Gary: Hi Erik, Question for you: When Moses and Elijah appeared to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, what type of bodies did they have? Resurrected or other? Thanks.
UnkleE: I haven’t a clue, I can’t see how I could know. I can think of several possibilities. My GUESS is that they were a vision, an appearance and not physical, but that’s only a guess. Why do you ask?
Gary: I think the Story of the Transfiguration sheds light on how first century people thought about sightings of dead people. In Greco-Roman culture a ghost could have a body. The Gospel authors seem to agree with this belief. Moses and Elijah did not appear in resurrected bodies (the general resurrection has not yet occurred). They were not in “raised from the dead bodies” as the text says that they popped out of view in an instant. Real human bodies don’t do that. So that leaves ghostly bodies. And these ghostly bodies were so real that Peter wanted to build housing for them.
So if Peter could see the ghosts of Moses and Elijah and believe they were real, why couldn’t he see the ghost of Jesus and believe it was real? What do you think?
UnkleE: Let’s jump first to the more general question – is it possible that the disciples were mistaken about the resurrection? And of course it is possible. I just don’t think it is true, or even likely. Just as I imagine you would agree that it is possible that God exists and he resurrected Jesus – you also don’t think it is true, or even likely.
But as to the parallel you are suggesting, I think it is problematic., for a whole range of reasons.
1. You say Greco-Roman, but we are dealing with Jews.
2. I say vision (possibly the word used in Matthew) then you say ghost.
3. You say couldn’t be resurrected because (a) general resurrection hadn’t occurred and (b) they “popped out of view in an instant”. But neither reason prevented Jesus from rising and appearing & disappearing, so why not here too?
4. You mention Peter, yet ignore that one of the accounts says he didn’t know what he was saying and so was obviously confused.
5. No-one in the transfiguration touched the two OT characters nor did they eat, as the resurrected Jesus did.
So I think the parallel you suggest isn’t at all apt. The resurrection stands or falls on its own merits.
So may I ask you a question please? We have “known” each other for a long time now, and the resurrection has always seemed to be important to you. Why is this still the case? Thanks.
Gary: Yes, the original eyewitnesses were allegedly Jews, but we have no uncontested eyewitness statements from any of these Jewish eyewitnesses. All we have are the accounts written in the Gospels, whom most scholars believe were not eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses, authors one or two generations removed from the alleged events they described, authors who were very likely Gentile Christians. Bottom line: The authorship, eyewitness status, and Jewishness of the Gospel authors is contested. And Paul, a Jew, tells us nothing about what he saw in his appearance experience.
Matthew plagiarized 90% of Mark’s gospel…yet in this story tweaks Mark’s story with the claim that it was only a “vision”. Sounds to me like “Matthew” was clever enough to see the danger in Mark’s story of introducing the concept of ghosts with bodies into the Christian tradition, so with one word he changed a literal event to a visionary event.
“But neither reason prevented Jesus from rising and appearing & disappearing, so why not here too?”
I apologize for not being more clear. If Moses, Elijah, and Jesus can “pop” in and out then they were not “raised from the dead” bodies or “resuscitated” bodies because these bodies are still purely human. Human bodies do not pop in and out of view. So these bodies are either resurrected bodies (reanimated and transformed) or they are spirits with the appearance of bodies (ghosts).
“You mention Peter, yet ignore that one of the accounts says he didn’t know what he was saying and so was obviously confused.”
Good point. Gospels authors allege that Peter was often having visions/trances and then being confused afterwards. He had a dream of animals floating on a sheet and wasn’t sure if this event was real or not. This shows the fragile state of Peter’s mind, demonstrating the strong possibility that the origin of the Resurrection Belief can be traced to Peter’s unstable brain.
“No-one in the transfiguration touched the two OT characters nor did they eat, as the resurrected Jesus did.”
You are assuming that the Gospels stories of disciples and women touching Jesus are historical. But either way, it doesn’t discount the possibility that the disciples believed that Moses and Elijah had come back from the dead. Peter wanted to build housing for them. This is evidence to me that the disciples could see ghosts and believe they had seen dead people.
So do you agree that the original claims of people seeing the risen Jesus could have been due to spirit/ghost sightings?
As to your last question: I have made rebutting the Resurrection my hobby. I consider myself a counter-apologist; an evangelist for reason and non-supernaturalist thinking. I am excited to have the opportunity to be part of the greatest movement in human history: the movement to debunk fear-based religious superstitions, the cause of massive human suffering and violence.
UnkleE: I’m having this strange feeling of deja vu. In the space of 3 comments you have changed the subject three times – from the transfiguration to the authorship of the gospels to the resurrection – which means you don’t offer evidence for what you say before you move on. I seem to recall this occurring in previous discussions.
I found a dozen misrepresentations and matters of fact in your latest comment that I think are unsupported by the evidence, some of them expressed in somewhat pejorative ways. And I seem to recall this occurring in our previous discussions too.
Perhaps as an evangelist this is to be expected. But I’m not much interested in going through these sorts of games again – you can read these two pages to see how I feel: https://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/life/logic-or-feelings/#scene and https://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/life/when-the-arguments-over/.
So are you willing to change approach, deal with one issue before jumping off to another, and use accurate language supported by evidence for claims you make? Or should we call it a day here?
Gary: Sorry, Erik. I was trying to be polite and answer all your questions. How about we stick to this one question:
If Peter could see a ghost on the Mount of Transfiguration and believe he had seen Moses back from the dead, why couldn’t he see a ghost after the crucifixion of Jesus and believe he had seen Jesus back from the dead?
UnkleE: Thanks. That’s easy.
He didn’t see a ghost, that’s just your idea. He either saw a vision or resurrected persons. But sure, I have already said he could have been mistaken about the resurrection, I just don’t think so.
So now my questions ….
1. If Peter was a human being with two eyes, and since he was a professional fisherman probably quite good eyes, why couldn’t he see a resurrected Jesus and believe he had seen a resurrected Jesus?
2. If quite a few other people had two eyes, why couldn’t they all have seen a resurrected Jesus and believe they had seen a resurrected Jesus?
Gary: Your original statement said you didn’t know how Moses (and Elijah) appeared to the disciples.
“As for your question, I haven’t a clue, I can’t see how I could know. I can think of several possibilities. My GUESS is that they were a vision, an appearance and not physical, but that’s only a guess.”
I agree with you. It is impossible to know. There are several possibilities:
1. Moses appeared in a resurrected body (reanimated and transformed) exactly the same as Jesus resurrected body after he rose from the dead.
2. Moses appeared in a “raised from the dead” body, similar to that of Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter.
3. Moses appeared in a spirit body (ghost). His dead body was still on Mt. Nebo.
4. The disciples and Jesus experienced the exact same vision (hallucination or dream), although psychiatrists and psychologists tell us this is impossible.
5. This story is legendary. It never happened.
You believe that what happened was option 4 or option 1. I believe it was probably option 5. But allowing for all possibilities (including those of a supernatural nature), I would say that all of these options could be the explanation.
I am happy to hear that you agree that the resurrection sightings could have been mistaken. They could have involved vivid dreams, illusions, cases of mistaken identity, hallucinations, and even lying.
To your questions:
1. ” If Peter was a human being with two eyes, and since he was a professional fisherman probably quite good eyes, why couldn’t he see a resurrected Jesus and believe he had seen a resurrected Jesus?”
I would agree that it is probable that Peter had good eyesight but I’m sure there are plenty of very good fisherman who don’t have the best of eyesight. So I would agree that if Peter had good eyesight, which he probably did, and it is true that the supernatural operates in our universe, it is very possible that Peter saw a resurrected Jesus.
But I’m not concerned about Peter’s eyes, I’m concerned about his brain. Anyone who believes he may or may not have seen a floating sheet of animals is not dealing with a full deck. Add to that someone who experiences a “vision” about a man who has been dead for over a thousand years (Moses)—and decides to build the dead man a house! Not exactly a rational, critical thinker. So, I believe it is highly likely that Peter’s experience of a risen Jesus involved something occurring in Peter’s brain.
2. “If quite a few other people had two eyes, why couldn’t they all have seen a resurrected Jesus and believe they had seen a resurrected Jesus?”
I readily admit that it is possible, allowing for the supernatural, that all the resurrection appearance stories found in the Gospels are historical facts. However, the issue is not what is possible but what is more probable. Why do you believe that a never heard of before or since resurrection is more probable than vivid dreams, illusions, cases of mistaken identity, lying, or hallucinations or a combination of all of these?
UnkleE: OK, so we can summarise.
1. We both agree there could be several explanations for the transfiguration, though of course we disagree on which is most likely.
(Just in passing, I disagree with this statement: “The disciples and Jesus experienced the exact same vision (hallucination or dream), although psychiatrists and psychologists tell us this is impossible.” A vision is different to a hallucination. It is something given by God and psychologists cannot tell us it is impossible.)
2. We both agree that it is possible that Jesus’ resurrection happened and didn’t happen. And again we disagree which is most probable. But you have summed up why when you say it could be true if “the supernatural operates in our universe”. Just as I would say it is unlikely to be true if there’s no God.
So why are you questioning me, a theist, about the resurrection?
But again may I point out a gross over-statement and mis-statement when you say “Anyone who believes he may or may not have seen a floating sheet of animals is not dealing with a full deck.” This is why I think discussion with you has little value, and why I think your evangelistic crusade against the resurrection is doomed to failure. Such statements sound strong and dismissive, but anyone who knows anything about the subject will know how much of an exaggeration it is.
As you have just admitted, if God exists, such visions are quite possible without any mental illness on Peter’s part. But further, secular psychologists have investigated mystical experiences (which are much broader than visions, but can include them) and found quite the opposite of what you say. You may like to read about some of this in Mystical experiences and Visions of Jesus.
“Why do you believe that a never heard of before or since resurrection is more probable than vivid dreams, illusions, cases of mistaken identity, lying, or hallucinations or a combination of all of these?”
1. Because many historical sources say it happened.
2. Because it makes sense of the evidence (as per NT Wright).
3. Because no other explanation makes any sense.
4. Because I trust Mark, Luke, John, Paul & James to be genuine.
5. Because why wouldn’t God resurrect his son?
“So saying Peter was not dealing with a full deck maybe a little harsh, but the poor chap doesn’t seem to have had the best critical thinking skills.”
OK, now a challenge for you. You keep using dismissive and pejorative statements to describe Peter’s state of mind (and other things). I suggest this hypothesis: you use these throw-away descriptions because you cannot express them medically without revealing how shallow and wrong your judgments are.
In support of my hypothesis, I say this:
1. You are apparently a doctor. You are capable of using professional terms to decribe mental conditions, and that is how you would behave in your prefesional life. Yet you don’t use them here.
2. In the two pages I referenced above ( Mystical experiences and Visions of Jesus) I analyse religious experiences including visions, based on copious references. These show that the experts generally don’t think that most religious experiences are pathological or psychotic, though some are. Please read both pages.
3. Where they are abnormal, the person is seldom able to function normally and their life deteriorates. Yet Peter is able to carry on a fishing business and later become a respected leader in the early christian church, quite the opposite.
So my challenge to you is to put together a serious diagnosis that fits the facts of neurological disorders and the New Testament and disprove my hypothesis.
There are several inconsistencies in your second paragraph, but I’ll come back to them later.
“I suggest this hypothesis: you use these throw-away descriptions because you cannot express them medically without revealing how shallow and wrong your judgments are.”
As you know, I am a doctor. Any patient who comes to me and tells me that he may or may not have seen a floating sheet with wild animals on it would get an immediate referral to a psychiatrist. And then when he starts telling me he also may or may not have seen his fishing buddy chat up two dead guys, I would instruct his family to drive him immediately to the mental hospital. You are the one wanting us to make an exception to routine medical practice for your delusional first century religious zealots.
I find it very funny when Christian apologists howl with outrage when I assert that the disciples most probably experienced some sort of mental crises (delusion, illusion, hallucination, bad dream) when they imagined that a dead corpse had appeared to them, yet when I bring up the supernatural claims of Mohammad they immediately cry out: He was a liar or he was delusional! And the same occurs when I bring up the supernatural claims of Joseph Smith: He was a liar or he was delusional. Yet if I say Simon Peter, whom the Gospels say was the first person to receive a resurrection appearance, most likely was a liar or delusional, I am accused of jumping to conclusions. Yet even the Bible indicates that Peter was prone to “seeing things” and was a world-famous liar! Your objections are hypocritical, my friend.
“Where they are abnormal, the person is seldom able to function normally and their life deteriorates. Yet Peter is able to carry on a fishing business and later become a respected leader in the early christian church, quite the opposite.”
I see patients every day with mental illness (major depression, anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, etc.). Most mentally ill people function normally MOST OF THE TIME and only decompensate when in an emotional crises or medical illness leads them to become psychotic and delusional. So your argument fails.
You did not respond to this statement: “I would agree that we both have biases influencing our beliefs. I have a bias against the supernatural and you have a bias for the supernatural. But it is important to note: The overwhelming majority of the world’s theists (who believe in miracles and the supernatural) also reject the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. You can say that they too have biases, but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of people on earth, including most theists, think your evidence is poor.”
So can you really claim that the evidence for this never heard of before or since first century supernatural event is “good”?
“Your objections are hypocritical, my friend.”
So, you didn’t accept the challenge. I offered you, in those two pages, many references to expert neuroscientists and pschyologists (which neither you nor I are) that the sorts of claims you make are not generally true of people who have religious experiences including visions.
You haven’t suggested what diagnosis you make of Peter, you haven’t offered any evidence that your way of describing Peter is correct, yet I am hypocritical?
So, Gary, this discussion ends where they always do, with you refusing to offer evidence to stand against the copious evidence that I offer. You prefer unprofessional and imprecise allegations. I might be wrong, but you never even attempt to demonstrate it with evidence.
And so it is clear that there is no point in proceeding. I allowed you first comment to stand because I though it’s a new year, maybe a new discussion. But sadly, no.
End of post.