Gary: If some detailed stories in the Gospels are not historical (dead saints walking the streets of Jerusalem) then why can’t other stories be non-historical (“Luke’s” Ascension Story, John’s Doubting Thomas Story, etc.)? If some stories in the Gospels are fictional, isn’t it plausible that although the empty tomb, women finding the empty tomb, and claims of appearances to some of Jesus’ followers are historical facts, the detailed stories about these facts are fictional embellishments? Maybe the “facts” are the bare bones account that we see in the Early Creed and everything else is fictional? How would we know otherwise?
It is therefore possible that people really did believe that Jesus appeared to them, but their claims of what they saw are not what we see in the Gospels. Maybe the original claims were the same as Paul’s claim (at least according to the anonymous author of the Book of Acts): they all saw bright lights.
Christian: Gary, none of the apostles expected to see Jesus either crucified or resurrected from the dead. That wasn’t on their radar at all, and in fact, when the women tell the male disciples they’ve seen the resurrected Jesus the men don’t believe them at first.
When Jesus encounters the two disciples headed back to Emmaus in Luke 24, not recognizing him as Jesus (a detail not likely to have been invented, either) they tell him that they thought they had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth however when Jesus was executed by the Romans they realized they’d backed the wrong horse. This too is not a story the early church would’ve invented.
Also, ancient people weren’t stupid; they knew the difference between a bright light and a person. The gospels insist that they saw a flesh-and-blood person, who they touched and could hear and who actually ate a meal with them. I’ve never heard of a light with an appetite for broiled fish, have you?
At the end of the day–as you yourself have agreed–believers and skeptics alike are left with an empty tomb. If there was no resurrection *what happened to the body*?
The fact the gospels make several embarrassing claims regarding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (his disciples and family save John and his mother all fled; the Romans had to borrow a tomb to bury him; women were the first witnesses to the resurrection and the male disciples won’t believe them until they encounter him themselves; etc) argues that the story of the resurrection isn’t a literary invention, because–again–people don’t normally tell lies that could damage their credibility.
“This too is not a story the early church would’ve invented.”
The “Church” has invented all kinds of tall tales. Did you know that the Church invented a document whereby Emperor Constantine allegedly donated the city of Rome to the pope? Even the Church now admits that it was a forgery. And please don’t tell me the “early” Church was any different than the Church a few hundred years later. Human beings are capable of telling whoppers when it serves their purposes and goals. Anyone who believes that the original disciples of Jesus and other early followers of Jesus were all “saints” is living in fantasyland.
“Also, ancient people weren’t stupid; they knew the difference between a bright light and a person.”
So was Paul stupid?
“The gospels insist that they saw a flesh-and-blood person, who they touched and could hear and who actually ate a meal with them. I’ve never heard of a light with an appetite for broiled fish, have you?”
This is a circular argument and conjecture: “The disciples really did watch Jesus eat a broiled fish sandwich because that is what the Gospels say, and the Gospels must be historically accurate because Christians would NEVER tell a lie or make up stories that make themselves look silly.”
Nonsense. Oral story tellers and book authors want to give their audience a good story. Inventing a story of the resurrected Jesus eating a broiled fish lunch is much more interesting than rattling off the bare bones story of the Early Creed. This is STORY TELLING. The authors were not lying but neither were they giving a history lesson.
“people don’t normally tell lies that could damage their credibility.”
You are thinking in black and white terms: either the Gospel authors were telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth or they were lying. How about something in between. They were telling STORIES, for evangelization purposes only.
What happened to the body? No idea, but my first guess would be that someone moved the body. Isn’t that the most probable explanation for most empty tombs/graves?
End of post.