The Claim that no First Century Jew Would Believe in the Resurrection of One Person is Patently False


I am going to dismantle one of modern Christian apologists’ primary claims of “evidence” for the Resurrection: that no Jew would believe that one individual had been resurrected from the dead prior to the general resurrection of all the righteous dead unless they had truly seen a resurrected body.

1. Many Jews believed that John the Baptist was Elijah raised from the dead.
2. Many or at least some Jews believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead.
3. When the disciples allegedly saw Jesus walking on water, they believed that he was a ghost.
4. All of Judea knew that Lazarus had been raised from the dead.

So the claim that no Jew would believe that an individual could be raised from the dead is blatantly false. Jews seemed to readily believe that people could come back from the dead, as ghosts, as other people, or as themselves, in the case of Lazarus. So it is no stretch of the imagination that a small minority of first century Jews came to believe that Jesus had come back from the dead. And if Jews could believe that ghosts could walk on water, then Jews could believe that raised bodies could walk through locked doors, teleport between Emmaus and Jerusalem, appear and disappear in front of their eyes, or levitate/ascend into the clouds.

Christians may argue that there is a big distinction between being “raised” and being “resurrected” but no one would have known the difference until the “raised” person died for the second time!  But maybe the “raised” person wouldn’t die. Maybe the “raised” person would be taken up into heaven, without dying, as allegedly occurred to one of the prophets in the OT. See folks, there is plenty of precedent for the Jesus Story to be believable by some Jews.

Christians might also say that a “resurrected” body has no need of food, water, or toileting, unlike a “raised” person, but if Jesus was always eating broiled fish with these guys, how would they ever know??

And here is something else about this story:  if Jesus can appear and disappear in a matter of milliseconds, teleporting between Emmaus and Jerusalem, why did he need to “ascend” into the clouds?? I’ll tell you why: to make this supernatural tall tale more fantastical (magical)!

The belief that Jesus appeared to people after his death can be easily explained: the Jewish people were superstitious people who believed in ghosts and dead people coming back to life as other people. Jesus’ despondent followers started having false sightings of Jesus, mistaking some guy in the distance or in a crowd for him, seeing shadows of him at twighlight, having visions, etc. It is no stretch of the imagination to see these superstitious, ghost-are-real-believing people having sightings of a dead Jesus.

And don’t give me the excuse, “but there were witness who could counter a false claim”.  There is currently a rumor going around that Bart Ehrman is going to convert to Islam…and Bart Ehrman is still alive (and denies the claim)! And we have the internet!

Rumors can perpetuate even if there are eyewitnesses around. When Charles Darwin died, a rumor started that he had converted to Christianity on his deathbed. His children, who were present at his bedside when he died, denied the rumor. However, Christian pastors were making this claim from their pulpits for years afterwards!

Open your eyes, folks. You are following an ancient superstition.

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4 thoughts on “The Claim that no First Century Jew Would Believe in the Resurrection of One Person is Patently False

  1. Some Christian arguments are weak, but so are some counterChristian ones.

    YOU WROTE: “I am going to dismantle one of modern Christian apologists' primary claims of “evidence” for the Resurrection: that no Jew would believe that one individual had been resurrected from the dead prior to the general resurrection of all the righteous dead unless they had truly seen a resurrected body.”

    But do you have their argument exactly correct? It seems to me that the apologists are not actually arguing that, because they also claim that Jews believed in Jesus who had not seen Jesus risen, but rather believed the claims of others (as per Acts).

    It must be instead that the apologist argument goes that no Jew would belief stories of seeing a resurrected person unless those stories were convincing. So I am very skeptical that the apologists claim that all the Jewish converts saw Jesus risen, or would need to, as Acts claims thousands of Jewish converts.

    The apologists' argument must instead be that the appearances of Jesus were convincing, not that only eyewitnesses were believers.

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  2. Good point.

    I believe that the disparity on this point is that we do not know how many first century Jews converted upon hearing the Jesus story. The Book of Acts claims it was thousands, but maybe it was only a couple hundred, or even a few dozen. If so, the evidence doesn't need to be that convincing to convince a very small minority of people—Jesus' Jewish disciples—who already believed that Jesus was the messiah.

    The fact that the overwhelming majority of Jews, then and now, reject the Christian claim of a miraculous resurrection is very strong proof, at least to me, that the “evidence” for the Resurrection was really quite poor.

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  3. For any of these arguments you can create some counterargument. For example, you write: “the overwhelming majority of Jews, then and now, reject the Christian claim of a miraculous resurrection is very strong proof”.

    The counterargument can claim that their hearts were hardened and that they were expecting a Messiah who would conquer the Romans and other gentiles. They discounted the true path of the cross and resurrection because they only thought in terms of national conquest and world domination.

    Of course, you can give a counter-counterargument to what I just proposed as well.

    The best I think you can do is give the top 10-20 reasons that you go against the resurrection, and explain what they are. All these arguments have counterarguments, so the best you can do is focus on the best ones for you.

    And in truth I think many of the skeptics' arguments are fuzzy, just as the apologists' are. So that is why I think it's best to limit oneself.

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  4. Besides, we aren't Jews. That is, generally the rest of the world is “gentile” and we don't have the same demands and expectations and worldviews. So there are weaknesses for us to use their criteria/biases to judge whether some event happened in history.

    BUT it seems more interesting to us the Protestant methodology, and decide things. This method claims that we should just go by Rationalism, by our own reasoning and follow where we feel “led”, not being stuck with Tradition and community (Church) interpretations.

    If the idea of Holy relics is too strange and reasonable for them, even though it's in the Bible (Elijah's bones worked miracles), how about discarding the resurrection if it seems “unreasonable” or “unscientific” or if someone imagines that God is “leading” them to reject it, just like they imagined that they were led to reject relics?

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