Christian Research Institute: Dear Gary,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thank you for contacting the Christian Research Institute!
Do N.T. Wright and Raymond Brown really reject the eyewitness status of the Gospels? Sure, there may be questions on the traditional authorship? Does not even traditional authorship only place Matthew and John as eyewitnesses with Mark and Luke being followers close to the eyewitnesses? But I fear you still miss the basic thesis of Richard Bauckham and maybe need a second read? Why does Wright endorse Bauckham? See https://eerdword.com/blurb-of-the-week-n-t-wright-on-jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses/
Does not even Wright’s comments on 1 Corinthians15:1-11 indicates that Paul knew of eyewitnesses that could be called upon? Explain? See p. 325, The Resurrection of the Son of God.
Does Brown really think the Passion Narrative (PN) were devoid of any eyewitness source? Does he dismiss completely eyewitness reports shaping the PNs? What Brown presents is a bit more complex? May have to do a second reading of Brown?
Seeing illusions of Christ is dealt with in the article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: HALLUCINATION the Recent Revival of Theories” by Gary R. Habermas. Did you have a chance to read it? Thoughts? Strong points? What were the weak points?
What makes you think first century Jews would innovate their belief in the resurrection to come up with the Christian doctrine that Christ rises first then the Christian at the end of history? How do you suppose that because radical changes happen elsewhere never really explains why the disciples changed their minds? So, what if it does? Are you not just evading the question of why first century Jews would change their minds? Would they not be doing this on the risk of eternity? Modern Americans might flip religions like pancakes at the IHOP, but what makes first century Jews the same?
Still doubtful you are really thinking though the matter clearly.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always!
Christian Research Institute
Gary: Good afternoon, Warren! I am enjoying our conversation.
“Do N.T. Wright and Raymond Brown really reject the eyewitness status of the Gospels?”
Yes, Raymond Brown rejects the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. NT Wright questions the traditional authorship of the Gospels. He states, “I have no idea who wrote the Gospels, nor does anyone else”. You can read their statements here:
To be clear, both scholars do believe that eyewitness accounts are present within the Gospels, but they believe that these eyewitness accounts have been extensively “reshaped” before finally being written down by the anonymous Evangelists decades later. So my question would be: Which parts are eyewitness statements and which parts are “reshaped” (embellishments)? How would we know?
“But I fear you still miss the basic thesis of Richard Bauckham and maybe need a second read? Why does Wright endorse Bauckham? “
NT Wright does write a note of praise in the preface of Bauckham’s book but no where does he say that he agrees with Bauckham’s position on the authorship of the Gospels. His praise is very “British”: A lot of flowery praise about the man but nothing specific about Bauckham’s research.
Yes, I realize that Christian apologists are very keen to knock down skeptic accusations that groups of people HALLUCINATED seeing Jesus. And I am in agreement with Christian apologists on this issue. Group hallucinations are impossible. However, many people have experienced group illusions, such as group sightings of the Virgin Mary. A group of devout Catholic Christians claim that the Virgin Mary along with some of the disciples appeared to them in Knock, Ireland in 1879. Did these devout Catholic Christians really see dead people or did they see a bright light or shadows? A crowd of thousands claim that Mary appeared to them again in Knock, Ireland in 2017. You can even watch her appearance on youtube.
All I see is a bright light…but maybe I’m too skeptical. What do you see? So, based on cumulative human experience, it is entirely possible that all the original group sightings of Jesus involved similar sightings of bright lights…and the more detailed stories of a individuals and groups seeing a walking, talking corpse are later “reshaping” (fictional theological/literary embellishments). As you can see in the youtube video, people get very emotionally worked up when they think they are experiencing a supernatural phenomenon. Emotions take over in these situations and often reason and rational thinking take a back seat. Bottom line, if illusions today can be interpreted by Christians as appearances of dead people, why should we doubt that similar illusions (bright lights, shadows) were the cause of alleged sightings of Jesus in the first century??
“What makes you think first century Jews would innovate their belief in the resurrection to come up with the Christian doctrine that Christ rises first then the Christian at the end of history?”
My answer: Cognitive dissonance. Jesus claimed he was the Jewish messiah. According to the Gospels, the disciples believed him and were expecting to rule with Jesus on thrones in the New Kingdom. I bet they made many grand plans about their wonderful life in the New Israel. When Jesus was suddenly and unexpectedly killed, the disciples had to seriously re-examine their beliefs. “Where in the Jewish Bible does it say that the messiah will be killed? According to Jewish Scriptures, the messiah will establish the New Israel, sit on the throne of David, and the entire world will bow before him. Jesus didn’t do that before he died! What does all this mean???” Then one of the disciples had a vision (night dream) or trance (day dream) of Jesus. It was so real that the disciple believed it to have really occurred. In the vision (vivid dream, hallucination) Jesus tells the disciple that he has gone to heaven but will soon return with an army of angels to conquer the Romans and establish the New Kingdom. That one disciple convinces others that his vision was real. Then other disciples begin to have vivid dreams, false sightings (cases of mistaken identity), illusions, and/or hallucinations of Jesus. Groups of disciples see a bright light and believe it to be an appearance of Jesus. “Was Jesus alive again? If so, why doesn’t he stick around? Hey! Maybe the resurrection has begun! Maybe Jesus is the “first fruits” of the resurrection of the righteous dead, and the remaining righteous dead will soon rise. The New Kingdom is nigh! Sell all your possessions and move to the city of David (Jerusalem) to fast and pray for Jesus’ soon return. He could return at any moment!”
Voila! A new “twist” to the Jewish concept of resurrection is born!
“Are you not just evading the question of why first century Jews would change their minds?”
You can go online and find You tube videos of a man who was once a Jewish rabbinical student. He then converted to Islam and became an imam. He now rants and rages against Zionism. That is a much more dramatic conversion than that of the disciples. The disciples of Jesus continued to worship in the Temple for decades after Jesus’ death, at least according to the author of Acts. The original disciples never fully left Judaism, this man did. Once again, the fact that a devout Jew converts to another belief system is not evidence that the new belief system is true!
I have a question for you, Warren: Do you perceive the presence of Jesus Christ within you?
Have a great day!
End of post.