, safer, and happier place for all without them.

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  12. Thanks again, Gary, for your respectful reply… I really enjoy conversing with you without accusations and belittlement. I really appreciate it!

    I guess the bottom line in this argument for you would be: whatever is not probable, is probably not true. It seems like you have difficulty believing that a supernatural force has the ability to intervene in His creation and raise someone from the dead if He so pleases.

    I guess: for the skeptic, no evidence will ever be enough, for the Resurrection or any other miraculous act.

    There's a guy in our church who was dead. His wife prayed for him and he came back to life. He told of his encounter with the living Jesus. Skeptics will discard it by blaming a chemical imbalance in the brain, etc.

    But as you also accuse no one witnessing the Resurrection of Jesus personally, those skeptics have never been dead themselves… The greatest certainty we can have about life after death would be for to die ourselves, a first hand account. The problem is just: if the Christian worldview were true and I did not commit my life to the deity of Jesus and received His forgiveness, the guilt of my sins remain and I get the full blow of God's wrath. A first hand account of death will prevent me from making right with God when I had the chance when I was alive.

    If the Christian worldview is not true and we just return to compost, then both of us will be okay. But if the first is true, then I win and you loose… And I don't want that… For me: if intellectual frustration hinders a willing person to receive Jesus' love and forgiveness, I will argue with them till the sun burns out in order to help them, but for an unwilling person, my efforts will be in vain.

    You see, just as you accuse me of holding on to a belief that comforts me (with forgiveness, hope and eternal life in Jesus), you are holding to your belief that comforts you (fear that religious power will be abused, the need for you to accept judgement after death).

    So, I guess my question for you would be: What do you believe happens to us after we die? And… On what do you base your belief?

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  13. Yes, people do evil things in the name of religious beliefs, but as stated earlier: people also do evil things in the name of anti-religious beliefs or secular beliefs. E.g. Martyrdom of Christians, Hitler's belief in racial superiority against the Jews…

    Interesting that you refer to the concepts of “good and evil”. Where do you thing we get these concepts from?

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  14. Furthermore, It would be difficult to only receive part of Jesus' teachings e.g. the humanitarian parts.

    Included in Jesus' own teachings are His claims to be the Son of God. If He lied about this, the rest of His teachings should be disregarded altogether, since it would be inappropriate to receive any input from a crazy person believing to be God…

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  15. Hehe! Thanks for the tough questions 🙂 Here are some for you:

    What would be your belief system, on which you would base your entire life?

    What do you believe about the purpose of your life on earth? How do you evaluate this belief to conclude that it is feasible?

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  16. Excellent points, Kobus.

    I have no idea what happens after death, but the evidence strongly suggests that when a human body dies it decays and rots no differently than the dead bodies of dogs, cat, and rabbits.

    It's over. It's all over.

    So what about the human “soul”:

    How do we know that a human soul exists? You ASSUME that humans have a soul. You assume this to be true based on the writings of an ancient book that claims that it is true. But the fact is, there is no scientific or medical evidence for the existence of such an entity. It's existence is not based on evidence, but on faith…

    Kobus, you are very correct. If I am wrong and you are right, I am going to suffer terribly for being wrong. But have you ever considered this: what if MUSLIMS are right and you and I BOTH are wrong?? If Muslims are right, we both will spend all eternity in the Muslim hell for being infidels!

    But you probably don't believe that it is even remotely possible that Islam could be true. But what about all the other exclusivist religions on the planet? Since they are all exclusivist, only one (or none) of them is correct. They can't all be right. So we can't cover our bases, Kobus. We can't play it safe, because no matter which exclusivist religion we choose, we are rejecting all the others…and one of those that we reject might be the correct one.

    Do you lie awake at night, Kobus, and worry that you may have selected the WRONG exclusivist religion and that you will therefore suffer horrific, ETERNAL, consequences for your mistake?

    I doubt it. And that is why I do not worry about the eternal consequences of not selecting YOUR exclusivist religion. I don't worry about it because the evidence for the supernatural claims of your religion have no better supporting evidence than do the supernatural claims of the Muslims, Hindus, etc..

    The bottom line is that in order to prove that YOUR religion is the one and only true religion, you must prove the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Kobus. And I have not seen any good evidence, let alone, extraordinary evidence, for this VERY extraordinary claim, to convince me that it is even remotely probable that it was an historical event.

    Every detail of the early Christian belief in a Resurrection can be explained by much more probable, naturalistic, explanations. Only someone who WANTS to believe this story would accept the supernatural explanations as the most probable explanations.

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  17. The herd.

    I believe our sense of what is right and wrong is an evolutionary development that comes from our desire to preserve the well-being of our group or herd. Humans are very much a “herd” animal. On our own, we would fall prey to much bigger and stronger predators. The group was our best chance of survival. Therefore, what was best for the herd was best for us. Therefore individual behaviors and desires had to conform to the accepted norms of behavior for the group.

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  18. Since Jesus was a man, not a god, we can accept and emulate those of his teachings that we agree with, and reject those we do not.

    I believe that Jesus sincerely believed that he was (in some sense) the Son of Yahweh. I don't believe that he was a liar or a fake.

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  19. I believe that secular humanism is a great worldview and the best of available choices at this time.

    What is the purpose of my life: to enjoy it.

    And I believe that I will best increase the chances of enjoying my life if I strive to help everyone else enjoy theirs!

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  20. Question: What amount of evidence will you consider to be sufficient for the Resurrection?

    It seems like you do not want to believe, and therefore discard any form of evidence that comes your way. What is some of it was valid?

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  21. I read some of your very first posts…

    It seems like your original motivation for starting this blog was to speak up against injustices in the church (which I admire).

    But discarding all the church stands for altogether is a whole other level. Yes, some pastors have disappointed me, but does that change anything about the nature of Jesus?

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  22. I believe in probabilities. I drive over multiple American bridges every day without personally inspecting them because the probability of their safety is very high. My belief system is based on probabilities, not faith.

    The evidence indicates that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and all other supernatural-based world religions are most PROBABLY not true, therefore I choose to believe none of them.

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  23. You are making a very big assumption that at least one religion (Faith) is true. I do not believe that you have any good evidence to make this assumption.

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  24. Teenagers do rebel as do the young of other animals. The adults of the herd attempt to correct the behavior of the misbehaving youngster who is disturbing the harmony of the herd. Most youngsters grow up to adapt to the rules of the herd. Those that don't are ostracized…or killed.

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  25. I want the same evidence that the disciples (allegedly) required to believe: to see and touch a resurrected dead body with my own eyes and hands.

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  26. And neither are you providing any guidelines on the probabilities…

    Thanks for the chat, Gary. I really enjoyed it.

    But I think we realize that we are both comfortable on our current worldviews.

    All the best for trying to disprove God. In order to do that, you will have to be at every corner of the universe at the same time to conclude with certainty that He is not there.

    To me, He made it very clear by becoming human for us.

    I would like to hear what you have to say on my last blog. Feel free to comment here:
    http://kobusdewet.blogspot.co.za/2016/03/the-problem-with-religion-proof-reason.html

    Over and out 🙂

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  27. I base my evaluation of the veracity of supernatural claims in the same manner as I evaluate the veracity of any other claim. I do not use a different standard. (You do.)

    How many times in human history have we found evidence of professional soldiers making careless mistakes? Answer: in the thousands.

    How many times in human history has there been an unexplained empty grave? Thousands.

    How many times in human history have individuals and even large groups of individuals claimed to have seen dead people? Answer: Tens of thousands.

    How many times in history have people claimed that someone has been revived from death by a god? Answer: Hundreds if not thousands of times.

    So when someone claims that ONE man, in all of human history, was resurrected (brought back to life with a new body that is immortal and has supernatural powers), what is the probability that this is true vs. the combined probability that the professional soldier guards made a mistake by not checking to make sure that the body was still in the tomb before they sealed it, and, that a group of first century peasants only thought that Jesus had appeared to them, when in reality this “appearance” had occurred in vivid dreams, visions, delusions, etc.?

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  28. Hello Gary,
    I read your blog and your dialogue with Kobus. I admire the respect you both showed to each other. Many times such kinds of debates denigrate quickly to sarcasm, name-calling, or other forms of emotional defence or attack. However, the conversation ended without some aspects of the conversation not being fully explored for your readers and I hope that you will not mind answering these remaining questions. So that you know the angle from which I am coming, I am a Christian evangelist. I am not trying to convince you of a particular position, but am simply asking you to clarify yours. It is regarding the bright light that appeared to Saul.
    Do you believe that Saul saw a bright light? Saul had an experience on the road to Damascus that made him blind and that changed his life. He gave up everything because of some sort of encounter. So if it was not a bright light, what was it?
    If he did see a bring light, do you believe that the voice of the being identified himself as “Jesus, whom you are persecuting”? Is it that you believe that it was Jesus, but just not in bodily form (you stated in your dialogue that you do not believe that there are souls so I am guessing that you being that the being was neither Jesus in body or spirit)?
    If it was not Jesus, then who was it? The disciples would not have had the technology to make a bright light appear out of nowhere, to make only one man see the light, and to make one man hear the voice but the others just hear a sound.
    The conclusions that one could have is that…
    1. Saul was mentally unstable. So were the men with him, but they to a lesser extent. They all had a mental breakdown, perhaps due to sunstroke and stress, all at the same time (I am not trying to be ridiculous. I am simply trying to state the least likely of possible explanations first). This is not possible, because Ananias also had an encounter with the same being who told him accurately where to go to find Saul. It is highly unlikely that Ananias also had some illness that Saul and the men had.
    2. Saul made up the story. Saul could not have been deceitful because the witnesses with him could have contradicted his account. Though they could not corroborate fully (because they only heard a sound), they could confirm that something happened to make Saul blind and that Saul spoke to something or someone. Furthermore, he would have had to corroborate with Ananias, something that would have been unlikely considering who Saul was and what his mission was about.
    3. Saul did not exist and the other apostles made him up. Hmm. I am curious to know if this is your position. We have writings from a person called Paul, who was Saul, and who gives much biographical information. His writings show a higher level of education and knowledge of the ‘Old Testament’ than the other apostles. It is unlikely that the apostles invented Saul. Furthermore, records confirm that the churches that he planted existed. Furthermore, the author of the book of Acts, who has proven to be accurate historically and geographically, wrote about Paul’s journeys confirming that he was a historical figure.
    4. Something supernatural occurred. If something supernatural did occur, then the door is opened for other supernatural events to occur making Biblical claims possible, including the resurrection of Jesus.
    Are there any other possibilities that I have missed?
    Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and thanks in advance for your reply.

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  29. Hi Friend. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    First, did Paul ever say in his epistles that he saw a talking, bright light that blinded him? I don't believe so. It is only stated in the Book of Acts. We have no way to confirm if the author of this book was stating historical fact or providing a theological allegory since Paul himself never confirms it.

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  30. But let's assume that Paul did have an experience on the Damascus Road in which he saw something that he believed to be the resurrected Jesus.

    How much of the rest of the details is fact and how much is it theological embellishment by the author of the Book of Acts? This scene is recorded by the author of Acts three different times. In these three accounts, the details change. In one account the companions of Paul hear something but see nothing. In another they see something but hear nothing. In one only Paul is thrown to the ground. In another they are all thrown to the ground. To me this strongly indicates that these details are theological embellishments. I don't think that the author was necessarily lying, but his main purpose of writing this book was the conversion of souls and the edification of believers, not to write a history book.

    All we know from Paul himself in his epistles is that he had “seen” the Christ. That is it. Did this “seeing” occur in some form as described by the author of the Book of Acts or did it happen in a trance such as that of Peter when he saw the sheet with the unclean animals? Many people in this time period, it seems, had visions, vivid dreams and trances and believed that these experiences were literal messages from God. So why assume that Paul saw a literal flesh and blood body when he never gives us the details?

    Bottom line: We will never know what Paul “saw”.

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