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The Resurrection of Jesus: A Sourcebook (Jesus Seminar Guides Vol 4) Paperback – January 13, 2009
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The event of Jesus resurrection is like the event of creation: There were no eye-witnesses. So how does one make sense of the story of the resurrection or rather stories, for not one but many diverse reports survive from early Christianity? Brandon Scott suggests that we must begin by erasing all Christian art about the resurrection from our memory. And then forget all the sermons we heard at Easter. The best way to understand the resurrection, he argues, is to arrange the texts chronologically and observe how the story itself developed. The Resurrection of Jesus: A Soucebook begins with just such a list, compiled with commentaries by Robert W. Funk. It proceeds to a report of the Jesus Seminar s votes on the resurrection, followed by a collection and discussion by Robert Price of resurrection stories found in the Greek culture of Jesus day, and an in-depth study by Arthur Dewey of a little-known resurrection story in the Gospel of Peter. The final essays in the volume, by Roy W. Hoover and Thomas Sheehan, explore the origins of belief in Jesus resurrection and help put the pieces back together again, in ways that make sense in the modern world.
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The emergence of a cosmic figure from tomb is depicted in the gospel of Peter 9-10. In Hebrews 9, Jesus hands over his shroud to a slave of the high priest and then appearing to James. The appearances described in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Luke 24, John 20-21, transfiguration story, Acts 7, and Revelation are not necessarily original but some are duplicates. It is hard to determine which one is the original and correct description. In probing the issues of resurrection of Jesus, the Seminar concludes that the empty tomb is not based on historical memory. Mark and Matthew describe resurrection in Galilee, but Luke says it is Jerusalem; John cites resurrection appearances in both cities. The earlier sightings of Jesus were luminous visions as described by Paul and later supported by Luke but as the traditions developed, the resurrection became more palpable and physical.
Paul who claimed to have received an appearance of the risen Jesus (1 Cor 15:8), was blinded by intense light. He heard only a voice on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:4, 22:7, 26:14). Later Paul refers to this as an apocalyptic revelation and not a visual appearance. By 70 CE, the gospel of Mark was written; in Mark 16:1-8, we come across the events that is supposedly occurred on Easter Sunday morning complete with empty tomb and angels proclamation of Jesus resurrection. Finally 85-95 C.E., saw the books of Matthew, Luke and John. These texts exploded with elaborate narratives of Easter and the events of the following weeks.
Easter lasted few days to several years depending upon the text. According to Paul of Tarsus, the resurrection happened after 4 or 5 years. Luke suggests 40 days in the book of Acts, Secret gospel of James for 550 days, and the Pisitis of Sophia for 11 years. The physical unrecordability of these miraculous events comes down to one thing; the gospel stories about Easter are not historical accounts but religious beliefs. The suffering and vindication of the righteous one is the story of crucifixion and resurrection. Repentance, forgiveness and redemption are the key concepts in the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Resurrection and the holy sacrament offer a powerful story for believers.
1. The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus
2. The Parables of Jesus (Jesus Seminar Series)
3. The Gospel of Jesus: According to the Jesus Seminar
4. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
5. Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
6. The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus: The Definitive Collection of Mystical Gospels and Secret Books about Jesus of Nazareth
7. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts Complete in One Volume
8. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation
9. 55. St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Against the Heresies Book 1(Ancient Christian Writers) (v. 1)
10. Irenaeus of Lyons and the Theology of the Holy Spirit (Oxford Early Christian Studies)
"It's important to acknowledge that strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous, but..." --Dr. Craig Blombery to Lee Strobel; The Case For Christ, page 22
There is no 'but'; the gospels are either anonymous compositions or they are not, and no amount of apologetic sophistry or argument from tradition is going to turn them into eyewitness accounts or first-person accounts or even 'hearsay' accounts once removed. The PLAIN-AND-SIMPLE TRUTH of the matter (although truth is hardly plain and rarely simple) is that (1) the four Gospels are copies of copies of copies of original documents that (2) no one has actually found, that (3) no one knows who wrote, and (4) were finally 'given names' a hundred years after the fact so as to make them appear authoritative.
Too often Christian apologists use the argument that "by all historical accounts Jesus rose from the dead." Ask them what they mean by "historical accounts" or what they are using for historical records and they will quickly point you to the New Testament, specifically the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But is it at all reasonable and rational to consider the Gospels 'historical accounts' beyond the basic fact that they were created sometime in history? When Christians use the terms 'historical accounts' or 'historical records' what they want to mean is 'eyewitness accounts'.
But are the Gospels 'eyewitness' accounts? Were they composed by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as witnesses to the life of Jesus?
As any true student of the Bible and church history can tell you, the four gospels are not eyewitness accounts: (1) they were written as third-person narratives, and (2) they were originally composed anonymously and the names Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John ascribed to them were actually second century "guesses" in order to give them the appearance of legitimacy and credibility. So what does it mean when someone makes the claim that 'by all historical accounts Jesus rose from the dead'? It actually means that according to an anonymously written third-person narrative a supernatural and/or magical event occurred in which a character called 'Jesus' circumvented the Laws of Physics and Biology and rose from the dead. And what, exactly, is an anonymously written third-person narrative? It is nothing more than hearsay thrice-removed! Not only is there (1) not an eyewitness account, but (2) only a third-person account, without (3) a named or recognized author taking credit for the composition of that third-person account! That is why the Gospels are hearsay three-times removed. No one knows who wrote the Gospels or if any of the events contained therein actually happened. In other words, millions of people may be using as a "testimony" of their faith four documents describing magical and supernatural events that may have been created out of whole cloth and motivated for purely political or religious reasons.
Which explanation is more feasible given what we know about the way the world works? That magical/supernatural/miraculous events occurred two thousand years ago, although such events haven't occurred since, or that these documents were deliberately and anonymously created in order to satisfy a political or religious agenda? Since they were anonymously written and in the third-person, it would be irrational to attribute to them any sense of validity because the events they describe simply do not correspond with the way we know the real world works. Miracles and magical and supernatural hocus-pocus simply do not occur, so the simplest explanation (by way of Occam's Razor) is that these anonymously-written third-person narratives were created solely as a tool for propaganda in order to entice superstitious or magically-inclined people to climb aboard a particular band-wagon.
What does it mean that the Gospels are hearsay three-times removed?
(1) Hearsay Once Removed: I overheard somebody say something to somebody else, then repeat what I overheard. My repeating of what I heard is not the original source. It is once-step removed from the original source, and it wasn't even said to me directly. Anything I say could be pure invention, so this is hearsay once removed.
(2) Hearsay Twice Removed: I repeat something that somebody else claims to have seen or overheard or read. I didn't actually see or overhear it, but only repeat what somebody else claims to have seen or heard. The problem with this form of hearsay is that whatever I am told and then repeat might never have happened at all. The person telling me the story may have fabricated the whole thing out of whole cloth. This is hearsay twice-removed.
(3) Hearsay Thrice Removed: Suppose I pick up a notebook written in the third-person claiming all sorts of fantastic things, strange and magical events that simply do not happen in the 'real' world. There is no author's name on the notebook, so I have no way of knowing who wrote it. Not only do I have no idea who wrote it, because it is written in the third-person (because it doesn't claim to be a first-person 'eyewitness' account) I have no way of knowing if any of the events or any of the conversation described therein actually occurred. Since the events it describes are strange and magical, it would be particularly foolish of me to take the events described in the notebook as true and at face value, because (1) I don't know who wrote the notebook, (2) I don't know where it came from, (3) because it is written in the third-person I have no way of knowing if anything the notebook describes ever happened at all, and (4) if strange and magical events don't typically occur in the 'real' world, why would I start believing them only because they were described in an anonymously written third-person narrative? Now, suppose fifty years later somebody slaps an author's name on the notebook simply to make it look more appealing and legitimate; does the fact that it's now been associated with an arbitrary name alter the fact that it is still hearsay, still a third-person narrative account, still reciting strange and magical stories that don't actually occur in the 'real' world? No! However you try to argue around it, the notebook is still hearsay, still a third-person account, still not an 'eyewitness' account or so-called 'historical record'. If I quote from this notebook, what am I actually quoting? Am I quoting the words and deeds of 'real' people or simply made up characters? Because it is a third-person narrative I have absolutely no way of knowing, none of it may never have happened, so in the end all such supernatural claims, accounts, and conversations contained within the notebook are ultimately meaningless.
Just like the Gospels.