The Earliest Christians Believed in a Spiritual Resurrection, not a Physical Resurrection. A Review of Gregory Riley’s “Resurrection Reconsidered”, Part 6

In a recent discussion with a moderate Christian I mentioned my frustration regarding the difficulty of pinning down moderate Christians regarding the definition of terms related to the Bible (such as what constitutes a contradiction) and in particular, on what they expect us to take literally in the Bible and what they expect us to take non-literally.  For instance, I see a problem with the fact that one Gospel author states that one young man was inside the tomb when the women arrived to find the tomb of Jesus empty, another Gospel says that one angel was outside the tomb sitting on the stone, and another Gospel says that two angels were inside the tomb.  To me these are contradictions.  Not so according to this moderate Christian.  As he explained, these variations in the story were very acceptable in the form of Greek biography used by the four Gospel authors in retelling the same historical event.  A first century reader would not have seen these variations as contradictions.  NT Wright has stated that variations in the facts of this type in Greek biographies served to keep the reader’s interest.

Ok…so maybe that’s true…but isn’t it then also possible that the entire Empty Tomb pericope is a literary invention of the author of the Gospel of Mark, picked up and embellished even more by the authors of the subsequent Gospels, all meant to increase the reader’s interest in the resurrection story???  A resurrection from a rich man’s rock tomb with angels and earthquakes is much more exciting reading than a resurrection from an unmarked dirt grave (the most common type of grave for executed Roman criminals).  And if that is the case, isn’t it possible that the early Christian Resurrection belief was NOT based on the physical evidence of an Empty Tomb but solely on alleged post-death appearance claims?

My moderate Christian friend could not deny that possibility but then made the statement that there is one term whose definition is set:  Resurrection.  It only means one thing:  The resurrection of a body.  A body that could be seen with the eyes and touched with the hands.

Based on reading NT Wright, I had assumed this was correct.  I had assumed that this is what Paul and the earliest Christians believed.  But scholar Gregory Riley says that this is an oversimplification.  He believes that there were a variety of beliefs regarding Jesus’ resurrection in early Christianity.  He believes that Paul, for instance, believed in a bodily resurrection, for sure, but that this body, to Paul, was a spiritual body, not a body of flesh and blood.   Riley  presents a great deal of evidence in his book, Resurrection Reconsidered, to support this claim.

According to Riley, it was very common for spirits to appear to the living in the Greco-Roman world.  These spirits had the appearance, the outer form, of their former physical bodies.  They could also eat food.  In fact, they could do most activities that humans could do.  The only difference being, they were, in almost all cases, impalpable (untouchable).  No where in the writings of Paul nor in his statements in the Book of Acts do we get the impression that Paul believed that the resurrected Jesus was touchable.  Riley presents very good evidence that the Apostle Paul believed that Jesus had been resurrected in a spiritual body, not a body of flesh.  Riley believes that it was the author of John and the Johannine community of Christians who in the late first century fought hard for the concept of a resurrection of the flesh primarily to combat the claim by some pagans and even some Christians that Jesus had never existed as a real flesh and blood human being.  This is why, in Riley’s view, the author of John invented the pericope of a Doubting Thomas probing the fleshy wounds of Jesus, a scene not found in any other Gospel.  The author of John was intent on proving to his late first century Greco-Roman audience that Jesus was no ghost and the only way to do that in the Greco-Roman world was by having someone touch the body.  Ghosts in Greco-Roman culture could eat food, so Luke’s demonstration of Jesus eating broiled fish would not have convinved a first century Greco-Roman audience that he was not a ghost.  Poking your finger into his nail wounds would have!

I would strongly recommend that anyone who believes that Paul taught a physical resurrection read this book.  If Riley is correct, and he seems to have a lot of evidence to support his position, my moderate Christian friend is wrong.  There was not just one definition of “resurrection” in early Christianity.  There were many.  And the belief of Christianity’s greatest missionary, Paul, seems to have been a resurrection of a visible, spiritual body, not a body of flesh.

Here is the conclusion to Riley’s book:

Riley:  “Early Christianity proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, yet it inherited a variety of conceptions of the afterlife, a few of which included the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh.  The early views of the afterlife were in the main of a spiritual nature, that the soul survived death and enjoyed its reward or suffered its punishment apart from the body.  So it was that the early idea of the resurrection of Jesus and the postmortem state of his followers was spiritual, represented in various ways by Paul, the Hellenistic Church to a large extent, and Thomas Christianity.  In the controversies over the resurrection in the later first and second centuries there developed the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh in defense of the real humanity of Jesus, that Jesus was a man of flesh, not only before the crucifixion, but always, even after rising from the dead.  Such a doctrine was new to the Greco-Roman world and stridently argued by the second and third century apologists against critics both pagan and Christian.  Yet many Christians held for centuries to the earlier conception, that Jesus had risen alive as a spiritual being, in a spiritual body of light.  So they too hoped in the promise of a heavenly afterlife, to be free from the body and its sufferings as spiritual beings, or to be like angels and themselves to wear the “body of his glory”.  So they too doubted the truth of the new proclamation, as had their spiritual predecessor among Jesus own disciples, Doubting Thomas.” p. 179

Advertisements

92 thoughts on “The Earliest Christians Believed in a Spiritual Resurrection, not a Physical Resurrection. A Review of Gregory Riley’s “Resurrection Reconsidered”, Part 6

  1. Gary, have you heard the stories about Jesus meeting with the apostles past the 40th day Ascension in Acts?
    Irenaeus writes: “”From the 40th and 50th year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify”.​

    One thing that is confusing is that the Gospel we have today does not testify that Jesus was possessing more than 50 years while a teacher on earth. The four gospels say only that Jesus got killed at c.33 years old, reenlived, and then Ascended. Acts says that Jesus only stayed on earth 40 days after the resurrection, not 17 years or more. The only way I can think to explain this is that Irenaeus thought that Jesus was still around fulfilling the office of a teacher 17 years or more after the resurrection. How so?

    Irenaeus elsewhere says Jesus stayed on earth 18 months after the resurrection

    Apocryphon of James – Wikipedia notes:
    “Some have felt that this [550 days of Jesus staying on earth after the resurrection reference in Apocryphon of James] implies that the relationship of the Apocryphon of James with the canon is through oral tradition, and that the community which wrote it rejected or else did not know Luke-Acts. (On the other hand, Irenaeus in Against Heresies gave a time span of eighteen months, and Irenaeus was certainly familiar with the work.)”

    18 X 30 = 540, so it looks like Ireneaus had the same information about that as the Apocryphon of James.

    Here is what Maathew 28 has Jesus tell the apostles:
    “Lo, I am with You all the Days, Even unto the End of the Age” (Matt. xxviii. 20).
    My normal reading of this verse was that Jesus was with them invisibly or in spirit.

    Decades later, according to Revelation, John was living on Patmos, and Jesus visited him and touched him with his hand:
    “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow,”
    Now this could be a reference to the Transfiguration where Jesus looked white with his hair, or it could be old age changing hair color. Anyway, it’s a case where decades later after he reenlivened, Jesus was still teaching the apostle(s) personally.

    Another case where this comes up about Jesus teaching apostles past the 40 days mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Acts is the apocryphal “Acts of Thomas”. In that story, Thomas goes to India, and Jesus looks enough like Thomas the Twin the apostle that when Jesus shows up and they switch places, people in the audience don’t notice it’s a different person than Thomas. In the story, Jesus accompanies Thomas.
    It’s not clear how early the Acts of Thomas were written. Some guesses are the second century AD and 200 AD. The fact that it was not accepted as canonical alone doesn’t mean it was rejected, but centuries later the Church eventually came to somewhat ignore or forget about any “Acts” or “Epistles” or “gospels” not in the Bible. Also, there was a problem of fraudulent early Christian writings belonging to sects, and I heard Acts of Thomas has deviant teachings. So Acts of Thomas is not reliable for Church Tradition. But all these references put together that I cited suggest how maybe in Ireneaus’ mind Jesus was still around teaching the disciples in “old age”, even if in a much more supernatural state.

    What I am getting at is that the apostles were telling major stories about interactions with Jesus long after the resurrection, and after about 250 AD, there were no more seriously traceable stories passed down about this. We are stuck with a few short references and John’s Revelation,

    Like

  2. It’s kind of a rabbit hole. There were teachings about Jesus personally interacting with the apostles long after the 40 day Ascension mentioned in the Bible, and these teachings were heard by Bp. Papias and his elders, and stayed in the official mainstream Christian community at least through the 2nd century AD when Bishop Ireneaus talked about them.

    For Paul, Jesus was “appearing” to him after the Ascension. Paul never describes Jesus “touching” him or eating with him like the gospels do or the Book of Revelation does.

    In the Book of Acts, Stephen saw Jesus up in the clouds after the Resurrection. Irenaeus is saying that even after the Ascension, Jesus was still undergoing human aging and went into old age.

    There is also Shepherd of Hermas, in which apparently it is Pope Clement’s brother Hermas who meets with the Shepherd angel, goes to a tower, interacts with virgins, and sees Jesus. Shepherd of Hermas was a book that was very disputed in the 2nd century, with some accepting it as Biblical and others “despising” it according to Jerome.

    I came across this reference to Irenaus’ “50 years old” comment because one modern writer talked about the possibility that Jesus lived out his natural life on earth after resuscitating and went to India. The problem with that skeptical theory is that all the church references I know to Jesus’ meetings after the Ascension refer to him being in or visiting them under supernatural conditions.

    In this thread, I referred to Paul’s visions, Stephen’s, the Apocryphon of James, Irenaeus, Shepherd of Hermas, Revelation, and Acts of Thomas for independent support. No others from the 1st to 2nd c. come to mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised if gnostic writings included them.

    Unfortunately, those meetings in Jesus’ “old age” are limited to those by John and maybe Thomas(and anyway Acts of Thomas is not respected as reliable by the church). The traditions about this were known in the 1st and 2nd c. But we don’t have Church authorities’ writings passed down talking about them from the 1st-2nd c.

    Like

  3. Paul was a Pharisee. And, it’s been long-established that the common Pharisaic belief (which is still the belief that the Orthodox Jews hold even today) is one of physical resurrection of the body.

    The reasoning behind it is quite simple: A body without a spirit is just a corpse, and a spirit without a body is just a phantom, unable to experience anything of “life”. This comes from the scripture in Genesis, which says that God created Adam from the earth, then breathed a spirit into him, and then, Adam became “nephesh” – a “living soul”.

    Thus, an “afterlife” without a body was unthinkable to the Pharisees. But, this did not at all limit what that “body” might be. But, whatever it was, it would be an infusion of natural and supernatural – physical, yet eternal.

    So, this whole idea of Paul believing in a “spiritual” resurrection is nonsense. The idea of a “spiritual-only afterlife” was shunned by the Pharisees just as it is still shunned by the Orthodox today.

    It takes a great deal of imagination, and a great lack of knowledge of Pharisaic Judaism to some up with an idea that Paul would have belied in a non-bodily resurrection.

    Ideas of non-bodily, or non-physical resurrections didn’t come about until the Greco-Roman influence came in. Greeks in particular believed in a “dualistic” human nature: we have a “true self”, like, our “consciousness”, that survives into eternity, and this “true self”, or “soul” is simply trapped, or bound in a human body, waiting to be released. It is this kind of thought that led to the “spiritual resurrection” ideas, and, was constantly being fought against by Paul.

    Like

    1. Even Bart Ehrman (and the majority of scholars) agrees with you: Paul believed in a bodily resurrection.

      The big question is: Does one have to see a BODY to believe that someone has been bodily resurrected?

      Like

      1. The answer would clearly be “no”. If one digs around enough in Jewish writings, one finds that Jewish views on resurrection were “all over the place”, but among the Pharisees,
        arguments are drawn from the grain of wheat (compare Sanh. 90b with statements of Jesus – ie, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies…”, and also I Cor. 15 35-38). Behind Pharisaic thought was a necessary conception of divine justice, body and soul not being in a position to be held to account for their doings in life unless, like the blind and the lame man in the parable, they are again brought together as they were before (Sifre, Deut. 106; Sanh. 91a; with reference to Ps. l. 4).

        However, the views on the nature of this “resurrected body” were all over the place as well. One issue was that a finite body is not suited to exist infinitely. Therefore, whatever that resurrected body would be, it would not, by any necessity, be the same physical creation that we have on earth. A resurrected body would not necessarily be any more similar to the earthly body than a grain of wheat is to the wheat plant that grows from it.

        Even the gospels attest to this: Jesus, on one hand, eats fish on a beach and his body can be touched. On the other hand, Jesus simply “appears” in a room, then vanishes.

        There are no “guarantees” whatsoever that a resurrected body is going to be anything at all like our current bodies, and most assuredly, there are no guarantees that a resurrected being (ie, Jesus) is, by any necessity, going to *appear* as “the earthly Jesus”. In fact, the gospels themselves also attest to this: Jesus was not even recognized as “Jesus” by some of his followers, initially.

        So, if Paul says he saw a great light in the desert which introduced itself as Jesus, this appearance was nonetheless evidence of a resurrection.

        What I’m getting at is this: In Pharisaic Judaism, there were no known “rules” as to how a resurrected body would *appear* in any given time or place; after all, that same resurrected body would also be a part of an “eternal existence” – one could hardly expect that it would be the same body as exists in this temporal existence of earthly experience.

        But, regardless of “appearance”, the *necessity* of a resurrected body had to do with “divine justice” (as I mentioned in the first paragraph).

        And, to be sure, nobody had ever *seen* a resurrected body until the time of Jesus. Nobody could therefore have ever said “this is how it works, this is how a resurrected body looks and acts”.

        Thus, if the story of Jesus’ resurrection is true, then that story, with that “definition” of a “resurrected body” – one that could eat fish, one that could appear and disappear, one that may or may not be recognizable, and one that could appear as a blinding light – that’s what a resurrected body is about.

        So, in short, to answer the question of whether Paul had to see a “body” in order to believe that Jesus was resurrected, the answer is “no”. Clearly, Paul believed in the resurrection, he believed that we would bodily be “raised up”, and, he never saw a “body” of Jesus. This latter fact did not hinder his belief in a “bodily resurrection” even slightly. If anything, it gave more definition to “what it means to be resurrected”: we are sown corruptible, we are raised incorruptible (and so on)

        Like

        1. Good points. However, I have debated many conservative Christian apologists who claim that no first century Jew would have believed in the resurrection of a dead person unless they had seen the walking/talking body of that dead person with their own two eyes. But the Bible itself contradicts this position: Paul states that devote Jews in Asia Minor believed in the (bodily) resurrection of Jesus based solely on Paul’s testimony (of seeing a bright light?) and by searching the Scriptures.

          So even the Bible gives evidence that first century Jews did NOT need to see a body to believe that someone had been bodily resurrected. They were willing to accept the testimony of someone else who claimed to have seen SOMETHING that they believed to be the resurrected Jesus. The big question for ALL the appearance claims is this: What exactly did they claim to see??? Did they claim to see a walking, talking, fish eating body that looked like Jesus, or did they simply see a bright light (some of them simultaneously hearing voices) and believed the light was the bodily resurrected Jesus appearing to them in another form?

          Like

          1. This is missing the point. The point is this: In Pharisaic thought, there *is no afterlife except as a resurrected being*.

            Peter, John, etc, all saw this “bodily” Jesus that could appear, disappear, or appear differently. Paul saw a blinding light. NONE of them would have seen *anything* if there was no such thing as an “afterlife”, and, that “afterlife” was one of “resurrection”.

            If you’re somehow trying to make some kind of case for their being some kind of difference in seeing a walking, talking body on one hand, and a blinding light on the other, you’re still not getting that *neither* would have been seen, had there been no “afterlife” – and – an “afterlife”, however it “appeared”, was a resurrection.

            There seems to be an “either / or” kind of thinking, as if “resurrection” must mean either “a walking, talking body” OR just a more “experiencial” kind of thing like a blinding light. The point is that a resurrected being could be *both*. And, even more. There’s no telling. Once we’re talking about “resurrection”, we’re off in uncharted territory.

            So, what we have is a number of different *appearances* of Jesus: walking talking body, a body that appears and disappears, a body that doesn’t look like Jesus at one point, but then does, or, a blinding light that speaks and introduces itself as Jesus. It’s *all* those things. And, like I said, maybe even *more* than those things.

            And, there are tons of people that have believed in a resurrected Jesus without ever having seen a body or a blinding light.

            Like

          2. I have discussed this with Bart Ehrman and Larry Hurtado. They both state that we should not assume that all early Christians held the pharisaic view of resurrection (contrary to the view of NT Wright and others). Some early Christians believed in a (pharisaic) bodily resurrection, others did not.

            You said this: “Peter, John, etc, all saw this “bodily” Jesus that could appear, disappear, or appear differently. Paul saw a blinding light. NONE of them would have seen *anything* if there was no such thing as an “afterlife”, and, that “afterlife” was one of “resurrection”.”

            We have no idea what Peter, John, and the other disciples BELIEVED that they saw. We have no confirmed testimony from them. It is possible that they all believed that a walking/talking/appearing/disappearing “body” appeared to them. It is also possible that all of some of them saw a bright light or other natural phenomenon and thought it was an appearance of Jesus.

            Are you a believer? Your last sentence suggests, at least to me, that you believe that the disciples would not have claimed to have seen a resurrected Jesus unless they had seen something supernatural (from the afterlife). If this is your assertion, I have plenty of friends who are psychiatrists (I am a primary care physician) who will state that many, many mental ill and even many mentally healthy people can “see” things that are not there (visual hallucinations, vivid dreams, etc.). You cannot prove that these “sightings” are from the supernatural afterlife.

            Like

          3. It’s all true that not *all* early believers (depending on how early we’re talking, actually) had a Pharisaic view. That is correct. It is also correct that Paul refuted that view repeatedly.

            It’s equally true to say that these days, not all Christians believe in a physical resurrection. But, then, it brings up a question: What defines “Christianity”?

            I too have talked with Ehrman, and Bart has no concept at all of an “orthodoxy”.

            You are also correct in saying we don’t have actual accounts of what Peter & John (or, whomever) might have seen, but we do have this “empty tomb” to contend with. “Once there was a body – and now – there is no body”.

            Now, Bart doesn’t seem to think there was an empty tomb – because, he doesn’t think Jesus was ever taken off the cross. I asked him how on earth he could imagine that nobody would even notice what happened to the body of Jesus (ie, that it was in fact, left on the cross) in a very public Roman execution (put in the most visible place possible, according to Bart), with a *sign* hanging over his head saying “this is Jesus…”, in a city that, on it’s longest side, was a tad over a quarter of a mile long, and surrounded by an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Passover visitors camping outside the walls for the week. His answer? “I have a hunch nobody saw it”.

            So, Bart will do History by Hunch when it suits his ends.

            Paul says that Jesus was “buried”, although, he doesn’t mention an “empty tomb”. Of course, if the body was raised, as he also says, there’s not really much of a need to mention that the tomb was left empty if that body was indeed “raised”. That part, most people could figure out.

            Still, though, we have that question: Was there an empty tomb? Or is it possible that Paul, who believed in a bodily resurrection, was content to not have anybody tell him “we ourselves saw the empty tomb”? Would it have been enough for Paul to have been satisfied that Peter, John, James, and others all attested to “visions” (with no “touching” allowed?)

            Sure, I guess. But, I think it is just as likely that when the subject came up between he and Peter, John, et al, there was some substanciation to the “empty tomb” thing.

            Even in the oldest Jewish references, those references actually *don’t* refute that Jesus’ body “left the tomb”. The polemic Toledot and one other Talumdic reference both admit that Jesus was buried, and, yes, his body went missing – but, either for theft or to be sold to Jewish leadership. In other words, in the oldest references we have from Jews, they themselves don’t deny the empty tomb.

            Am I making a “Case For Christ” here? No. What I’m saying is this: The idea of a “physical resurrection” came into existence at *some point* before Paul’s Damascus Road experience. Historians trace that back to 33-36 AD. IF we can throw in a reference from Acts, Luke states that the stoning of Stephan (which Paul was a part of) happened when Ananus (Joseph ben Ananus) was High Priest. This would have been 36 AD.

            So, if we accept a crucifixion date of 33 AD (as do most scholars), then we see that within a scant 3 years, a particular “belief” had begun to spread, such that Paul (Saul) was on his way to go clear to Damascus, Syria, to persecute the church there. Paul comes away from that experience believing in a resurrected Jesus. The question is this: Why on earth would he come away with *that* experience – specifically, a resurrected Jesus (whom he would insist was bodily resurrected) – if in fact (a) there wasn’t really a resurrection, or (b) that “resurrection of Jesus” wasn’t already in his “psyche” someplace? (No, I’m not making a Case for Christ here. I’m covering both bases: supernatural and natural).

            If Paul merely had some type of an hallucination or epileptic seizure or something, that Damascus Road incident *had* to have been generated *by his own mind*, with information already stored there. That information, then, *had* to have been of a “bodily resurrection”. Somewhere, Paul got that idea – Jesus was bodily resurrected. That’s the idea he spent his life promoting. So, where did *that* information come from? I would assert that that was the very “story” that was going around – the very “story” that he was refuting, and the very cause for his persecution of the church.

            If the belief of the earliest Christians – between 33 AD and 36 AD – had been of nothing but a “spiritual resurrection” – that would have been *entirely* acceptable to Jews. They had no “dogma” regarding the afterlife at all; they had absolutely *no* normative doctrine concerning it. No afterlife? That was acceptable. Reincarnation? That was acceptable. A “spiritual resurrection” (meaning, merely, “spiritual survival”, moving from Hades to Heaven)? That was acceptable. What *wasn’t* acceptable was this idea of a *physical* resurrection. Why? Because if that’s true, then first of all, it entirely *negates* all other beliefs. Second of all, if that bodily resurrection of Jesus actually occurred, it would un-do a lot of “theorizing” about the nature of the Messiah. So, a physical resurrection was going to be a tough pill to swallow, for that reason. A “spiritual” resurrection was “meh”. It would have fallen into the category of “if you want to believe that, that’s fine”. But, not a *physical* resurrection.

            So – I’m just saying that whether Paul had a real-life encounter with the risen Jesus, or, whether it was just an hallucination – either way, the *information* he had, either from a real-life Jesus encounter, or, whether stuck in his brain *before* his brain conjured up the hallucination – it was of a *physical* resurrection. But, if it were an hallucination, then the *idea* of a physical resurrection of Jesus had to already exist someplace in his psyche. And, I’m suggesting that, if this is the case, then it’s because that is precisely the story that was going about at the time.

            And, if that story was going about, within 3 years of Jesus crucifixion, it would have been RIDICULOUSLY easy to shoot holes through. There could potentially been thousands who had heard that story, and found out that Jesus was never even buried, or that Joseph of Arimathea totally denied the “tomb account”, or that nobody else that had simply walked over to the tomb-site (a few hundred yards from the city wall) to see if there was a tomb at all, and so on and so on.

            Anyway, I’m way too lengthy here… I’ll let you respond.. 🙂

            Like

          4. Tell me why this explanation is not possible:

            —Jesus is crucified. His body is left on the cross for weeks so that every Jew passing in and out of Jerusalem is made vividly aware of what happens to Jews who mess with Rome. At the end of a couple of weeks, what remains of his body (scavengers have devoured much of it) is taken down and tossed into a pit with the remains of the bodies of other persons crucified in the preceding weeks. No disciple of Jesus ever sees this pit. No disciple of Jesus knows the location of this pit. A few Roman soldiers know, don’t care, and quickly forget. Therefore, since it is the practice of Romans to eventually take (what is left of) the bodies down and “bury” them, the earliest Christians believed that the body of Jesus had been buried…they just did not know where!

            Weeks to months later, one of the disciples has a vivid dream or a false sighting of Jesus. “Jesus is alive again!” But how can that be? Everyone knows that Jesus was most definitely dead. So it must be that…the General Resurrection of the Righteous Dead has begun! Jesus is simply the first to be resurrected, every one else will shortly follow! The End is near! Let’s all sell all our possessions, share everything in common, and live in communes in Jerusalem because the New Kingdom will soon be ushered in!”

            Jesus was simply the “first fruits” of the General Resurrection. His resurrection was not seen as a separate, individual resurrection, a concept completely out of context with the teachings of the Pharisees. A concept of Jesus as the first fruits of a physical resurrection of all the righteous would fit with the Jewish teaching of that time period.

            And this is exactly what Paul was preaching in the 50’s and 60’s!

            The early Christian resurrection belief had nothing to do with an empty rock tomb, but with (imagined) appearances of Jesus. The early Christians assumed the grave was empty because they thought they had seen the body! If you (believe that you) see the dead body alive again you don’t need an empty grave to confirm it, especially when no one knew where this grave (pit of bones) was!

            The empty rock tomb of Joseph of Arimathea did not enter into Christian theology until circa 70 CE when the anonymous author of Mark invented it.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. OK, I’ll give you my thoughts on that scenario… And, it’s a good scenario.

            “Jesus is crucified. His body is left on the cross for weeks so that every Jew passing in and out of Jerusalem is made vividly aware of what happens to Jews who mess with Rome. ”

            Right there is problem #1. You can’t have potentially *thousands* of people that know full well that this guy who was crucified – at all times, at the Passover (for goodness sake) – and who had a *sign* hanging over his head (which I believe even Ehrman agrees with), identifying him as “Jesus”, and then expect to be able to spread some story about how this Jesus, left hanging on the cross for *at least* the entire week of the Passover, where every possible Jew that could see it *would* see it, was actually taken down and buried in a rock tomb. There are far, far too many people that could have seen it. In fact, that’s what the Romans *wanted*. They *wanted* everybody to see the crucifixion.

            So, hallucinations notwithstanding, how do you go trolliping around Jerusalem telling everybody “Jesus was buried before sunset that day” when you got literally *thousands* of people that could say “you’re nutzo… The guy was left hanging up there rotting for weeks”? I mean, there are potentially *thousands* of people (and, you got no idea which ones – for all you know, you might be talking to the very guys that took his rotted bones off the cross) – literally all over the country, which had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover, that could refute your story.

            Problem #2 with the scenario is this: Paul claims that Jesus was *buried*. Now, I can (and will, if requested) give you all kinds of information about Jewish “burial”, but let me first say this: In Judaism, there is *no such thing* as a “decent” burial (as opposed to an “indecent” one). In Judaism, by definition, a *burial IS ALWAYS* “decent”. If it were not, it would not be considered a “burial”. It would be considered a disgrace.

            We see this in a few places in the OT, like in Genesis 37:20: “Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”

            *This* – being thrown into a pit – would *not* have been considered a “burial” to Jews.

            From Jeremiah (22:19): “The burial of an ass shall be given him, dragged and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”

            *This* neither would have been considered a “burial” by Jews.

            Heck, even chabad.org says this: “According to Jewish law, a Jew is to be buried as he was born – complete with all his limbs and organs. The human body is considered as sacred in death as it was in life as it contained a G‑dly soul. He must be buried in a traditional grave in the ground, so that the body may return to the earth. ”

            *This* is a burial, according to Jews.

            I could go on and on at length on this “burial” point, but, what I’m getting at is that Paul claims Jesus was *buried* – an indication of a real-life, up-to-standards Jewish burial.

            (and again, I can provide you with a great deal more info on this “burial” business, if you like).

            The point being this: Paul, in one of his “authenticated” letters, claims Jesus to have been *buried* – not “thrown in a pit”, not “covered with stones”, not “dragged outside the city like a dead donkey”.

            And, to reiterate an earlier point, the earliest Jewish references do not at all refute that Jesus was indeed buried.

            Which brings us to Problem #3 – If Jesus had indeed been buried, “with all organs intact” (as per chabad.org) – thus, his *body* (not rotted bones) was taken off the cross and actually given a bonafide burial – then with the highest degree of certainty, that burial would have been witnessed by a considerable number of people. Why do I say that? Because, the *expected custom* among the Jews was that *any* Jew that saw a body being carried to the grave (ie, a “funeral procession”, as it were), then he or she was *expected* to join in that procession. (and, yes, if I must, I can supply you with references for this). In other words, any Jews that saw Jesus being taken off the cross and carried to a tomb *would have been expected* to join in that procession. This may be why Mark notes “and there were many women there”. (Men, in this case, may have been excluded from following because of purity laws & the Passover).

            Problem #4: Everybody knows dead people stay dead. When a person sees a “ghost”, a “vision” of a dead person, do you know what that is? It is, in itself, absolute *confirmation* that that person is really very dead.

            Heck, I had a very beloved dog once, who died after a long-fought battle with an illness. I fought alongside my pup all the way. I *loved* my dog. And, when she died, I suffered more grief over that dog than I did at the loss of my own mother (and, I loved Mom with everything in me). For WEEKS after my dog died, I’d lay in bed to go to sleep, and I’d SWEAR, to this day, that I could feel my little dog jump up on the bed with me (as she always did), and walk around the bed and lay down. It was just totally *freaky*. But, did it ever once make me think my dog was still “alive”? No. Not once. Never considered it. In fact, it just served to remind me that she was, in fact, no longer with me. She had DIED.

            And, most people know this stuff. Most people “back then” knew this stuff. Greatly grieving people can see or hear all kinds of stuff. But, what do their friends tell them? “Yeh, I had something like that happen when my brother died. It can take a while for it to pass”.

            It *never* becomes some type of “reason” to believe – in all things – in a *resurrection*.

            If it did, then history would be FULL of tales of people that had been seen as “resurrected”. But, it’s not. You don’t find stories of real, historic persons that are *known* in person by others, having been resurrected. You find all kinds of stories of mythological characters being resurrected – but – they’re never your next-door neighbor, never some guy you sat down and ate with, never somebody you’ve spoken at length with. Those mythological characters are *always* in “some other time, some other place”.

            What happens in REAL life is that when somebody has such hallucinations, caused by extreme grief, their friends and family tell them “I had something similar happen, and, you’ll be OK, but it takes time…” Those friends and family don’t go off and buy into some story that the deceased person has risen from the dead.

            So, I’ll cut off here. But, I’ll say, your scenario is one that I’ve thought about, and, it just doesn’t fly with me. No matter how I’ve thought through it, there are just too many very obvious “sticking points”….

            Like

          6. So, hallucinations notwithstanding, how do you go trolliping around Jerusalem telling everybody “Jesus was buried before sunset that day” when you got literally *thousands* of people that could say “you’re nutzo…

            Answer: No one was claiming that the body was buried before sunset…until…circa 70 CE when the author of Mark invented it!

            Now, I’m expecting you to mention that the Early Creed, which most scholars believe was written within a few years of Jesus death, states that Jesus was raised on the “third day”. Is it possible that the resurrection belief began literally three days after his crucifixion. Sure. But that doesn’t mean that this three day time frame was due to someone finding an empty tomb! It could be that three days after Jesus’ death someone had a vivid dream, an incidence of mistaken identity (seeing a man in a crowd who looked like Jesus), or an hallucination in a moment of delirium due to the intense sorrow, fatigue, and lack of sleep.

            So here are other possible explanations for what happened with the body of Jesus:

            Maybe Jesus was only left up TWO DAYS. It is also possible that he was buried, in a criminal mass grave, on the SAME day as the crucifixion. The disciples knew the Romans buried Jesus (in a mass grave) they just didn’t know where. Three days later someone believes that they have seen Jesus…and away we go…

            Like

          7. “I could go on and on at length on this “burial” point, but, what I’m getting at is that Paul claims Jesus was *buried* – an indication of a real-life, up-to-standards Jewish burial.”

            So if the Romans put Jesus’ body in a hole in the ground and covered it over with dirt, that would not have been considered a “burial”??? I did not mean to suggest that the Romans just threw the body in a pit and did not cover it over. As long as the body was put in the ground and covered that was burial.

            Have you read Jewish scholar Jodi Magness’ work on first century Jewish burial. Here is a link to it and my review:

            https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?ArticleId=640

            Here is a quote from her article:

            “The poorer classes of Jewish society — the majority of the population — buried their dead in simple, individual trench graves dug into the ground, similar to the way we bury our dead today. This involved digging a rectangular trench in the ground, placing the deceased (wrapped in a shroud) at the bottom, and filling the trench back in with earth. Usually a crude headstone was set up at one end of the grave. Ossuaries are associated only with rock-cut tombs, since once bodies were interred in trench graves they were not dug back up for deposition in an ossuary.”

            —Jodi Magness, NT scholar

            https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/was-jesus-buried-in-a-rock-tomb-or-in-a-dirt-trench/

            Like

          8. Because, the *expected custom* among the Jews was that *any* Jew that saw a body being carried to the grave (ie, a “funeral procession”, as it were), then he or she was *expected* to join in that procession. (and, yes, if I must, I can supply you with references for this). In other words, any Jews that saw Jesus being taken off the cross and carried to a tomb *would have been expected* to join in that procession. This may be why Mark notes “and there were many women there”. (Men, in this case, may have been excluded from following because of purity laws & the Passover).

            Assumption: You are assuming that Jews buried Jesus. Bart Ehrman has done a very good job on his blog demonstrating why it would have been very unusual for the Romans to turn over the body of a man accused of treason to his family or other members of the public. The odds are that the Romans disposed of the body. You first need to prove that a first century Jew had to be buried by Jews in order to be considered buried. Even if a rule existed that Jews SHOULD be buried by Jews, there had to be exceptions to such a rule if Jews were not given access to the body. In unusual circumstances, exceptions are made, just as the Chabad article states.

            The Jewish Virtual Library says that it is true that if a funeral procession passed by Jews were obligated to participate in the procession…for FOUR paces. So to use this custom to say that a large crowd followed the body of Jesus to the tomb of Arimathea is a stretch. Here is the quote:

            Similarly, escorting the dead (especially a deceased scholar) to his last resting place is considered a great mitzvah “the fruit of which a man enjoys in this world while the stock remains for him in the world to come” (Pe’ah 1:1 as adapted in the morning service). It justifies even an interruption in the study of the Torah (Ket. 17a and Sh. Ar., YD 361:1) and is called “the true kindness” (ḥesed shel emet) since one can expect no reciprocation of any sort (Rashi to Gen. 47:29; cf. Gen. R., ad loc.). Josephus states that “All who pass by when a corpse is buried must accompany the funeral and join in the lamentations” (Apion, 2:205); the minimum duty is to rise as the funeral cortege passes (TJ, Bik. 3:3, 65c; Sh. Ar., YD 361:4), and accompany it for four cubits (“four paces”). “One who sees a funeral procession and does not escort it,” states the Talmud (Ber. 18a), “transgresses thereby ‘whoso mocketh the poor (i.e., the dead) blasphemeth his Maker’ (Prov. 17:5), and should be placed under a ban” (YD 361:3). Only if the hearse passes a bridal cortege is the bride given preference: to honor the living is considered greater than to honor the dead (Ket. 17a, Sem. 11:6, although cf. Maimonides’ conflicting opinion, Yad, Evel 14:8). A custom instituted by kabbalists, and still largely observed in Jerusalem, forbids sons to follow the bier of their father and attend his funeral.

            http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ancient-burial-practices

            Like

          9. “And, most people know this stuff. Most people “back then” knew this stuff. Greatly grieving people can see or hear all kinds of stuff. But, what do their friends tell them? “Yeh, I had something like that happen when my brother died. It can take a while for it to pass”. It *never* becomes some type of “reason” to believe – in all things – in a *resurrection*.”

            Another assumption.

            History is full of people claiming to have literally seen their dead friend or loved one alive again, even claiming that the person spoke to them and touched them! These people rarely claim that what they saw was a ghost or a spirit. What they claim is, “I saw my dead husband/wife/child/grandmother/friend!”

            The human mind is capable of some amazing tricks. That is why psychiatrists’ appointment schedules are booked out for months and why they make a lot of money!!!

            Liked by 1 person

          10. Your first “sticking point” should be this: Three-day-brain-dead corpses do not come back to life.

            Work from there. If you were to substitute any modern person into this tale and keep all the other details the same, how strong would you consider the evidence for the claim that a human being living in 2018, who was confirmed brain-dead for 72 hours, came back to life, walked out of his sealed mausoleum, ate lunch with his friends, and 40 days later flew off into the clouds?

            I will bet that you would demand MUCH stronger evidence than what you are demanding for the claim about Jesus. And why? You are bringing your presuppositions about the existence of Yahweh and OT prophesy into your calculation of probability. Those issues must be dealt with first before we can both evaluate the probability of Jesus’ resurrection from a common starting point.

            Like

          11. “Which brings us to Problem #3 – If Jesus had indeed been buried, “with all organs intact” (as per chabad.org)…”

            Are you serious? Jews bury as much of the remains as possible, even today. If a Jew is blown into a thousand pieces by a bomb, is he or she not considered “buried” if a few pieces of the body are not found??? No!

            Here is an explanation on this point from Chabad.org:

            Question: It says you have to be buried whole. And I understand that if you have a limb amputated, it is preserved until death. But what if the limb no longer exists? Like if it is lost in an explosion, mechanical accident, eaten by a shark…etc?

            Answer by Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org: Obviously it has to be within reason, not something that can’t realistically happen.

            Gary: If dogs and ravens carried off parts of Jesus body then even under Jewish law as long as what was left of him was buried that was a valid burial. The burden of proof is on you to prove that if the “trench” was dug by Gentiles and the body placed into the “trench” by Gentiles that the person would not have been considered “buried” by Paul.

            But we don’t need to beat this dead horse any more because there are multiple other possibilities. Maybe the Sanhedrin disposed of the body of Jesus. They buried him “properly” in a dirt trench, but kept the location secret. The disciples starting “seeing” Jesus and assumed that he was resurrected and assumed that his grave…wherever it was…was now empty.

            Source: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/367836/jewish/Basic-Laws.htm

            Like

  4. I GOTTA ADD: I said above: ” No afterlife? That was acceptable. Reincarnation? That was acceptable. A “spiritual resurrection” (meaning, merely, “spiritual survival”, moving from Hades to Heaven)? That was acceptable. What *wasn’t* acceptable was this idea of a *physical* resurrection.”

    I meant to say “What *wasn’t* acceptable was this idea of a *physical* resurrection OF JESUS”.

    Like

  5. Gary –

    Are you really interested in an actual discussion here, or are you just interested in blasting out post after post, and not allowing any chance for real discussion?

    I’d gladly respond to all your various posts, but, I want to know what it is I’m getting in to here.

    You asked me if I was a “believer”. I didn’t respond. That is irrelevant to having an intellectual conversation of scholarly content.

    You said (in one of your myriad of messages) “Now, I’m expecting you to mention that the Early Creed, which most scholars believe was written within a few years of Jesus death, states that Jesus was raised on the “third day”.

    You’re *expecting* that? Really? Why?

    If you’re just going to try to turn this into some kind of “personal” thing, I’ve got no interest in continuing. If you wish to continue as an intellectual conversation, then I’m game. But, in that case, you need to let actual conversation happen, and drop the onslaught of posts.

    So, tell me what it is you want to do.

    Like

    1. “I’m expecting you to…” was my way of saying “I bet that you are now going to point out that…”. I wasn’t demanding you to do something.

      I don’t like responding in huge, long comments. Most people won’t read long comments. That is why I have broken them up. You are not obligated to respond to all of them (or any of them).

      You have brought up some good points. I appreciate the polite and informative discussion.

      Like

      1. OK. Good, so, we’ll “converse”.

        Now, you’ve written so incredibly much, I hardly know where to begin with a response. So, I’m asking you to PLEASE give me some time to formulate responses, as short as I can make them.

        I’m going to put this Big Response in a single post, and, I really hope that after that, we can go more or less point-by-point.

        And, please don’t presume that I’m a “believer”.

        I’ll be back with you very shortly….

        Like

  6. OK… here goes…. I’ve decided to do this in chunks, addressing various topics you’ve mentioned.

    =========== topic 1 ===========

    “Assumption: You are assuming that Jews buried Jesus. Bart Ehrman has done a very good job on his blog demonstrating why it would have been very unusual for the Romans to turn over the body of a man accused of treason to his family or other members of the public. ”

    Ehrman does a GREAT job of demonstrating why it would have been very unusual for the Romans to turn over the body of a man accused of treason to his family (etc). However, Ehrman does a piss-poor job of demonstrating that Jesus was, in fact, accused of treason. In the end, Ehrman just *asserts* that Jesus was accused of treason. There is not one shred of historic evidence that this was the case. There *is*, however, historic evidence that Jesus was executed at the suggestion of the Jewish leaders.

    Ehrman has a huge stake in this claim that Jesus was tried for treason: The whole of his book “How Jesus Became God” utterly *depends* on Jesus having remained on that cross. Therefore, it *must* be that Jesus was tried for treason, because those found guilty of treason *were* left on a cross. And, that’s exactly what Ehrman *needs* in order for his book to work.

    My take on it is this: Jesus was not even a blip on Pilates radar. Pilate lived in Caesarea, and breezed in to Jerusalem for the Passover. At that point, he had no idea who Jesus was. There was no “insurrection” going on (at least, not one being led by Jesus). Jesus is taken before Pilate by the Jewish leadership, and they requested his execution (as per Josephus). Pilate may not even have “blinked” at agreeing: Philo writes of “[Pilates] corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity”. So, Jesus is simply executed as common Jewish “riff-raff”. For Pilate, it was just “one more dead Jew”.

    But, what about that sign on his cross? Ehrman uses that to demonstrate that Jesus was crucified for making himself out to be a “king”, hence, “treason”. I say Erhman uses bible passages when it suits his ends; there is very little about the gospels that Ehrman takes “as gospel”, but, if he sees that the sign will bolster his case, he’ll say “oh, but *this* part is true”.

    And, here’s the deal on that: If Ehrman is going to make the case that the sign was really there (thus, agreeing with the NT accounts), then he must also agree that it was the *Jews* that raised the point to Pilate, and the *Jews* objected to the wording of the sign, and Pilate said “I have written what I have written”. And, if *those* points are as true as the “sign” account that Ehrman insists is true, then that sign just amounts to Pilate saying “up yours” to the Jewish leadership. And this would be perfectly in keeping with what Philo had to say about Pilate.

    =========== topic 2 ===========

    “No one was claiming that the body was buried before sunset…until…circa 70 CE when the author of Mark invented it!”

    Actually, we don’t know that for a fact at all. We certainly don’t know that Mark invented it. We have no idea what story was being floated around before somebody decided to write the stories down, except what Paul writes, and he writes that Jesus was buried and rose on the third day.

    =========== topic 3 ===========

    Regarding “burial” – because much of this conversation has to do with this word: The Hebrew word for “burial” is qabar, and it’s Greek equivalent is “thapto”.

    Qabar means “internment with ritual”. NOTE THIS: Every single use of this word (or applicable derivative) in the OT is in reference to a HUMAN internment with ritual.

    Qabar is not a word like the English word “bury”. In English, we bury humans, cats bury poop. But in Hebrew, humans receive qabar, cats “cover over” poop.

    Deceased humans that do not receive qabar are said to have been “covered over” (or, some other descriptive is used). That is, if they did not recieve qabar, then *something else besides qabar happened with their bodies”. And, that means they did not recieve “proper burial” (qabar).

    Qabar does *not* imply “tomb burial”, and, I never said it did. It does, however, involve ritual.

    You ask, “if a Roman digs a trench and throws a body in it and covers it with dirt, is that not burial?”

    The answer: unequivocally NO. What you describe here is no different than the Nazis digging a trench and burying murdered Jews at Auschwitz. That is NOT “qabar”, that is NOT “thapto”. That is “digging a hole, dropping a body in it, and covering it over like cat poop”, the “disposal of waste”, and the very antithesis of “qabar”.

    Paul says that Jesus was “thapto’ed” – “qabar’ed”. He was the recipient of “internment with ritual” – a “decent burial”.

    Now, having said that, we do not at all have to presume that Paul’s story is correct. He wasn’t there at the “qabar”, after all. He was *told* that Jesus had been “qabar’ed”.

    =========== topic 4 ===========

    “The Jewish Virtual Library says that it is true that if a funeral procession passed by Jews were obligated to participate in the procession…for FOUR paces”.

    If you’ll take a few minutes and go back and re-read the Talmudic entry that speaks of following the funeral procession a minimum of four paces, you will quickly note two things: (1) this was an entry written long, long, LONG after the time of Christ, and (2) it was addressing, specifically, the conditions under which one may be expected to interrupt their study of Torah, and to what extent such an interruption should be allowed.

    The subsection asks the thematic question “When does this apply, [viz.,] that we suspend the study of the Torah to escort him [for burial]?

    Since this topic in the Talmud is of a more “modern” origin (meaning, probably having been written later than 1500 CE), I think it far more reliable to depend on what Josephus writes: “All who pass by when a corpse is buried must accompany the funeral and join in the lamentations”.

    =========== topic 5 ===========

    “History is full of people claiming to have literally seen their dead friend or loved one alive again, even claiming that the person spoke to them and touched them! ”

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re addressing here. I made a slightly similar comment, but, still quite different than what you are talking about.

    I said this:

    “It [thinking one has seen a deceased person alive] *never* becomes some type of “reason” to believe – in all things – in a *resurrection*. If it did, then history would be FULL of tales of people that had been seen as ‘resurrected’. But, it’s not. You don’t find stories of real, historic persons that are *known* in person by others, having been resurrected”.

    I am presuming that you and I are in the pursuit of conversing *reasonably*, and in our context – that of Judaism, Judea, Jesus, etc – I am presuming that we are talking about the Jewish concept of bodily resurrection. And, making that (hopefully) reasonable presumption, I would stick with what I said: We do not have (in Jewish history, in Judea) a history that is full of tales of people that have been “resurrected”.

    Are there stories throughout world history of individuals that say “I saw my [deceased] grandpa”? Yes, of course there are. Lots of them. In fact, studies show that very large portion of adults have had some type “event” like this, most often due to grief, extreme stress, etc. The question though, is this: Was that enough to convince that person that the deceased person had been “resurrected” – bodily raised from the dead? No. Not at all.

    There is no point, I do not believe, in going on with a bunch of “what-about-isms” here.

    I am well aware that the “hallucination theory” – Peter, John, et al, simply hallucinated a “risen Jesus” – is quite popular.

    The problem with the theory is that most people (adults), having had similar experiences themselves with “deceased loved ones” (like, me with my deceased dog), do not accept someone else’s account as being any more “real” than their own experience. If someone else told me “after my dog died, I could swear I felt her presence in my bedroom at night”, I could say “yeh, I’ve had that same experience”, but, that would not translate into a *belief* that my dog had been *resurrected*, or that the other persons dog had been resurrected. For me – and I suspect for most – it would simply remain a “spooky event”, a strange occurance, something sort of “mystical”. But, all this is quite different than bonafide bodily resurrection.

    =========== topic 6 ===========

    Re: a response you got from chabad.org:

    “Gary: If dogs and ravens carried off parts of Jesus body then even under Jewish law as long as what was left of him was buried that was a valid burial. The burden of proof is on you to prove that if the “trench” was dug by Gentiles and the body placed into the “trench” by Gentiles that the person would not have been considered “buried” by Paul.”

    -> Exactly as I’ve said: if Romans dug a trench, and if Romans placed the body in the trence, “that person would not have been considered “buried” by Paul. It would not be “qabar”.

    “But we don’t need to beat this dead horse any more because there are multiple other possibilities. Maybe the Sanhedrin disposed of the body of Jesus. They buried him “properly” in a dirt trench, but kept the location secret. The disciples starting “seeing” Jesus and assumed that he was resurrected and assumed that his grave…wherever it was…was now empty.”

    ->”Maybe the Sanhedrin disposed of the body of Jesus. They buried him “properly” in a dirt trench”. There it is – that “proper burial” thing, that “qabar” thing.

    What this author from chabad.org proposes – that maybe the Sanhedrin properly buried Jesus, but kept the location secret, etc, is a worthwhile proposition. It’s the kind of thing I’d be far more interested in exploring. But, having to go back and explain long-established Jewish concepts of “qabar” – proper burial – the thing that Paul says happened with Jesus – is not something I care to do.

    I, along with the author at chabad.org, truly hope we don’t have to beat the dead horse of “qabar” – burial – any longer.

    =========== topic 7 ===========

    Re: Your proposals that Jesus may have been buried a day or two later

    Now, *this* is interesting. If we can just avoid bunnytrailing, further discussusion of “qabar”, and “whataboutisms”, then these proposals catch my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Topic 1: Ehrman does a GREAT job of demonstrating why it would have been very unusual for the Romans to turn over the body of a man accused of treason to his family (etc). However, Ehrman does a piss-poor job of demonstrating that Jesus was, in fact, accused of treason.

      I’ve read a lot of Ehrman’s work and I don’t recall him ever insisting that Jesus was left up on the cross. That is Dominic Crossan’s “schtick”. Ehrman doubts that the Romans would have given the body of Jesus to his family or to the Jews in general, true, but he doesn’t say it is impossible that they did, just unlikely. Even if the Arimathea tomb is historical, Ehrman, like the overwhelming majority of scholars, doubts the historicity of Matthew’s guards at the tomb, so there are all kinds of possible explanations for why Jesus’ body would be missing or unaccounted for. For instance, it is possible that the Sanhedrin only buried Jesus in Arimathea’s tomb to get him in the ground before sunset, the beginning of the Sabbath. Then on Saturday, after sunset, they moved the body. They didn’t bother to tell the disciples so Sunday morning when the women show up, the body is gone and…you know the rest. Now I know that Christian apologists will say that Jews don’t move bodies once they are buried for at least a year, but that is a general rule. There are always exceptions. And again, an exception to a Jewish rule is more probable than a resurrected corpse.

      Like

    2. Topic 2: “No one was claiming that the body was buried before sunset…until…circa 70 CE when the author of Mark invented it!”

      Actually, we don’t know that for a fact at all. We certainly don’t know that Mark invented it. We have no idea what story was being floated around before somebody decided to write the stories down, except what Paul writes, and he writes that Jesus was buried and rose on the third day.

      Response: My above statement was part of a hypothetical scenario. I was not suggesting that it was an historical fact, only a possibility.

      Like

    3. Topic 3: Now, having said that, we do not at all have to presume that Paul’s story is correct. He wasn’t there at the “qabar”, after all. He was *told* that Jesus had been “qabar’ed”.

      Response: True. Paul wasn’t there so his comment on Jesus “burial” is hearsay. Your distinction regarding “burial with a ritual” and “digging a hole, dumping the body in, and covering it up” is interesting. I will have to research that one. But bottom line, Paul never once tells us any details of Jesus burial and since he was not an eyewitness to this burial we have no idea if he was told the details of this event by Jesus disciples or if he was simply repeating the words of a Creed, based on theology, not historical fact.

      I don’t trust Paul at all. In fact if you look at my post today, there is a lot of evidence that a lot of early Christians did not trust Paul either.

      https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/was-paul-of-tarsus-a-respected-and-accepted-member-of-the-early-christian-church/

      Like

    4. Topic 4: Since this topic in the Talmud is of a more “modern” origin (meaning, probably having been written later than 1500 CE), I think it far more reliable to depend on what Josephus writes: “All who pass by when a corpse is buried must accompany the funeral and join in the lamentations”.

      Response: I agree that we cannot depend on a text written in a different time period for certainty of a custom performed centuries earlier. But I have a question: How many Jews would the burial procession of Jesus pass by, late Friday afternoon, just prior to the sun going down and the beginning of a Sabbath Passover, going from the top of Golgotha a short distance to Arimathea’s tomb which allegedly was “close by”?

      But this issue really doesn’t matter. If the Romans disposed of the body, no Jews would have been allowed to escort the body. If the Sanhedrin was responsible for the burial, maybe they forced everyone in the immediate area to leave so that there would NOT be a large procession of people that could turn on them for having killed a “prophet of God”. I think this issue can be explained away very easily by a number of plausible explanations, all more probable than the reanimation of a corpse.

      Like

      1. Lets qualify this a bit more: How many Jews would the burial procession of Jesus pass by, late Friday afternoon, just prior to the sun going down and the beginning of a Sabbath Passover — a Passover in a city – that would basically fit in an area about 1/4 mile on each side – was surrounded by a (conservative) estimate of 300,000 to 500,000 people camping outside it’s walls?

        I’d say potentially that procession could have been seen by potentially *thousands* of people, but I would not expect that all of them from every hillside would come streaming down from the hills to follow. I would, though, expect there to be a very considerable number of people to do so.

        I would not at all expect the Romans to let the Jews take a body off a cross, and then, the Romans take over and dispose of the body. Nor would I expect that the Romans themselves would take the body off the cross. I would expect that if that body (not rotted bones) was taken off the cross, it was by family or friends, who then buried it.

        There is no doubt that there are all kinds of things that one might come up with that might be more probable than the reanimation of a corpse. I consider that a “given”. We can “make up” scenarios all the day long, though, and it still might not come close to what actually happened.

        I guess I’d sorta like to see your theory as to what happened, along with your reasoning and sources. I don’t mean this in an ugly way at all, but, I have a limited interest for theories that are not somehow “backed up” with something…

        Like

        1. I’d say potentially that procession could have been seen by potentially *thousands* of people, but I would not expect that all of them from every hillside would come streaming down from the hills to follow. I would, though, expect there to be a very considerable number of people to do so.

          Response: Not if the Romans or the Sanhedrin prohibited them from doing so.

          In addition, none of the texts state that a large crowd of people followed the burial procession to the tomb. If I remember correctly the only persons mentioned are: J. Arimathea, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary. Of course, just because it isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but I think you are making way too much of this possibility. Even if 100.000 people followed Jesus’ burial procession to the Arimathea tomb, if the Sanhedrin moved the body in the dark of night late Saturday, none of those tens of thousands of people would know what had really happened to the body.

          And there is good evidence that tens of thousands of people did NOT know where Jesus was buried: We have no good evidence that Christians venerated or even memorialized in any way the grave site of Jesus, wherever it was. I believe that the evidence points to the strong probability that the followers of Jesus did not know where he was buried.

          Like

          1. Re: “Not if the Romans or the Sanhedrin prohibited them to do so. ”

            Fair enough. Can you provide any historic reference that might support the idea that either the Romans or the *Jewish* Sanhedrin actually prohibited this custom from occuring? (I’ll be honest, it’s hard to imagine that the Sanhedrin would prohibit such a procession).

            Re: “In addition, none of the texts state that a large crowd of people followed the burial procession to the tomb.”

            And, to the best of my knowledge, not a single gospel mentions that there were hundreds of thousands of people camped outside the city walls of Jerusalem at the Passover, yet, we know they were there, historically, just as we know, historically, that Jews commonly followed as a corpse was carried to burial.

            I would offer this, though:

            Matt & Mark say that there were “many women” at the crucifixion…

            Matthew 27:55 “*Many women* were there looking on from a distance, *who had followed Jesus from Galilee*…”

            Mark 15:41 “…and there were *many other women* who came up with Him to Jerusalem”.

            Luke says that these same women were at the tomb:

            Luke 23:55 Now the *women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid*.

            So, it was, at any rate, more than just Joe of Arimathea and a couple of Mary’s.

            If what Josephus says is true, and, in the lack of any historic evidence that shows funeral processions were sometimes prohibited or that Jesus’ procession was prohibited, then, I just think it is *reasonable* to assert that there were potentially a number of people present.

            Does that seem unreasonable to you?

            Like

          2. If what Josephus says is true, and, in the lack of any historic evidence that shows funeral processions were sometimes prohibited or that Jesus’ procession was prohibited, then, I just think it is *reasonable* to assert that there were potentially a number of people present.

            You are taking one line from Josephus and trying to force it into the text about Jesus’ alleged burial. Were the rules for the burial procession for criminals different than the rules for burial processions of non-criminals? Were there ever exceptions to the rules?

            You have built an entire case on ONE word. Paul’s choice of Greek for the English equivalent of “to bury ritually”, when quoting a religious creed, which he obtained from unnamed sources, for an event to which he himself was not an eyewitness. It is still possible that early Christians had no idea where Jesus was buried or who buried him, but for the sake of the respectability of their new religion, they ASSUMED that Jesus had been buried according to proper Jewish custom.

            We just do not know.

            Bottom line, Paul was not an eyewitness, so his use of the word “to bury ritually” is immaterial.

            Like

          3. Re: Were the rules for the burial procession for criminals different than the rules for burial processions of non-criminals? Were there ever exceptions to the rules?

            I’m not sure. Perhaps you could look that up.

            Re: You have built an entire case on ONE word.

            Built a case??? What case have I built? I merely informed you what “qabar” meant, because it didn’t appear to me you had any idea…

            Re: Bottom line, Paul was not an eyewitness, so his use of the word “to bury ritually” is immaterial.

            I already *said* Paul was not an eyewitness.
            The reason “qabar / thapto” is NOT irrelevant is because it tells you what the earliest known story going around was. Any historian worth his salt would find that of tremendous significance. It’s irrelevant whether it’s “true” or not, because it tells you *what they were professing*.

            It looks like you’re just wanting to *argue* with somebody. You got the wrong guy for that.

            Like

        2. You: I guess I’d sorta like to see your theory as to what happened, along with your reasoning and sources. I don’t mean this in an ugly way at all, but, I have a limited interest for theories that are not somehow “backed up” with something…

          Gary: So you are asking me for evidence for what I believe to be the true reason for the rise of the early Christian Resurrection Belief? Don’t you see how unreasonable that is? Let me give an analogy:

          This morning your neighbor comes over to inform you that last night he was abducted by twenty, three-foot tall, green Martians with antennaes coming out of their heads, beamed up to the Mother Ship which was hovering 500 feet about his house, and then wisked away at the speed of light to the Red planet where he underwent mind-probing for three hours. He was then brought home and tucked in bed before the sun rose this morning.

          “Your pulling my leg,” you say.

          “No. I swear on my mother’s grave, cross my heart, and hope to die. It really happened,” he says.

          “You were either drunk, delusional, or you are lying!” you reply.

          “Prove it!” says your indignant neighbor who adds, “And if you can’t provide good evidence that I was drunk, delusional, or lying, then I expect you to admit you were wrong and that I really was abducted by little green space aliens!”

          Do you see how illogical the neighbor’s thinking is?

          Just because I can’t provide evidence for what did happen on Passover, circa 33 CE, in Jerusalem, doesn’t mean that I must accept the Christian claim as historical fact. The onus is on the Christian to provide good evidence for his claim, not on me and other skeptics to disprove it.

          Like

          1. To this statement: I guess I’d sorta like to see your theory as to what happened, along with your reasoning and sources. I don’t mean this in an ugly way at all, but, I have a limited interest for theories that are not somehow “backed up” with something…

            Like

    5. Topic 5: “It [thinking one has seen a deceased person alive] *never* becomes some type of “reason” to believe – in all things – in a *resurrection*. If it did, then history would be FULL of tales of people that had been seen as ‘resurrected’. But, it’s not. You don’t find stories of real, historic persons that are *known* in person by others, having been resurrected.”

      When people have vivid dreams or hallucinations the imagery they “see” is content from their own culture and personal experiences. People living in the 1500’s did not report vivid dreams or hallucinations about driving a brand new, red Ferrari. So too, with the Jews of first century Palestine. Jesus had been marching up and down the country preaching that the End was near. The New Kingdom is coming at any moment. And if the New Kingdom is coming at any moment that means that the general Resurrection of the Righteous Dead is coming shortly too. The despondent, depressed Jews of Palestine were desperately praying for deliverance, hoping that the throne of David would be quickly restored as the prophecies of the OT said. Jesus promised the disciples that they would rule on thrones as princes in this new kingdom. He was to be the Jewish Messiah, the new Jewish king.

      But now he is dead. What happened???

      In their despair, they struggled with cognitive dissonance: Did they just spend the last three years of their life chasing after a fool? Couldn’t be! He seemed so real! So what could explain this???

      Then one disciple or several disciples had vivid dreams of Jesus in which Jesus returns to them and tells them that everything will be ok. He tells them that he really is the messiah. He has come back from the dead to establish the New Kingdom as he promised!!! The Resurrection of the Righteous Dead has begun, and he, as the Messiah, is the first to be resurrected. He is the first fruits. Soon more disciples are “seeing” Jesus in vivid dreams, false sightings, mistaken perceptions of natural phenomenon such as bright lights and shadows (illusions), and possibly some even had hallucinations.

      The concept of seeing a dead person and believing that a Resurrection was occurring fit in perfectly with the culture and events of that time period and location.

      Like

      1. I’ve had exactly this same thought myself. But, the context always has to be “fleshed out”.

        Jesus is crucified
        Where were the disciples? Did they *see* it, or only hear about it later?
        If they didn’t *see* it, then where were they when they heard about it, and how much later was that?
        Once they heard about it, and upon having vivid dreams or hallucinations, how were they really *sure* Jesus was dead, if they themselves had not *seen* the crucifixion?
        How could they themselves *know* that they had seen a “resurrected being” if (a) they didn’t actually *see* the dead body in the first place, and (b) have no way to confirm that the body was no longer where it was supposed to have been buried?

        NOTE: I’m NOT asking you to answer these questions. Please don’t do so. What I’m getting at here is that it’s one thing to imagine something about somebody having dreams or visions leading to strange mis-beliefs, and then simply writing a story. Fiction writers do that all the time.

        As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’d like to know YOUR theory as to “what happened”, and why you hold to that theory.

        Like

        1. I believe that the first Christians were very sincere, good, devout people who very much wanted to be rescued from their miserable circumstances under the Roman occupation. They believed that Jesus was the promised messiah who would liberate them. When he was killed they were emotionally devastated. “Hey. What’s this? The messiah is not supposed to die! Was Jesus a phony? Was he a looney?”

          Cognitive dissonance set in. They so much wanted to believe that Jesus was the messiah and that the Kingdom of God would soon be ushered in that their brains FOUND a way in which Jesus could still be the messiah, the New Kingdom would soon be established, even if Jesus had been killed.

          Somebody had a vivid dream of Jesus. I would say the most likely candidate is Peter if we believe the story in Acts with Peter having a “trance” in the middle of the day in which he sees a floating sheet full of animals. I would guess that seeing a dead friend is much easier for the brain to concoct in a dream or hallucination than a floating “ark” seen. Anyway, Peter thinks he sees Jesus. Jesus tells him he forgives him for his betrayal but he must now make it up to him by preaching the Gospel to the world. Peter is ecstatic. He tells the other disciples. They believe him. They become ecstatic. Soon other disciples are having vivid dreams, false sightings, illusions, and maybe even hallucinations. And the Resurrection Story is born.

          Like

          1. Gary –

            Re: Your post beginning “I believe that the first Christians were very sincere, good, devout people who very much wanted to be rescued” — (talking about cognitive dissonance).

            Good post.

            I read a very interesting article entitled “Cognitive Dissonance and the Resurrection of Jesus”, in which the author argues as you do: CD could have been behind the whole thing…

            He writes of an interesting case study based on observations regarding a group of Hasidic Jews called Lubavitch, and events starting in the 1990’s. This group believed their leader, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was the Messiah. Lubavitch, incidentally, has about 200,000 members.

            Well, Schneerson had a stroke which left him partly paralyzed. The group rationalized his (new) disability, in the light of “Messianic status”, by appealing to Isaiah 53, “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…”

            Then he had a second stroke which left him comatose. The group rationalized this, in the light of the Messianic status, by saying that the “soul of the Rebbe has to go down to lower realms to drag up the souls of the sinners”.

            Then, Rebbe Schneerson died. This put a real dent in Lubavitch’s “Messianic Dreams”. So, what did they do with this? This clearly hit at the very heart of those Messianic Dreams, because Messiah was not supposed to die before the world had attained redemption. So, it was a real disconnect. And what did they do with it? They then rationalized, and concluded that the Rebbe “would be resurrected”. In fact, they were so sure of it, they actually took out a full-page ad in The Jewish Orthodox Weekly (NYC) saying so. And, of course, there was no resurrection. Not then, not a year later, not two or three or ten years later. And yet, they still believe he will be resurrected.

            Now, the author of this article makes a statement which is almost *exactly* like what I made earlier:

            “…we know that many other Jews before the time of Jesus must have experienced post-mortem bereavement hallucinations of lost loved ones, and yet there is no record of such people concluding that their lost loved ones had been resurrected from the dead. ”

            The author, though, concludes (as I noted at first) that Cog Diss could be responsible for the “resurrection” of Jesus — Cognitive Dissonance Reduction, and visions or dreams (which might have started with Peter).

            BUT —–

            There is a fundamental difference between Lubavitch’s story of “Rebbe Who Will Be Resurrected” and that of Jesus.

            The followers of Schneerson believe he WILL BE resurrected.

            The followers of Jesus believe HE ALREADY WAS.

            Frankly, that’s a HUGE difference.

            What you see with the Lubavitch group *is* what happens when you have a real-life case of a beloved Teacher who is believed to be Messiah, and who dies. People did NOT start claiming “He Is Resurrected”. Instead, they claimed (and still claim) that he WILL be.

            This, of course, was not at all the claim of Peter (et al). They claimed Jesus WAS / IS resurrected.

            Now, why doesn’t Lubavitch simply make the same claim about Schneerson? Because there is this undeniable *reality* of a dead body in a Mausoleum. They can’t get around that one. It’s still there. They’d have to *know* the body was *gone* – not to be found – before something like that could be “rationalized” to the degree that it convinces them (or anyone) of resurrection.

            Am I making a Case for Christ here? No. But, quite honestly, I *am* making a case for the “empty tomb”. Even with Cog Diss fully in play, there still has to be an accounting for the *physical reality* of a dead body. Just because (for example) Peter didn’t know what “hole in the ground” Jesus was put in to doesn’t mean that *somebody else* doesn’t know full-well where the body is. Somehow, there had to be a *verifiable absence* of Jesus’ body. Otherwise, there simply is no story.

            In the *lack* of a verifiable absence of the body of Jesus, granted, one could make claims that he was “spiritually resurrected”, but, this is not the contention of those early believers. And, as I pointed out elsewhere, a “spiritual resurrection” of Jesus would have been entirely acceptable in Judaism. It’s that *physical resurrection* of Jesus, at that time, in those circumstances, that was not at all acceptable in the “normative Judaism” of the time.

            To Sum Up: I balk on the Cog Diss idea for the reasons stated above. This is not to say Cog Diss didn’t have a role. But, as I pointed out, I believe that in order for the early believers to claim a *physical resurrection*, they *had* to know where the body of Jesus was place, and they *had* to know that it was, indeed, no longer there.

            Does this mean Jesus was resurrected? No. But, at this point, one would have to argue “stolen body”, or something else like that…

            Like

          2. Just because (for example) Peter didn’t know what “hole in the ground” Jesus was put in to doesn’t mean that *somebody else* doesn’t know full-well where the body is. Somehow, there had to be a *verifiable absence* of Jesus’ body. Otherwise, there simply is no story.

            If one of the Lubavitchers claims that he just saw the good rabbi alive again, everyone can go to Schneerson’s grave and verify if the body is still there. In the case of the disciples of Jesus, if there was no known grave (his body had been buried in a secret location) then no one could disprove the “appearance” claim. To me this is the best probable explanation for how the Resurrection story began: Alleged appearances but no grave to verify that the body was missing.

            Like

          3. Gary –

            Preface: nothing in this post is meant to “refute” your idea. I hope you’ll read it well, and see where I’m going with all this…

            Re: ” In the case of the disciples of Jesus, if there was no known grave (his body had been buried in a secret location) then no one could disprove the “appearance” claim. To me this is the best probable explanation for how the Resurrection story began: Alleged appearances but no grave to verify that the body was missing.”

            Roger that. “No grave to verify the body was missing”

            That would mean, though, that Jesus’ body would have had to have been carried away, out of the sight of the hundreds of thousands of people camped around Jerusalem, such that nobody saw the burial or the burial location. And, yes, I guess that could have been done.

            This is where we have to answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where and why…
            1. Why would anyone have done that?
            2. Who would have done that?
            3. When would they have done that?

            “What” is already answered: bury the body in a secret location
            “Where” is actually already answered: a secret location

            Who would have done that? Three possibilities: the Romans, the Sanhedrin, the Disciples or others (ie, friends, family closely connected to Jesus)

            Why would anyone have done that? I really can’t possibly imagine a realistic reason for the Romans to do it. They probably couldn’t have cared less what happened to Jesus’ body. The Sanhedrin? Why would they do that? Not sure. If they were worried about the possibility of “rumors of resurrection” happening, then, it would seem they would prefer that a lot of people knew where the body was buried, and would make sure it stayed there. The Disciples? Did they just take the body and bury it in a secret place, then turn around and start saying “the body was buried over there, in that empty tomb, and now it’s gone”? I dunno…

            When would they have done that? The Romans could have taken the body down on the eve of the Sabbath (ie, before sundown on Friday) and hauled it off. Or, on Sat or Sun, for that matter. The Sanhedrin? They could have taken the body down before the Sabbath (Friday, sundown), or, they would have had to wait till Sunday, because of the Sabbath. The Disciples (friends, family) – Friday before sunset, or Sunday.

            But, unless the Disciples themselves did it, it really begs a big question: When “resurrection stories” started going around, why didn’t the parties responsible for the “secret burial” simply reveal the location of Jesus’ body, along with “testimony” of those who carried the body and buried it?

            I think all this deserves some good pondering, and I’d like your thoughts on this…

            But, it gets down to two scenarios:
            1. The body of Jesus was *never* taken off the cross (or, at least, not until it had just rotted and fallen off)
            2. The body was indeed taken off the cross and *something* was done with it.

            The idea of the body being left on the cross is, for me, a non-starter. On any given side of Jerusalem, there could have potentially been 100,000 people camping out for the week of the Passover. That’s potentially 100,000 people that could have seen the body hanging on the cross all week. Then, you have the inhabitants of Jerusalem itself, any one of which could potentially have said “hey, that body was never taken down. It rotted there on the cross until the bones fell off”. There are potentially just way too many people that could have refuted a “resurrection story”, by their own eye-witness.

            So, it’s down to #2: *something* was done with the body.

            If we’re going with the Cog Diss idea, then, *whatever* happened to that body *could not be known* by anyone, *except* those that actually did the thing.

            So, yeh – we’re down to (a) who would have done that, (b) when would they have done that, and (c) why would they have done that.

            If there can be satisfactory answers to all of those, then, yeh, it’s looking like a credible theory.

            Like

          4. That would mean, though, that Jesus’ body would have had to have been carried away, out of the sight of the hundreds of thousands of people camped around Jerusalem, such that nobody saw the burial or the burial location. And, yes, I guess that could have been done.

            I agree that during daylight it might have been difficult to bury the body unnoticed, but that is assuming that JEWS buried the body. Romans wouldn’t have cared about defiling the Sabbath and burying the bodies at night, waiting for the next day when all the Jews were in the Temple, or letting the corpse hang on the cross for a few weeks and then burying what remained, again at a time and placed where no one was paying attention. According to the earliest Gospel ALL the disciples had fled. So if Jesus was not the big deal the Gospels make him out to be, the people in the area probably would have cared less where he was buried. Again, Paul may have quoted an early creed which claimed that Jesus had received a proper burial, but since Paul was non an eye-witness, we cannot know for sure if this is an historical fact or simply “theological correctness”.

            But, unless the Disciples themselves did it, it really begs a big question: When “resurrection stories” started going around, why didn’t the parties responsible for the “secret burial” simply reveal the location of Jesus’ body, along with “testimony” of those who carried the body and buried it?

            Answer: Maybe Jesus was not the big deal the Gospels make him out to be. Maybe for the first years or even decades of Christianity, the Jewish authorities saw the Jesus movement as an insignificant, small Galilean annoyance. They could care less these people were claiming that their carpenter turned messiah had come back from the dead. The Sanhedrin considered them a bunch of nutty country bumpkins. They ignored them. (Many scholars believe that the story of thousands converting in Jerusalem on Pentecost is theological hyperbole.)

            ALL the disciples had fled, according to the earliest Gospel. The Romans were frequently crucifying people. So maybe no one really cared where the THREE corpses were buried. And how soon did the resurrection story really get going? Just because the Early Creed says that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his burial (not after his death!) doesn’t mean that that is when it really happened or that even if the first claim of an appearance did occur three days after his burial, maybe the “rumor” did not circulate to everyone in Jerusalem until months or years later. And by then, if the three corpses had been buried together, how would anyone identify Jesus??? Would they really dig up the grave and count the bones to make sure that only two skeletons remained?

            Like

          5. Gary –

            Re: post containing “Paul may have quoted an early creed which claimed that Jesus had received a proper burial, but since Paul was non an eye-witness, we cannot know for sure if this is an historical fact or simply “theological correctness”.

            I myself am not concerned with Paul’s correctness. We’ve both independently stated that Paul wasn’t an eye-witness. I think we’ve covered that.

            I’m more interested in your views on the “who, what, and why” questions I posted.

            For now, I gotta run… I’ll be back later….

            Like

          6. The idea of the body being left on the cross is, for me, a non-starter. On any given side of Jerusalem, there could have potentially been 100,000 people camping out for the week of the Passover. That’s potentially 100,000 people that could have seen the body hanging on the cross all week. Then, you have the inhabitants of Jerusalem itself, any one of which could potentially have said “hey, that body was never taken down. It rotted there on the cross until the bones fell off”. There are potentially just way too many people that could have refuted a “resurrection story”, by their own eye-witness.

            Maybe no one cared! Maybe Jesus was just one of many Jews executed that week/that month/that year. It was routine to see Jews hanging on crosses; Jewish corpses being taken off crosses; Jewish corpses being taken away to be disposed of. People were used to it. The “Jesus Story” did not become a big deal in Jewish culture until months or several years later. Who would have remembered? Again, according to the earliest gospel, Mark, “all” the disciples had fled.

            Like

          7. Re: ” Again, according to the earliest gospel, Mark, “all” the disciples had fled.”

            ahhhhh… OK. I didn’t realize you believed the gospel of Mark. You must be a Christian, yes?

            Like

          8. No, I am not a Christian. And, no I do not “believe” the Gospel of Mark…for the most part.

            I do not believe that there is any way that we can be certain of the historicity of most of what is written in the Gospel of Mark. However, since we know that the authors of Matthew and Luke depended heavily on Mark, I am more inclined to trust “Mark” than I am “Matthew” and “Luke” when GUESSING what is historical and what is not.

            What about “John”?

            I personally believe that John was also dependent on Mark (as do approximately half or more of scholars), at least for a “boiler plate” for his story. I believe that John was much less interested than the authors of the Synoptics in recording historical events than he was his expansive, very high christology.

            Common sense tells us that the disciples were probably no where near the crucifixion events. If Jesus was a “trouble-maker” of some sort, his followers would most likely also be considered trouble. The Romans wouldn’t have hesitated to arrest members of Jesus’ “band of trouble-makers”. So common sense combined with the statements of the author of the first gospel written convinces me that the disciples had probably high-tailed it out of Jerusalem and were hiding out in the hills of Galilee.

            I can’t prove that, of course.

            Like

          9. So, yeh – we’re down to
            (a) who would have done that,
            (b) when would they have done that, and
            (c) why would they have done that.

            If there can be satisfactory answers to all of those, then, yeh, it’s looking like a credible theory.

            Most probable explanation:

            1. Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution were no big deal. Jesus was just one of many Jews who got executed for crossing the Romans that week. His execution was routine. Everyone was used to it. It had been going on for decades. Seeing Jews on crosses was a part of life in the first half of the first century Palestine. No one paid any attention to Jesus’ death or the disposal of his body. His disciples were not there. They had fled, probably back to Galilee to their former occupations.
            2. The Romans buried Jesus in an unmarked hole with the bodies of the two thieves, in an area with many, many unmarked burial holes, full of many, many bodies/skeletons,where they had previously buried thousands of other trouble-making Jews.
            3. They probably did the burials when it was convenient for them, during the day.

            Like

          10. I believe that in order for the early believers to claim a *physical resurrection*, they *had* to know where the body of Jesus was place, and they *had* to know that it was, indeed, no longer there.

            This is simply your assumption, my friend.

            Human beings, in the ancient past and still today, come up with some really weird, never heard of before ideas.

            So I would have to put your belief in my “NO FIRST CENTURY JEW WOULD EVER…” file. Examples are, “No first century Jew would ever move a body on the Sabbath”. “No first century Jew would ever move a corpse that had been already buried until one year had passed.” “No first century Jew would ever believe in a physical resurrection unless they had seen a walking/talking corpse with their own two eyes.” Etc., etc..

            Here is how I see this issue: We might be able to know what most Jews in the first century CE believed and did as part of their culture and religion but we cannot rule out that a few first century Jews did not follow these rules and customs, at least not all of the time. So once again I ask: Which is more probable: A small group of mostly poor, mostly uneducated first century Jewish peasants, for some odd reason, came to believe a completely new, never heard of before, shocking, even scandalous concept, or, a three-day-brain-dead first century corpse really did come back to life, possessing supernatural powers that allowed it to exit its sealed tomb; walk through locked doors; teleport between cities, and eventually, levitate into outer space where it currently sits on a golden throne at the edge of the Cosmos???

            Like

          11. Gary –

            Re: Your post containing “So I would have to put your belief in my “NO FIRST CENTURY JEW WOULD EVER…” file…

            First – how do you do bolds? I wanna use that. Also italics, if you know how to do it.

            In this post, you ask “Which is more probable: A small group of mostly poor, mostly uneducated first century Jewish peasants, for some odd reason, came to believe a completely new, never heard of before, shocking, even scandalous concept, or, a three-day-brain-dead first century corpse really did come back to life, possessing supernatural powers that allowed it to exit its sealed tomb; walk through locked doors; teleport between cities, and eventually, levitate into outer space where it currently sits on a golden throne at the edge of the Cosmos???”

            What’s the other option? You don’t say “… OR… is *this other thing* more probable?”

            So, I’m not sure what choices you’re giving me, or wanting me to respond to….

            Like

          12. I’m not sure how readers are able to bold and use italics. I am able to do it because I am the moderator. I don’t respond on the post itself I respond in my “dashboard”. If you see another reader doing it, ask them. I’m curious too.

            My options for “which is more probable” were:
            1. A small group of Jews believes a completely novel concept.
            2. A physical resurrection occurs.

            Like

          13. Does this mean Jesus was resurrected? No. But, at this point, one would have to argue “stolen body”, or something else like that…

            And here we have a plethora of possible explanations for a stolen body, as long as we refuse to allow apologists to use the “no first century Jew would ever…” assumption.

            Even if Arimathea’s empty tomb is an historic fact, there are many explanations for an empty tomb. The big problem for conservative Christians is this: Even if Jesus was buried in Arimathea’s rock tomb, the overwhelming majority of scholars do not believe that Matthew’s Roman guards at the tomb is an historical fact. And without guards, there are many possible culprits who could have stolen/moved the body.

            Like

    6. Topic 7: Re: Your proposals that Jesus may have been buried a day or two later, Now, *this* is interesting. If we can just avoid bunnytrailing, further discussusion of “qabar”, and “whataboutisms”, then these proposals catch my interest.

      I have no problem accepting your definition of “burial” for the purposes of our discussion. We will assume that Jesus was given a proper Jewish burial based on Paul’s statement in his first epistle to the Corinthians. However, I will have to study it before adopting it as a permanent position in my belief system.

      Like

    7. Update: 01/29/2018

      I asked Bart Ehrman about your “qabar/thapto” argument—That Paul uses a Greek word translated into English Bibles as “to bury” in the Early Creed in First Corinthians 15 which in Greek only means “to bury ritually“— Here is what Ehrman said:

      “I’m not sure what the Hebrew word has to do with it? Paul didn’t know Hebrew and was writing in Greek, and his audience spoke Greek not Hebrew. (I’m also not sure where he has gotten his understanding of the Hebrew word from, but that’s another set of questions).”

      Ehrman speaks Greek, so I’ll take his word for it.

      Like

      1. Whether Paul spoke Greek or not is not an issue. Ehrman ought to full well know that the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “qabar” is “thapto”, which is the word used in the Septuagint, and means the same thing.

        And, one cannot just set aside “custom” so easily. If, here in the US, I am talking about the Fourth of July, but speaking to my Hispanic friends and saying Cuatro de Julio, still, we all know we’re talking about Independence Day, and we all know the customs and traditions – fireworks, barbeque, picnics, whatever.

        Paul was decidedly a Jew, and a Jewish burial – whether we say qabar or thapto – was always, by definition, a *decent* burial. Thapto, like qabar, refers to a *human interment with rites*. Like the Hebrew qabar, thapto is not used in the sense of “the cat buried the poop”.

        Nazis digging a trench and shoving Jewish bodies in with a bulldozer was NOT “qabar”, it was NOT “thapto”. It was an atrocity.

        So, even if we all agree that Paul spoke Greek, it flat doesn’t change that reality one bit.

        But, Ehrman? He’ll ignore such things as it suits his ends. There are myriads of other scholars that *don’t* ignore such things.

        Like

        1. How do you know that the Greek word “thapto” only means “to ritually bury”? You have claimed that “thapto” has the same limited meaning regarding burial as the Hebrew word “qabar”, but you have not given a source for this assertion. Please provide it.

          Like

      2. BTW –

        Re: Ehrman – “(I’m also not sure where he has gotten his understanding of the Hebrew word from, but that’s another set of questions).”

        Try a good Hebrew dictionary, for starters. It’s not like there’s not people that speak Hebrew every day, you know.

        Try a Strongs concordance – ref # 6912. It’s not the best concordance, but, hey, all you gotta do is google for Strongs 6912. Really, it’s not hard.

        And, while you’re at it, compare that to Strongs 2934 – “tavar” – meaning, “to hide, primarily by covering over”.

        When Joseph kills the Egyptian, he “tavar’ed” the body – he “hid it by covering it over” in the sand. He did not “qabar” it.

        OR – get a PhD in Hebrew.

        And, does Ehrman think he’s the only educated person on the planet? Or, worse – do *you* think Ehrman is the only educated person on the planet? (God forbid….)

        Like

        1. Since Paul wasn’t speaking or writing Hebrew, let’s stick to the Greek.

          Do you have evidence that the Greek word “thapto” would only have been used to refer to the ritual burial of a Jew by Jews? It could not have been used to indicate that a Jew had been placed in a trench and covered over with dirt by Gentiles?

          Like

  7. Gary –

    With apologies beforehand — I don’t mean to “flood” you with multiple posts, but, I’ve got to cut out of here for a while, so I just wanted to bring this up before I left..

    You have mentioned “probability” on several occasions.

    If one is of a (shall I say) “Naturalist” view – meaning, there is no Supernatural, no God (or gods), nothing else (at all) outside the realm of Nature, then the “probability” of *any* event being “miraculous” is irrelevant. If there is no God, no Supernatural (etc), then “miracles” are utterly *impossible*. Probability has nothing to do with it.

    On the other hand, if one either believes in a Supernatural (etc), or is “agnostic” – not knowing for sure, but not utterly dismissing the idea out of hand – only then can “probability” enter into the picture.

    This brings up a question: How can one possibly measure the probability of an event that has simply never happened before?

    What I’m getting at: You keep asking about “what’s more probable”, and, I’d say that if, for you, there is no Supernatural (etc), then it’s a pointless question to ask. On the other hand, if you at least acknowledge the possibility of a Supernatural, then “probability” is entirely irrelevant.

    So, why are you asking “which is more probable”? I’m just trying to understand where you’re coming from….

    Like

    1. This is a common problem when discussing the concept of probability with conservative Christians and probably with any conservative theist. I agree, if I as a skeptic automatically rule out the possibility of the supernatural, then the probability of a supernatural act is zero. But with this attitude, I and a theist will never have a productive conversation regarding the truth claims of Christianity. There is no common ground upon which we can have a rational, productive conversation. Some skeptics take this approach. They have no interest in reasoning with Christians, they simply want to shame and silence them.

      I am not one of those skeptics. First, I believe that it is being overly dogmatic. No one can be certain that gods and miracles do not exist just as no one can be certain that unicorns and leprechauns do not exist. They might. They very probably do not, but they might, So I am willing to be (very slightly) open to the possibility of their existence. This allows me to have a common basis of discussion with theists.

      However, if in attempt to have a productive conversation with a theist…(and I very much want to have this kind of a conversation with theists because I want to help them abandon their religious superstitions; I see myself as an evangelist, of sorts)…I accept the possibility of the supernatural, in particular, the possibility of the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh, then “all things are possible” and therefore all things are equally probable.

      So how do I get around this?

      Solution: I request that the theist agree to discuss (present) probability of any event based on its past occurrence in cumulative human history. So I accept the possible existence of the supernatural, I even accept the possible existence of Yahweh, but if Christians are going to discuss the probability of a Resurrection with me, then they must accept that even if Yahweh exists, a resurrection had never happened before Jesus and has never happened since. So the probability that Jesus’ tomb was empty (or just that people believed his tomb was empty) due to the fact that he had been resurrected, based on cumulative human history, is very, very, very low. So even if Yahweh exists, he isn’t in the habit of allowing resurrections. If they happen they are very, very rare. So if there are other explanations for an empty tomb or the early Christian resurrection belief that have a higher probability based on the frequency of their occurrence in cumulative human history, then I can say with confidence that the probability of a Resurrection is very, very low.

      When I point this out, Christians then usually refuse to accept this method of determining probability or will appeal to alleged prophecies from the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) which they believe dramatically increases the probability of a resurrection. And that is a whole other can of worms, but the reality is, you won’t find any public university world history text book which marvels at the amazing accuracy of the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible! (Christians HATE hearing that.) In fact, the prophecies in the Old Testament are no more accurate than the prophecies of your neighborhood tarot card reader. On the surface the prophecies of the OT and the prophecies of the tarot card reader may see amazingly accurate…for those who so desperately want to believe in their predictive powers…but when examined carefully, the predictions are vague and general.

      Like

      1. I suppose I’d equally fall into the category of those that would not accept your reasoning on determination of “probability”. I mean, you say ” So the probability that Jesus’ tomb was empty (or just that people believed his tomb was empty) due to the fact that he had been resurrected, based on cumulative human history, is very, very, very low.” You’re basing this “calculation” on “cumulative human history” – in other words, you’re looking at Nature for some type of indication of if or when or how many times a Supernatural Being might decide volitionally to act upon it. In other words, you’re attempting to treat a willful action by a Supernatural Being *as if* it would somehow be predicable on the basis of something on which it had no dependence. So, I can see why a great many people would reject your criteria of probability. I’m not sure it’s even asking the right question.

        Like

        1. Let’s try this: For argument’s sake, let’s accept the reality of the existence of Yahweh and let’s accept the reality of Yahweh’s supernatural powers. So on that basis, how many times had Yahweh resurrected someone from the dead (not raised someone from the dead but resurrected them from the dead) in the previous entire Old Testament period and during the lifetime of Jesus (ie., excluding the claim about Jesus’ alleged resurrection)?

          Answer: Zero.

          Therefore, based solely on cumulative human experience and the past behavior of Yahweh, the probability that the grave of Jesus (where ever that might have been) was empty due to a resurrection is very, very low compared to other possible explanations, natural or supernatural. You see, just because a supernatural deity such as Yahweh might exist, does not make the probability of a resurrection more probable than other more common explanations for an empty grave, since we have zero previous claims of Yahweh resurrecting anyone. In other words, Yahweh may be all powerful, capable of performing any feat imaginable, but Yahweh does not do “individual resurrections”. Ever.

          It is at this point that Christians try to bring in Old Testament prophecy allegedly about Jesus to influence the odds in favor of a Resurrection explanation for an empty grave and the early Christian Resurrection belief. Unfortunately for Christianity, Christians cannot provide one single passage from the Old Testament in which Yahweh clearly and undisputedly states that he will resurrect a dead messiah. Therefore, this argument should not be allowed into this discussion of “probability”.

          I therefore believe that my “Resurrection Probability Formula” is fair and appropriate.

          I doubt you will agree with that, but I feel I have been more than reasonable for even considering the reality of Yahweh and his supernatural powers.

          Like

          1. We can’t say that “Yahweh doesn’t do resurrections ever”, if Jesus was resurrected. Just like we can’t say Yahweh doesn’t create Universes ever if we live in a Universe He created. You’re trying to say “no resurrections – except for Jesus, and, he doesn’t count”. But, if he was resurrected, then he *has* to count. Just exactly like if the Universe was created, it *has* to count.

            That’s what doesn’t work about your logic: We do not know if Jesus was resurrected or not, and, that is the very heart of the issue.

            What you’re trying to do is use the same reasoning as Hume, which says probability rests on what may be called the majority vote of our past experiences. The more often a thing has been known to happen, the more probable it is that it should happen again; and the less often the less probable. Ehrman, Dawkins, and whoever else, use a cheap shorthand version and say “anything is more probable than a miracle”.

            We can agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles – if in other words they have never happened – why, then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. And, all we’re doing is arguing in a circle.

            In your argument, you’re relying on a “uniformity of Nature” because the kind of probability you’re concerned with hold inside the framework of a “uniformed Nature”. But, when we bring up the question of miracles, we are asking about the validity of that framework itself. While there is a predictability, or uniformity to the “framework” of the Universe, it tells us nothing at all about whether that “framework” can be subject to something *outside* of itself that can alter or violate that framework.

            In other words, unless Nature is uniform, nothing can be either probable or improbable. Probabilities are utterly dependent on a uniformity of Nature. But, once the question of miracles is brought up – which is another way of saying “once the uniformity of Nature is in question” – then those kinds of probabilities are suspended.

            But, that’s what a miracle is: it’s something from *outside* that framework of the uniformity of Nature – something that invades or penetrates that uniformity. And, that’s why your Hume-ian probabilities simply cannot apply.

            Having said all that, I’d mention: I don’t know, nor do I care, what fundamental Christians bring into the argument from the OT.

            I don’t need to rely on the OT to come to the conclusion that, as far as I can see, your logic itself, and your understanding of “probabilities” are both flawed.

            Like

          2. You said, “We can’t say that “Yahweh doesn’t do resurrections ever”, if Jesus was resurrected.”

            I suppose in response to my statement above…”but Yahweh does not do “individual resurrections”. Ever.”

            But I had specifically stated that this statement excluded the claim about Jesus. In other words, if someone living in circa 33 CE was told that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead he could say the following:

            Skeptical Jew: How do you know that Jesus was resurrected from the dead?

            Christian
            : Because his grave was empty and he appeared alive again to some of his disciples.

            Skeptical Jew: Hmm. There are a lot of possible natural explanations for empty graves and alleged appearances of dead people. Besides, the Scriptures do not say anything about one person being resurrected before all the other righteous dead. Yahweh has never, ever resurrected an individual from the dead. So to summarize:

            1. There are many natural explanations for empty graves.
            2. There are many natural explanations for alleged appearances of dead people.
            3. Yahweh has never, ever resurrected one single individual,

            Therefore the probability of your very extra-ordinary claim is very, very low.

            (Note that this Jew is not an atheist or agnostic. He believes in the supernatural. He believes in the Old Testament Scriptures. He believes in Yahweh. The reason he does not believe in the resurrection-of-Jesus claim is because the evidence for this very, very extra-ordinary claim is so very weak.)

            You: But, if he was resurrected, then he *has* to count. Just exactly like if the Universe was created, it *has* to count.

            Absolutely! But you must provide good, convincing evidence for this claim first. Until you do, we non-religious skeptics can join the millions of Jews who say, “Yahweh (if he exists) does not do individual resurrections. We have no good evidence to date that he ever has.”

            Like

          3. Gary – why on earth do you keep on assuming that I am a believer???????

            The problem with your whole logic – and – you actually come very close to admitting it – is in this statement:

            “If one accepts your logic, then one must accept that a miracle is just as probable as a natural event in all circumstances in life. This would make life absolute chaos. How would an insurance company weigh probability? ”

            That’s EXACTLY my point: You are trying very hard to figure out some way to weigh probability in a Universe in which there *might* be miracles, and, yes, you are seeing the problem very clearly.

            One *has* to say “there are absolutely no miracles, and I know this to be true, because in all the history of the Universe, there has never been one single miracle”, else, if you leave open the possibility that there might indeed be miracles, then, there is no way on earth to discern, by looking at what goes on *inside* Nature, the probability of something happening from *outside* Nature.

            But, we’re not going to agree on this. You actually *see* the problem with “calculating probabilities” in a world in which miracles *might* be possible, and yet, you’re asking for some “calculation” nonetheless. You’re arguing in a circle.

            I’m gonna change the theme, here, though, and just say that if you can’t drop this presumption that I am a “believer”, then, we got no point in continuing this.

            I mean, you declare *(in bold, no less) “You are insisting that I accept the existence and powers of your invisible, Bronze-Age, middle-eastern deity, Yahweh, before discussing probability. I absolutely will not.”

            And yet, it was YOU that said “However, if in attempt to have a productive conversation with a theist…(and I very much want to have this kind of a conversation with theists because I want to help them abandon their religious superstitions; I see myself as an evangelist, of sorts)…I accept the possibility of the supernatural, in particular, the possibility of the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh, then “all things are possible” and therefore all things are equally probable.”

            So, make up your mind what you’re arguing. You’re saying, on one hand, that I – me – amd somehow “insisting that you accept the existence of… Yahweh…”, and on the other hand, you yourself say “I accept the possibility of the supernatural., in particular, the possibility of the existence of the Judeo-Christian god…”

            SO WHICH IS IT?

            Quit dancing around and blaming me for your missteps.

            Like

          4. One *has* to say “there are absolutely no miracles, and I know this to be true, because in all the history of the Universe, there has never been one single miracle”

            Wrong.

            My choice of worldview involves the following perspective on probability: I do not include the existence of supernatural beings and events such as unicorns, goblins, ghosts, leprechauns, and magical healings after prayers to a dead man—not because I can prove that these entities or events are not real, but because I see no good evidence to believe that they are. So based on this reasoning, I exclude them from my probability calculations.

            My probability calculations are a subjective choice, just as yours are. I cannot prove mine is right and yours is wrong…but I do believe that my belief system has a much better track record of accurate predictions.

            Like

          5. GARY – LET ME SAY THIS IN ALL CAPS, BECAUSE I CAN’T USE BOLDS:

            YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT MY BELIEF SYSTEM IS. I HAVE NEVER SAID, THROUGHOUT THIS ENTIRE CONVERSATION, WHETHER I’M A THEIST OR ATHEIST OR AGNOSTIC.

            I’VE ASKED YOU REPEATEDLY TO DROP YOUR ASSUMPTION THAT I AM A BELIEVER – WHICH, I CAN ONLY GUESS YOU ASSUME BECAUSE I TAKE ISSUE WITH SOME OF YOUR ARGUMENTS.

            BUT, I’M TAKING ISSUE WITH THE UN-SOUND-NESS OF YOUR ARGUMENTS IN THE WAY YOU PRESENT THEM.

            IF YOU CANNOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITHOUT PROCEEDING ON ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT *ME, PERSONALLY* THEN I’M GONNA DROP OUT OF THIS.

            FOR ALL YOU KNOW, YOU’RE TALKING TO A TOTAL ATHEIST WHO SIMPLY THINKS YOUR LOGIC IS FLAWED.

            Like

          6. nah, I’m not going to relax until you AGREE not to assume ANYTHING about me, personally.

            either you agree to get off the “personal” stuff, or, I’m outta here. It’s that simple. If you can’t discuss in an impersonal manner, then, I can only disregard you as a “lightweight”, and I would therefore see no point in wasting time with a guy who can’t approach a topic from a purely intellectual standpoint. I got better things to do.

            Like

          7. Where recently did I say you are a believer? I simply stated that you are arguing positions used by believers. Big difference.

            If you can’t calm down, please do go somewhere else to rant.

            Like

          8. Re: ” I believe that my worldview regarding probability correctly describes the worldview of most non-theists”

            Yes, that is true. It does.

            Re: “My probability calculations are a subjective choice, just as yours are. I cannot prove mine is right and yours is wrong…but I do believe that my belief system has a much better track record of accurate predictions..”

            I’m sure you *meant* to say “My probability calculations are a subjective choice, just as *those of a Theist are. I cannot prove mine is right and *the Theist’s* is wrong…but I do believe that my belief system has a much better track record of accurate predictions”.

            With the noted “changes”, I’d also agree with this. A miracle, by it’s very nature, would be virtually impossible to predict with any accuracy at all, since they, by their very nature, do not work inside the framework of a uniformed (and predicatble) Universe.

            Re: “You are insisting that I accept the existence and powers of your invisible, Bronze-Age, middle-eastern deity, Yahweh, before discussing probability. I absolutely will not.”

            I’m sure you *meant* to say “The Theist is insisting that I accept the existence and powers of *their* invisible, Bronze-Age, middle-eastern deity, Yahweh, before discussing probability”.

            To which I would say “then, it must result in conversation on something else besides probability, or, perhaps it results in no conversation at all”.

            Clearly, it would seem, this topic of “probabilities” may in fact not be the most useful tool to try to use for one in your shoes, an “evangelist of sorts”.

            And, clearly, in any case, such a discussion *never* results in a clear agreement that “the resurrection *didn’t* happen”. Rather, it always gets down to the Theist simply responding “very low probabilities notwithstanding, if the thing happened, it happened”.

            I would argue that YOUR job, as a self-proclaimed “evangelist” who “wants to help them (ie, “believers”) abandon their religious superstitions” would be to utterly prove that the resurrection *did not happen*. It might be even easier to prove that there simply is no God, and thus, any and all miracles are utterly *impossible*.

            Most rational people can *see* that the claim of “resurrection” is absurd. In fact, the claim of *any* miracle is absurd. But, it is this very absurdity that makes an event a “miracle”, in the view of many. A soldier who gets shot, but the bullet gets lodged in a paperback book he has in his shirt pocket rather than passing through to his body (and his heart) is very likely to think “wow, that was a miracle”. And, he is thinking that very thing *because* of the absurdity, the infinitely low probability that that would have happened.

            So, I’m just suggesting, as I have earlier, that you need to drop the whole “probabilities” argument. As I said earlier, it is (IMHO) a philosophical black hole.

            I’d be really super interested to know what your argument against the existence of God is.

            Like

          9. I believe you are correct: Debating probability with theists is a waste of time. A supernaturalist and a non-supernaturalist will never agree on the parameters of what is possible, let alone what is probable.

            I do not have an argument against the existence of a Creator god, only against the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh. I am an agnostic. A Creator god or gods may exist and may explain the origin of the universe, but if he/she/they/or it exist, the evidence strongly suggests to me that:

            1. She is not particularly interested in revealing her identity.
            2. She is indifferent to or enjoys suffering on a massive, horrific scale.
            3. She has ordained that the supernatural will not operate within our universe.

            Like

          10. Correct me if I am wrong but I thought I said this: Even if I accept the possibility of the existence of the supernatural and the existence of Yahweh, the probability that Jesus was resurrected is still very low because there is no evidence that Yahweh had ever performed individual resurrections before Jesus and there is no passage in the OT that clearly and undisputably states that Yahweh will resurrect a dead messiah.

            If that is not what I said, I apologize. That is what I meant to say.

            Like

          11. We can agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles – if in other words they have never happened – why, then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. And, all we’re doing is arguing in a circle.

            Let’s substitute a couple of words:

            —We can agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against unicorns – if in other words they have never been seen – why, then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that unicorns have never been seen. And, all we’re doing is arguing in a circle.—

            I hope that you will agree with me that it is very logical not to believe in the reality of unicorns. That isn’t the same as saying that “I know as a fact that unicorns do not exist.” We cannot prove that unicorns do not exist. That is bad logic. We can only assume that they do not exist due to a lack of good evidence, and based on this lack of good evidence, educated people ignore claims of the existence of unicorns.

            If you agree with this logic regarding unicorns, then why not apply the same standard to Christian miracle claims???

            If the majority of scientists found good evidence for just ONE unicorn sighting, then most educated people would take the claim of the existence of unicorns seriously. And likewise, with claims of supernatural acts performed by a man who died 2,000 years ago.

            Like

          12. In other words, unless Nature is uniform, nothing can be either probable or improbable. Probabilities are utterly dependent on a uniformity of Nature. But, once the question of miracles is brought up – which is another way of saying “once the uniformity of Nature is in question” – then those kinds of probabilities are suspended. But, that’s what a miracle is: it’s something from *outside* that framework of the uniformity of Nature – something that invades or penetrates that uniformity. And, that’s why your Hume-ian probabilities simply cannot apply.

            If one accepts your logic, then one must accept that a miracle is just as probable as a natural event in all circumstances in life. This would make life absolute chaos. How would an insurance company weigh probability? Should they give a special discount to Christians because they have to take into account that there is a greater probability that Christians will experience miraculous divine rescues from car accidents/boating accidents/house fires/illness/death???

            It is silly to ask non-Christians to accept the existence of your miracle-working god, Yahweh, when discussing the probability of events.

            And by the way, someone can believe in a Creator God and still not believe in miracles. As I see it, if there is a Creator God, he/she/they/or it has decreed that although the supernatural may have been used to create the universe, the supernatural will not operate within the universe. There is no good evidence to date that the laws of the universe have ever been violated since the beginning/creation of the universe.

            Bottom line: You are insisting that I accept the existence and powers of your invisible, Bronze-Age, middle-eastern deity, Yahweh, before discussing probability. I absolutely will not.

            Like

          13. Gary – let me give the shorthand version of all this “probabilities” stuff:

            If you allow for the possibility of a Supernatural (God, the gods, whatever) and thus allow for the *possibility* of miracles. then saying “other things, though, are more probable”, then the Theist response can easily be “so what?”, and they’d go on to say “the probability that I might get hit by lightning is very, very small, too, but, it could happen, and if it does, then all it means is that I’ve experienced something that is very improbable”.

            And, as far as the resurrection of Jesus goes, that’s exactly what the Christian Theist argues: In that resurrection, we (mankind) have experienced something very, very improbable”.

            And then, the whole of the argument turns into this worthless back-and-forth about whether it really happened or not, and blablabla, so on and so on. In other words, it becomes an argument over whether the thing (the resurrection of Jesus) actually happened *historically* or not. Because IF there is, as you allow, the *possibility* of the existence of Yahweh – a God who is said to act in Nature, in ways one would call “miracle” – then despite the probability being very low, it really doesn’t matter – IF the thing really happened.

            What I’m saying is that your “probabilities” argument is just a black hole. Anybody can *see* that miracles are tremendously improbable. Yet, that does not guard us against a miracle happening, as long as there is the *possibility* that they might happen.

            I’d suggest that you just need to drop that stuff, and simply argue “there is no God, hence, no possibility of miracle”. I’d suggest it would make your job easier. .

            Like

          14. No. I believe that my worldview regarding probability correctly describes the worldview of most non-theists. I could be wrong. I will let my readers tell me.

            If I insinuated that you are a “believer”, I apologize. But whatever you are, you are using the worldview of the typical conservative Christian apologist and I do not buy it.

            Like

  8. Gary – off thread: It looks like the responses I’m leaving aren’t really going “in order”… Sometimes, for example, beneath one of your comments, there is a “Reply” link, and sometimes there is not.

    so, maybe I’m screwing up in how I’m responding? Anyway, I’m sure it may be as confusing to you (on your end, as a “recipient”) as it is for me… If you can tell me what I’m doing wrong, I’d sure appreciate it…

    Like

    1. For some reason, the “reply” option runs out after a certain number of replies in WordPress. You simply have to post a new comment at the end of all the comments under that post.

      Like

  9. θάπτω tháptō, thap’-to; a primary verb; to celebrate funeral rites, i.e. inter:—bury.

    this was pretty durn easy to find. This info is in Liddel-Scott-S-Jones, it’s in Strongs Concordance, it’s in a lot of places.

    Like

  10. Look, you’re the one with all the linguistics and cultural questions. And, I’m not going to do all your research for you.

    If Paul meant to say “Jesus was stuck in a hole and covered over”, he would have probably said so, and would not have used the Greek word thapto. But, he said thapto. He said “to bury with rites”. That’s what he said. I can’t help it.

    And, it just so happens that thapto is the word used in the septuagint to translate the Hebrew qabar.

    And, as I’ve pointed out earlier, EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE, in the OT, of “qabar” is in reference to a human burial with ritual.

    “Kavar” is used, for example, when Joseph killed the Egyptian and “buried (or hid, or covered over) him in the sand.

    But, like I say – I’m not gonna do your research. You’re the one who’s attempting to assert something about Paul’s usage of thapto.

    I can back my contentions up till the sun goes down.

    You need to do your own research and show how Paul was simply saying “Jesus was thrown into a trench and covered over with dirt”. I’m not going to build your case for you.

    Like

    1. You have an interesting theory. Do you know of any respected NT scholars who agree with this theory? If so, please give a reference to someone discussing this issue.

      Like

  11. hey, I think I gotta make a correction… In an earlier post, I think I said that when Joseph killed the Egyptian, he “kavar’ed” the guy – but I meant to say “tamar’ed”, which means “to hide, cover up”…

    About NT scholars – I’d have to go back and find out who was discussing this particular issue, but it’s something I’ve known about for *decades*, owing to Dr Roy Blizzard, a well-known Hebrew scholar that I studied under at the U. of Texas. Blizzard is fluent in both Hebrew and Koine Greek.

    As an anecdote, Blizzard wrote to me (regarding another topic, writing informally) saying “… all scholars in Israel acknowledge that all four languages were pretty much known by everyone in the region of Israel because they had to know them. All road signs were in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin – no Aramaic. All coins were in those three as well. All Torah scrolls in the synagogue were in Hebrew only unless a commentary and then maybe in Aramaic. None were in Greek. If indeed as the NT suggests that after his conversion Paul went eastward then indeed he went into the heart of Aramaic country… Also Paul uses the expression translated to ‘anathema maranantha’ in Greek but it has no meaning unless back translated into Hebrew. Why would Paul use a meaningless expression in Greek when he supposedly only knew Greek not Hebrew?” [ note: Blizzard is talking informally here. This is not from a book, but from a personal correspondence. So when he says “all road signs were in Hebrew (et al)…” don’t take it too literally. He’s probably just saying “you could commonly find road signs in Hebrew, Latin, whatever…]

    This comment above just referenced whether Paul knew Hebrew or not, and Blizzard maintains he knew Hebrew, pointing out that the Greek “anathema maranatha” has no meaning unless translated back into Hebrew. The implication there is that while Paul may well have been writing in Greek, he included a Hebrew idiom.

    These days, though, I know Craig Evans and Ehrman have gone round and round on stuff about Jesus’ burial. Thing is, one might be tempted to write Evans off as an “apologist”, but, in all fairness, one can equally write off Ehrman as “skeptic with an agenda”.

    From my own studies of Hebrew culture and language – and yes, with full acknowledgement that Paul spoke Greek (most likely) – I still can only conclude that when Paul wrote that Jesus had been “thapto’ed”, it was a reference – not only in Greek, but, also, from a standpoint of Jewish culture – to a “decent burial with rites”.

    NOTE: This does NOT mean Paul knew anything “historically” about it at all. As I’ve said earlier, the Main Thing it Demonstrates is that this was Pauls *understanding* of what had happened, and, this is significant, because we know that Paul became a believer within about 3 years of the crucifixion of Jesus.

    Does that make it TRUE? No. But, we’ve both already said that.

    Like

    1. It sounds like a significant insight, however, unless it is a theory floated by a significant number of respected NT scholars, I wouldn’t hang my hat on it.

      Like

      1. Well, I’m not at all sure the issue has even come to the attention of most scholars from years past. Most of them, reading that Jesus was “thapto’ed”, understood that it just simply meant “buried”, as in a “funeral”, or really, to be even more specific, it most accurately means “honored with rites” – so, what Paul is saying, most literally, is that Jesus was “honored with rites”, but it’s *understood* that these were specifically “funeral rites”.

        I’d note this, too: Thapto – “honor with rites” – is used in 1st and 2nd century Greek writings in conjuction with cremation, also, but in every known instance, the “cremation” is actually specified. Otherwise, by default, it refers to burial or entombment. So, unless a text were specifically talking about a cremation, thapto was always understood to mean “burial or entombment, honored with rites”.

        There’s not much of another way to read it in Greek, as far as I can tell. As far as what PAUL is writing, I’d not only “hang my hat” on him saying, with clarity, that Jesus was “buried with rites”, but, going by just the general jist of his topic matter, I’d even go so far as to say “I bet that’s what he actually believed, too”. (I know – it’s whacky. But, that’s just me).

        If you mean that you wouldn’t “hang your hat” on it as some kind of “proof” that Jesus was actually “buried with rites”, I’d totally agree with you. It is simply the earliest written record we have of the “story” that was being told. We have to determine on OTHER factors whether the story is True or False.

        BTW – Just For You – the actual entry for “thapto” from LSJ – regarded by scholars over the last 150 years or so as the definitive, authoritative go-to Dictionary of Greek:

        A. “θάψω” Is.8.21:—Pass., fut. “τα^φήσομαι” E.Alc.632, Lys. 13.45, also “τεθάψομαι” S.Aj.577, 1141, E.IT1464: aor. 1 “ἐθάφθην” Simon.167 (cj.), Hdt.2.81,7.228; more freq.aor. 2 ἐτάφην [α^] Id.3.10, 55, and alwaysin Att., as Ar.Pl.556; part. “ἐν-θαφείς” CIG2839 (Aphrodisias): pf. τέθαμμαι, Ion.3pl. τετάφαται v.l. τεθάφαται Hdt.6.103; imper. “τεθάφθω” Luc.DMar.9.1; inf. “τεθάφθαι” A.Ch.366 (lyr., prob.l.), Lycurg.113: plpf. Pass. “ἐτέθαπτο” Od.11.52, Hdt.1.113:—honour with funeral rites, “ὅτε μιν θάπτωσιν Ἀχαιοί” Il.21.323, cf. Hes.Sc.472; esp. by burial, “οὐ γάρ πω ἐτέθαπτο ὑπὸ χθονός” Od.11.52 (but freq. used later with ref. to cremation, D.S.3.55, App.Hann.35, Philostr.Her. 10.11, etc.; “πυρὶ θάπτειν” Plu.2.286f, Philostr.VS2.20.3); “θάπτειν . . γῆς φίλαις κατασκαφαῖς” A.Th.1013, cf. E.Supp.545 (Pass.); “θ. ἐς χῶρον” Hdt.2.41; “οὗ ἐβούλοντο” Th.8.84; θ. ἐξ οἰκίας to carry out to burial from a house, Is.8.21; καταλείψει μηδὲ ταφῆναι not even his burial expenses, Ar.Pl.556; “τῷ δ᾽ εἶναι μηδὲ ταφῆναι” Id.Ec.592.

        Like

        1. I asked scholar Larry Hurtado about your theory and here is his reply:

          “Paul’s statement that Jesus was “buried”, using the Greek verb “thapto” does designate a disposal of the corpse in a burial procedure and ceremony. That’s the use of the verb in the NT and more generally: See, e.g., Franco Montanari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, ed. Madeleine Goh and Chad Schroeder (Leiden: Brill, 2016). So far as Paul knew (and he had spent lengthy times with Jerusalem followers such as Kephas and James), Jesus received a burial.”

          So at least one scholar agrees with you!

          Like

          1. Update: Larry Hurtado has changed his mind:

            Gary: So as long as the Romans placed Jesus’ body in a dirt trench and covered it over with dirt, that would qualify as “thapto’d”?

            larryhurtado:

            I suppose. But you need to reckon with another matter that is sadly and curiously often under-estimated. Why does Paul include Jesus’ burial as one of the four core affirmations that comprise the kerygma that he says he shares with Jerusalem church? It’s not enough to say that Paul presumed Jesus was entombed. In that case, it would have been enough (as usually the case) to affirm Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, why is the burial included? The most reasonable answer is because Jesus’ burial (and probably the place of his burial) had become (in the Jerusalem tradition) a component of tradition. I doubt that dropping Jesus’ body into a trench would have generated such a tradition. It’s more likely that “thapto” in 1 Cor 15 has its more typical meaning: a body placed in a tomb.

            Like

          2. Hurtado is clearly not a linguist. He evidently fails to understand that thapto does *not* refer to the act of digging a hole and placing anything – including a body – in it. Thapto more specifically means to “honor with rites”, and while it is used to *mean* a burial, one can also be “thapto’d” (honored with rites) in a cremation.

            He concludes that “It’s *more likely* that “thapto” in 1 CDor 15 has it’s more typical meaning: a body place in a tomb”.

            The thing is, this is not merely it’s “more typical meaning”. It is *the* meaning. Just go through the Septuagint, and look up EVERY instance of thapto, and it will refer to a burial with rites. Or, has already been suggested to you – yet, you refuse to let your mind settle on – go look up the word in LSJ or Brill.

            Thapto is simply NOT the word for “burial”, as in “the cat buried his poop”. It has to do specifically, and only, with “burial with rites”.

            You keep on pushing this argument, and it’s just making you look obsessive. But I’ll warrant that no Greek linguist is going to tell you, authoritatively, what you’re really straining badly to hear. Even Hurtado didn’t. He affirms that Paul’s usage (AS WITH EVERY SINGLE USAGE IN THE OT) has to do with “burial with rites”.

            Look at 2 Samuel 18:17 “They took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest and erected over him a very great heap of stones.”

            THAT is NOT “thapto”. Therefore, it doesn’t SAY that Samuel was “thapto’ed”. He was covered over with stones in a pit.

            Like

          3. θάπτω from Root ΤΑΦ, cf. ταφθῆναι, τάφος

            to pay the last dues to a corpse, to honour with funeral rites, i. e. in early times by burning the body, Hom.: then, simply, to bury, inter, Hdt., attic
            Liddell and Scott. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1889.

            ——————–

            θάπτω , fut.
            A.“θάψω” Is.8.21:—Pass., fut. “τα^φήσομαι” E.Alc.632, Lys. 13.45, also “τεθάψομαι” S.Aj.577, 1141, E.IT1464: aor. 1 “ἐθάφθην” Simon.167 (cj.), Hdt.2.81,7.228; more freq.aor. 2 ἐτάφην [α^] Id.3.10, 55, and alwaysin Att., as Ar.Pl.556; part. “ἐν-θαφείς” CIG2839 (Aphrodisias): pf. τέθαμμαι, Ion.3pl. τετάφαται v.l. τεθάφαται Hdt.6.103; imper. “τεθάφθω” Luc.DMar.9.1; inf. “τεθάφθαι” A.Ch.366 (lyr., prob.l.), Lycurg.113: plpf. Pass. “ἐτέθαπτο” Od.11.52, Hdt.1.113:—honour with funeral rites, “ὅτε μιν θάπτωσιν Ἀχαιοί” Il.21.323, cf. Hes.Sc.472; esp. by burial, “οὐ γάρ πω ἐτέθαπτο ὑπὸ χθονός” Od.11.52 (but freq. used later with ref. to cremation, D.S.3.55, App.Hann.35, Philostr.Her. 10.11, etc.; “πυρὶ θάπτειν” Plu.2.286f, Philostr.VS2.20.3); “θάπτειν . . γῆς φίλαις κατασκαφαῖς” A.Th.1013, cf. E.Supp.545 (Pass.); “θ. ἐς χῶρον” Hdt.2.41; “οὗ ἐβούλοντο” Th.8.84; θ. ἐξ οἰκίας to carry out to burial from a house, Is.8.21; καταλείψει μηδὲ ταφῆναι not even his burial expenses, Ar.Pl.556; “τῷ δ᾽ εἶναι μηδὲ ταφῆναι” Id.Ec.592.
            Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.

            —————————–

            θάπτω , aor. θάψαν, pass. plup. ἐτέθαπτο: inter, bury.
            Georg Autenrieth. A Homeric Dictionary for Schools and Colleges. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1891.

            Like

          4. θάπτω: 1 aorist ἔθαψα; 2 aorist passive ἐτάφην; from Homer down; the Sept. for קָבַר; to bury, inter (BB. DD. under the word ; cf. Recker, Charicles, namely, ix. Excurs., p. 390f): τινα, Matthew 8:21; Matthew 14:12; Luke 9:59; Luke 16:22; Acts 2:29; Acts 5:6, 9; 1 Corinthians 15:4. (Compare: συνθάπτω.) NOTE: Sept equivalent for Hebrew “qabar”

            ———————–

            “The Hebrew word qabar signifies to perform funeral observances, and is rendered in the Septuagint, thapto, the fiist meaning of which is to perform funeral rites. …. The word qabar, like the Greek thapto, can therefore be properly used when there is a funeral and no burial or interment of the corpse.”

            “The word qabar, like the Greek thapto, can therefore be properly used when there is a funeral and no burial or internment of a corpse”

            “Again, so far as the Septuagint word thapto is concerned… tells of “funeral rites” rather than a burial”

            “With either word, therefor (qabar or thapto) we are equally safe and scriptural in concluding that Moses was really *buried* [ orig in italics ]”

            J. Fletcher in “A Series of Brief Essays..”, ed R.F. Griffiths, London, Griffiths & Co, Porchester Rd

            ——————

            I have offered information provided in LJS, Thayers, Strongs, Autenrieth, and as proffered by excellent linguists such as Fletcher.

            Thapto has to do with “honoring” someone “especially with burial rites”.

            I’m really sorry NONE of this lines up with the interpretation you’d like to put on the word, but, it just doesn’t. That’s the reality of the thing.

            Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s