Raymond Brown’s Summary on the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus: Christian Belief in the Resurrection is Ultimately Based On Faith, Not Apologetics

Image result for image of the resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus, along with his exaltation and his giving of the Spirit constituted an eschatological event—the beginning of the end time.  No one knows when the resurrection took place, for the New Testament writers can do no more than imply that it happened between the burial of Jesus and the discovery of the empty tomb.  No one of them tries to describe it.  While the risen Jesus stood outside the bounds of space and time, by his appearances he touched the lives of men who were in space and time, men who were in history.  The interaction of the eschatological and the historical should not be lost sight of.

It is reasonably certain that either the tomb was unknown, or that, if known, it was empty.  The tradition that the tomb was known and was empty was considerably older than the Gospel narratives that have been built around the discovery of the empty tomb.  It [the tradition of an empty, known tomb] deserves preference to the poorly supported hypothesis that the place of Jesus’ burial was unknown.  The idea that the body had been stolen may have been the first thought that occurred to Jesus’ followers when they encountered the empty tomb.

Modern fundamentalist statements such as “Our faith depends on the empty tomb” or “We believe in the empty tomb” are not only open to ridicule about the emptiness of one’s faith, but also misplace the emphasis in resurrection faith.  Christians believe in Jesus, not in a tomb.

In the genesis of resurrection faith it was the appearance of the glorified Lord that first brought his disciples to believe; and this belief, in turn, interpreted the empty tomb.  Ultimately the insight of faith shaped the narratives of the discovery of the tomb.

And so from a critical study of the biblical evidence I would judge that Christians can and indeed should continue to speak of a bodily resurrection of Jesus.  Our earliest ancestors in the faith proclaimed a bodily resurrection in the sense that they did not think that Jesus’ body had corrupted in the tomb.  However, and this is equally important, Jesus’ risen body was no longer a body as we know bodies, bound by the dimensions of space and time.  It is best to follow Paul’s description of risen bodies as spiritual, not natural or physical (psychikos); he can even imply that these bodies are no longer flesh and blood.  Small wonder that he speaks of a mystery!

In our fidelity to proclaiming the bodily resurrection of Jesus, we should never become so defensively governed by apologetics that we do not do justice to this element of transformation and mystery [faith].

Gary:  What have I learned from my reading of scholar Raymond Brown?

-I now believe in the historicity of the Joseph of Arimathea burial of Jesus (as described in Mark).

-I believe in the historicity of an empty tomb.

-the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are theological/literary invention.  They cannot be used as evidence for the sighting of a resurrected flesh and blood body by individuals and groups of early Christians.

-I believe that the earliest Christians sincerely believed that the risen Jesus, in some form or fashion, appeared to them.  The big question is:  What exactly did these people see?  I believe the answer is:  We cannot know because we have no confirmed eyewitness testimony of anyone describing exactly what he or she saw during an alleged appearance of Jesus.  Not even Paul tells us in his own words what he allegedly saw.

Did they see a body…or did they all see a bright light???

Image result for image of bright beam of sunlight in a garden
Jesus?

21 thoughts on “Raymond Brown’s Summary on the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus: Christian Belief in the Resurrection is Ultimately Based On Faith, Not Apologetics

  1. I think it’s great that you learned so much from Brown, especially about the empty tomb – something which a lot of people believed, without requiring input from Brown.

    Now, on to the Next Big Question:

    Can you supply me with any historically factual accounts of people that have lost a beloved friend or relative (son, daughter, brother, sister perhaps) and then believed a story told to them by another person, in which that other person claimed the deceased was alive again?

    If the very-common claim of skeptics that Peter just “hallucinated” a resurrected Jesus is to be a valid theory, then there *must* be record of some type, in history, in which people were known to believe that *other* people had been resurrected, *because*, such hallucinations are *known* to be common. (Recent studies have shown that such hallucinations are, in fact, quite normal).

    So, please site an example or two of people who had lost a loved one, then believed *someone else’s* story that the deceased had been raised from the dead. Clearly, with hallucinations as common as scientists say, there should be an ample number of such stories – and therefore, ample reason to believe that Peter had just hallucinated, AND that Jesus’ own mother brother (and others) believed him.

    Like

    1. “Up to six in ten grieving people have “seen” or “heard” their dead loved one, but many never mention it out of fear people will think they’re mentally ill. Among widowed people, 30 to 60 per cent have experienced things like seeing their dead spouse sitting in their old chair or hearing them call out their name, according to scientists. The University of Milan researchers said there is a “very high prevalence” of these “post-bereavement hallucinatory experiences” (PBHEs) in those with no history of mental disorders.”

      Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12191947/Six-in-ten-grieving-people-see-or-hear-dead-loved-ones.html

      Gary: This article demonstrates just how common it is for grieving family members and friends to “see” and “hear” their dead loved one. You want to insist that James, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the disciples experienced appearances (PBHEs) of a resurrected Jesus. You cannot prove that. Please present a confirmed eyewitness testimony of even ONE of these people claiming to have seen the resurrected body of Jesus. You can’t. It is entirely possible that they all simply believed that Jesus had appeared to them in some fashion. It was only later that these experiences were interpreted as resurrection appearances.

      Like

      1. Actually, I’ve already read that article.

        But, it doesn’t address the issue about what I was asking. In fact, I was referring to info in this and other articles when I said “Recent studies have shown that such hallucinations are, in fact, quite normal”.

        My question is whether you know of any studies that show (a) how many of those that have had such hallucinations have told other loved ones that the deceased (and hallucinated) person was actually alive again, and (b) how many of those *hearing* that story from the hallucinator actually *believed* the hallucinator.

        Let me know if you can provide me with that info. Skeptics very often claim that this is what happened in the case of Jesus, so, my presumption is that there must be record of the same thing happening, perhaps in recent recorded history. If not, then I’m not sure that this theory often put forth by skeptics is plausible.

        Like

        1. Paul says that he told people in Asia Minor that he had seen a resurrected Jesus and people believed him.

          You have no proof that James, Mary, or any other member of Jesus family believed that he was “alive again”. You have no proof that they ever claimed to see a “living” resurrected body. They believed that he was raised by the power of God and taken to heaven. You are assuming that a flesh and blood resurrected body hung out with his friends and family for forty days. Assumptions are not facts.

          Like

  2. Here’s another study that shows the same thing: https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2012/11/why-seeing-things-that-arent-there-does-not-make-you-insane.html
    I’m guessing, though, it won’t be enough for ‘ft’. ‘This isn’t what I asked for,’ he will cry, even though it is.

    As I’ve said before, the only first-hand account we have of an encounter with the risen Jesus is Paul’s. It’s extremely sketchy and vague (Galatians 1.11-17 and 1 Corinthians 9.1 & 15.45) but nonetheless points to experiencing a flash of light, not a physically resurrected man at all. He goes on to suggest that all the other encounters were just like his own (1 Corinthians 15.3-9).

    Such encounters with ‘Jesus’ still occur, as I pointed out in another recent comment; Stovell Weems’ just over a week ago, for example. How is his vision any different from that of the disciples?

    There’s also the fact that their visions are related third, fourth, fifth… hand, and decades after they supposedly happened. Whatever the original experience was, the reports, as Gary suggests, are hardly reliable.

    I’d give up, ft. You’re arguing for the impossible – dead people don’t live again, ever – and your insistence they do is very wearing.

    Like

  3. Oh, and looking for a modern instance of a third party believing someone has returned from the dead because of a relative’s vision would not be the same as examples from the ancient world, where supersition was rife and belief in the afterlife widespread.

    The gospels themselves record several instances of individuals believing a deceased figure had resurrected. According to Matthew 16.14, for example, people thought Jesus himself, while still alive, was John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah returned from the dead. This was the mindset then. It isn’t now.

    Like

    1. OK, this is all fine. All you’re doing is confirming that *scientifically*, nobody has ever done an empirical study to find out (a) whether people are ever truly convinced enough by an hallucination of a “dead person, alive aga” to *act* upon that belief, and (for example) tell that deceased person’s family that he was, in fact, alive, or, perhaps to demand that a grave be exhumed in order to see if the body was still there. And, (b) whether – having done so – the deceased person’s family and/or close friends actually *believed* the “he’s still alive” account.

      And, that’s OK. I’m just looking for info here. I myself have been searching around for any such cases throughout history, and have found none that were verifiable. And I certainly haven’t found any actual scientific study done on the matter.

      If the “hallucination skeptcs” are indeed correct, then this *MUST* be a repeatable phenomenon. Jesus *can’t possibly* have been the only such event.

      Like I say, I’m just unable to find any such info. It’s as if everybody just *expects* that we’re supposed to believe that (a) it could indeed happen again, but (b) it never has – presumably because “we’re so sophisticated now”.

      Me? I’m just wanting a scientific approach on this – something which surely you can appreciate. And, it would be so very easy to test. All you have to do is find a few people who have each lost a beloved friend or close relative, then have that friend go and tell the rest of the deceased persons family and close friends that the decease has been raised from the dead, no longer in the grave. Then, do a follow-up, and see how many of those family and mutual friends actually *believed* the report.

      But, alas, I can find no such data. I was hoping you guys might have it.

      Like

      1. All you’re doing is confirming that *scientifically*, nobody has ever done an empirical study to find out (a) whether people are ever truly convinced enough by an hallucination of a “dead person, alive aga” to *act* upon that belief, and (for example) tell that deceased person’s family that he was, in fact, alive, or, perhaps to demand that a grave be exhumed in order to see if the body was still there. And, (b) whether – having done so – the deceased person’s family and/or close friends actually *believed* the “he’s still alive” account.

        You are trying to prove that something that may have never occurred can occur today. Do you see why that seems irrational to us?

        We don’t know what James and Mary believed happened to Jesus. Do we have any confirmed statements from them? We can be pretty sure that they believed Jesus had bodily been raised from the dead and taken to heaven and that is why his grave was empty, but we have no proof that they believed they had seen a body. You are assuming that James and Mary were telling people that they had seen Jesus again (in bodily form) and for that you have no evidence.

        Like

  4. re: “You are trying to prove that something that may have never occurred can occur today. Do you see why that seems irrational to us?”

    Well, now, I’m just going by what most historians would agree with: That *somebody* (usually presumed to be Peter) had an hallucination that Jesus was actually alive again, and then, went and told others that knew Jesus in person (including, apparently, James and Mary), and — they believed him.

    Am I “presuming” that James and Mary believed the story? Well, maybe so, in the case of Mary. But, I truly don’t think it’s presumptive in James’s case.

    But, clearly, there were people that believed the story. It was, after all, this very story that Paul was so opposed to in the first place.

    So, this “hallucination theory” *must* be repeatable in some fashion, if we are to hold that it was a natural phenomenon. So, I’m just suggesting that it can be *tested*.

    We can certainly find someone who has a beloved friend or close relative that has died recently. We can have that person tell other friends and family members that he (our “tester”) has seen the deceased person very much alive. And, then, we can follow up and see whether anybody believed the story. That is, after all, the theory that skeptics use. I’m just saying “let’s test it”.

    What’s wrong with that?

    Granted, it might be difficult, if not impossible, to find someone who has lost a beloved friend or relative, and would be willing to be the “tester”, and go and tell other family members that he/she had seen the lost loved on alive again. That might be a bit problematic. But, once we’ve found someone willing to do that, then we can certainly follow up and see if anybody believed the story.

    I think somebody needs to give it a shot. It would prove, once and for all, that the hallucination theory totally holds water: it would prove to have been scientifically verified as “repeatable”.

    Like

    1. Are you sure that the eyewitnesses would have said that “Jesus is alive again”?

      That is the issue.

      If what they saw was not of flesh and blood, why would they assume Jesus was alive again? All we know is that they believed that Jesus had appeared to them. That’s it. An appearance of a flesh and blood body that you can touch and watch eat fish, certainly would seem to be “alive again”. But if what appeared to you was just a bright light, would you say that someone was alive again based on the sighting of a bright light?

      If James (and his mother) came to believe that because of an appearance of Jesus (as a bright light) to him that this was a sign from God that Jesus would soon establish the New Kingdom, that might have been enough for him to convert. He experienced a mystical experience and he interpreted this experience as a visitation by his brother. But saying that he believed that his brother was “alive again” is going beyond the evidence.

      Like

      1. Well, for starters, I think we can work with your “I saw a light” idea.

        The First Task is this:

        (a) Find someone (who we’ll call the Tester) who has had such an hallucination, and identified it as being an appearance of “Bob” (the beloved, recently deceased friend or close relative).

        Once we’ve done *that*, then we can move on to Part II.

        What I’m getting at in this discussion is not some round-about way of *arguing* with you guys. What I’m trying to do is *actually propose* a meaningful experiment.

        We know Jesus died. We (initially) are going to “accept” (as part of our experiment) that Jesus was indeed put in a tomb, and then, the tomb was found empty.

        Therefore, I would suggest that we look for a Tester who has had an halluciation of *SOME TYPE* that convinced him or her that “Bob” (who was lost at sea, or lost in an avalanche, or some other situation in which his body was never found) is *alive*.

        Why do I say “alive”? Because if it’s not *this*, then all the Tester is convince of is having hallucinated a *ghost*, an apparition. This cannot be what (presumably?) Peter took his “vision” as, because as we all know, the Messiah can’t be a DEAD Messiah. And, a ghost is proof-positive that the deceased person is indeed dead.

        BUT – OK – look – I’m *trying* to figure out how to TEST this “hallucination hypothesis”, like I said. I’m NOT trying to *argue*.

        If you got ideas of how we can test this, then just chime in.

        But, the Hallucination Hypothesis says that someone (usually, believed to be Peter) had an hallucination, and became convinced *OF SOMETHING*.

        And then – what?

        Help me out, here, guys. If this were a natural phenomenon with a natural explanation, then it should be re-creatable “in the lab” (so to speak). This is indeed something that we should be able to set parameters for, and determine that a person can indeed see an hallucination, and, somehow, convey to others that the hallucination was NOT an hallucination, but a real event, and, the Part II would be to show that the “hearers” would indeed believe the report of the Tester, and in some fashion, *act* accordingly (like, perhaps, requesting that the persons “Deceased” status be removed from legal records – or – *something*)

        So, help me find a way to test the Hallucination Hypothesis, OK?

        Again, if it were a natural phenomenon, it SHOULD be re-creatable, it SHOULD be falsifiable.

        So, how can we do this?

        Like

        1. the Hallucination Hypothesis says that someone (usually, believed to be Peter) had an hallucination, and became convinced *OF SOMETHING*. And then – what? …if it were a natural phenomenon, it SHOULD be re-creatable, it SHOULD be falsifiable.

          It was reproduced…by Paul.

          Peter had a vision (trance, vivid dream, hallucination, false sighting) in which he believed the risen Jesus truly appeared to him. The intensity of his belief was so strong that others believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead based solely on Peter’s persuasive testimony. Several years later, Saul/Paul had a similar experience, a vision (trance, vivid dream, hallucination, false sighting), and he too was so convinced of the reality of this experience that his intense belief persuaded many devout Jews in Asia Minor to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

          Paul gives you the experiment you are looking for.

          Like

  5. Not sure why such bad history is done on this topic.

    We have no confirmed surviving eye-witness accounts of anything that Alexander the Great by your criteria as far as I can tell. Much later writers (much, much later than the Gospel and New Testament writers) is all that survives.

    Like should be taken as confirmation of much of Mark in broad strokes – again, as ancient history is.

    Like

    1. In broad strokes I accept Mark: Jesus was crucified, buried, and his tomb was found empty. It’s the details I question.

      Like

  6. ft, there are plenty of ‘sightings’ of dead people that have persuaded people to believe an individual has returned from the dead. See here for some modern and some not-so-modern examples of the kind you ask for: https://www.charismanews.com/world/50329-proof-of-resurrection .

    All that these ‘prove’ is i) that there are people capable of believing they’ve seen, in some form or other, a person returned from the dead and b) that there are others who believe them. It does not mean a resurrection has really taken place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hey, Neil –

      Yeh, this is good info, and I appreciate you digging this up.

      Not to get “argumentatively technical”, but what’s being describe in the article is actually resuscitation, not resurrection. But, yes, this info does show that there are people that believe they have seen someone “raised from the dead”, and also that there are other people that would believe the story.

      But, though this is certainly *related* info, it’s not quite the info I’m hoping for.

      Gary has noted that all we have, in regards to Jesus, are apparent “visions”. (He’s discounting the gospel accounts on historical grounds, and that’s fine)

      Earlier, I had said this (and, I’m not re-posting this just to be irritating or argumentative):

      “Therefore, I would suggest that we look for a Tester who has had an halluciation of *SOME TYPE* that convinced him or her that “Bob” (who was lost at sea, or lost in an avalanche, or some other situation in which his body was never found) is *alive*.

      Why do I say “alive”? Because if it’s not *this*, then all the Tester is convince of is having hallucinated a *ghost*, an apparition. This cannot be what (presumably?) Peter took his “vision” as, because as we all know, the Messiah can’t be a DEAD Messiah. And, a ghost is proof-positive that the deceased person is indeed dead.”

      The reason I’m wanting to find someone who has had an hallucination is because, as Gary has repeatedly pointed out, that is what had occurred with Peter and Paul.

      Historically, what we have is a dead body that was put in a tomb, and then the tomb was found empty. This, of course, is unlike the examples in the article.

      After that, we have reported “sightings” – which, according to Gary, might well all have been hallucinations.

      So, what I’m trying to TEST is this “hallucination theory”.

      We all already *know* that people can and will believe many things that aren’t “real” or “true”, like optical illusions..

      But the task at hand is to confirm that (a) someone can have an *hallucination* that a deceased loved one – who’s body cannot be accounted for – has come back to life, and (b) that this “hallucinator” will actually *tell* the close friends and family that the deceased (and missing) person is alive, and (c) that any of those close friends and family will believe the report.

      I promise – I’m not trying to formulate a “test program” that is some kind of moving target, such that it cannot ever possibly be proven or falsified. But, this is specifically about “hallucinated events”. *THAT*, after all, *is* the “hallucination theory”.

      As such, the events in the article you sent aren’t really to the point. Those examples are interesting, but, they involve actual “dead people” (or, people believed to be dead) that are still “accounted for” – meaning – their bodies are still present. These were not “hallucinations”.

      I’m just interested in the “Hallucination Theory”, and wanting to test whether it holds water or not.

      Like

      1. FT: Here is a suggestion. Do a google search regarding soldiers who are MIA or that are known to have been literally “blown to pieces” in war (nothing left of the body to bury). Do any family members have dreams/hallucinations of seeing this person alive again and does any other family member or friend believe them.

        Like

        1. Gary –

          yep, this is exactly the kind of thing we need to find. Earlier, I had mentioned that there were people that had (for example) been “lost at sea”. And, I’m sure I’ve mentioned that throughout history, there have been millions of mothers who have lost sons in battle, and, never known what happened to the bodies.

          This is, in fact, the thing that got me thinking about the Hallucination Theory….

          I’ve never heard of any story of any such Mom having an hallucination that her lost son was alive again, and that then turned around and tried to convince other family members of it, as if it were a reality — unless, of course, she was simply mentally unstable. But, in that case, nobody else believed her story.

          So far, I haven’t been able to dig up any such cases where someone hallucinated a “dead person (with a missing body) alive again” that resulted in anyone else *believing* the story. And, I’m NOT saying this proves anything at all. It just means I haven’t found the stories just yet.

          But, it does bring up a fascinating question: How do we VERIFY that the person has, in fact, hallucinated?

          Neil has presented an article about dead people having been resuscitated. Of course, these were not “hallucinations”. These “dead people” may not have been dead at all, and, their bodies were present.

          But, in the case of a “missing dead body” — Maybe the body wasn’t ever missing at all. Maybe everybody else on the ship drowned, *except* this one guy, who managed to float to some island someplace, and, years later, got seen by Mom (once he had made it back to his country).

          I don’t want to bunnytrail, though. I’m really wanting to figure out how to formulate my Test (of the Hallucination Theory) in a truly scientific manner, and I don’t think I’ve got the formulation right at all: How do we confirm that our “hallucinator” actually just experienced an hallucination?

          There is probably some way to do this, so I want to figure it out. Otherwise, another scientist will come along and say “this study isn’t valid, because you haven’t confirmed that what your ‘hallucinator’ saw was indeed an hallucination”.

          I’m very open to suggestions on this. I’m really wanting to test this scientifically….

          Like

Leave a Reply to Neil Cancel 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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s