Friday, 29 February 2008

Resurrection Debate

This blog is to record a debate on the resurrection of Jesus from 21st February 2008 onwards between Steven Carr and John Twisleton

The Reverend John Twisleton is Chichester diocesan mission & renewal adviser

Some of his publications can be found Here

He has appeared on 'Firmly I Believe' on Premier Christian Radio

Please note that these posts have been redated to put them in logical, rather than chronological order.

This means that you have to click on 'Older Posts' to read the latest exchanges.

If you have been watching 'The Passion' on BBC with a new actor playing Jesus and James Nesbitt playing Pontious Pilate, this is the place to see just how much or how little evidence there is for the resurrection.

Opening Statement by John Twisleton

Steven Carr's First Response

Comment by the Reverend James Hollingsworth

John Twisleton's First Reply

Response to the Reverend James Hollingsworth

Steven Carr's First Response to John Twisleton

Second Post by James Hollingsworth

Response to James Hollingsworth

Reply from John Twisleton 1st March 2008

Response by Steven Carr 02/03/2008

Response from James Hollingsworth

Response by Steven Carr 08/03/2008

John Twisleton 08/03/2008

Response by Steven Carr 09/03/2008

John Twisleton 18 March 2008

Steven Carr March 19

John Twisleton March 27 2008

John Twisleton 2 April 2008 My apologies for posting this so late

Steven Carr 14 April 2008

John Twisleton Final Reply

Steven Carr Final Reply

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Opening Statement by John Twisleton

There’s a talking lamppost in north London I’m told. If you come near it, it flashes and shouts at you: ‘Stop! If you are engaging in an illegal activity your photograph will be taken and used to prosecute you. Please leave the area.’ Wrongdoers are said to flee the scene!

What usually happens doesn’t always happen. Life is full of surprises.

This spring we’ve seen extraordinary weather with winter coming and going and going and coming and coming again.

What usually happens doesn’t always happen.

The laws of science even allow for this. The resistance of a metal wire to the flow of electric current follows so-called Ohm’s Law that the voltage divided by the current is constant. At low temperatures Ohm’s Law breaks down and you get superconductivity.

I hope you get the drift of my argument. There is a philosophical point at issue which concerns the raising of the dead.

We couldn’t live our lives in one sense without a belief that what usually happens usually happens. Life’s predictability is an aid to getting on with life.

We couldn’t live our lives meaningfully without the belief that what usually happens is not what always happens.

Science can provide the footnote to the poem of life but Christianity is the poem itself – that’s how C.S.Lewis put it.

Christians live in the world with an other worldly vision that is opened up by Christ’s resurrection. This is God’s signature on the history of Jesus, his birth, life, suffering and death. It signifies that God has taken our nature in Jesus and taken it to himself.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? The angels said to the women. He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you…that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.

When I read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code or Richard Dawkins The God Delusion I am struck by assaults upon Christianity that are so far from tackling the real issue of truth that’s at stake.

Are you and I destined for eternal splendour or not? Is the evidence for Christ’s resurrection trustworthy or is it not? Is Jesus the Son of God or is he not?

Roughly a third of the population of the earth bows to the uniqueness of Christ. They do so in heart and mind and sometimes more heart than mind. They trust their Church to be a good steward of the gospel as much as people like Dan Brown and Richard Dawkins distrust her stewardship. There is an urgent need for more thoughtful Christianity and a fresh awareness of the evidence for the Christian good news and the awesome historical events that make Christianity Christianity. It’s the historical evidence which secure the trustworthiness of the teaching of the Christian Church.

Look at the evidence. The accounts of the resurrection in the New Testament are strangely matter of fact, even reserved. The disciples fail again and again to recognise Jesus. This failure would hardly have been relayed to us if, as some critics of Christianity make out, the disciples made up the stories. Would the different geographical focuses – Matthew in Galilee, Luke in Jerusalem – have survived in a made up version? Would the role of women as witnesses, very controversial in those days, have been included in a constructed tale?

In Daniel Clark’s recently published Dead or Alive? Harvard Law Professor Simon Greenleaf has this to say about the varying testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus: There is enough of a discrepancy to show that there could have been no previous concert among them; and at the same time such substantial agreement as to show that they all were independent narrators of the same great transaction.

This transaction, as he calls it, is further evidenced in history by the Christian church changing its weekly holy day from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday, that being the day of Christ’s rising. What a change that would have been for pious Jews!

Christ rose in fulfilment of the Old Testament and not out of the blue. The resurrection is not just evidenced in history it is the pledge of its fulfilment. The New Testament speaks of the risen Christ as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End of the Cosmos. Teilhard De Chardin spoke of the Risen Christ as the Omega Point. By raising Jesus as the centre of human history God the Father has made him our goal, our Omega. That is, in Christian understanding, the whole creation is moving and tending towards Jesus Christ who will be the fulfilment not just of human destiny but of the earth and the whole cosmos.

What evidence is there for the resurrection of Jesus outside the New Testament? The Roman historian Tacitus wrote in 115AD of ‘an immense multitude’ following Jesus despite his ‘suffering the extreme penalty…under Pontius Pilate’. How can we explain the extraordinary growth of Jesus’ followers if that penalty (crucifixion) had really been the end of his story? Tacitus is no friend of Christianity so his account of the early church all the more impressive corroboration of the resurrection.

Think also of this, possibly the most compelling evidence through the ages. In the Acts of the Apostles we see a frightened bunch of men and women ending up confronting the authorities confidently with the news that Jesus that was and is alive. Some of them became martyrs. They even died for their belief that Jesus is Lord. Such encounters with Jesus have continued over 20 centuries and have sustained the faith of thousands of martyrs. Today we see martyrs like the infamous suicide bombers who die for what they believe to be true. Imagine dying for what you not only doubt to be true but know to be false?

How significant it is that Christianity is the only religion refusing to talk of its Founder as a past figure. Buddha and Mohammed have graves but Jesus – that is a different story, one that makes Christianity unique.

What usually happens usually happens – but not always! Think about something more surprising than a talking lamppost - a rainbow.

Modern mathematics has shown through the so‑called Chaos Theory that complicated systems like for example the weather on the earth are quite chaotic in their nature. The weather is the result of quite random events occurring in an infinity of places. Yet from this chaos can and do emerge very beautiful manifestations of order and pattern - like the rainbow.

So, argues the Christian mathematician, although the tendency of living forms is towards the greater chaos of death and dissolution the emergence at one point in time and space of the Risen Christ is in harmony with our understanding of the theory of chaos and human existence.

The emergence at one point of a Man brought back from the dead is in harmony with scientific truth, as much as the emergence of a beautiful rainbow on a stormy day!

To say dead men don’t rise so Jesus couldn’t have is to reject any possibilities beyond this world.

To accept Jesus rose is to accept such possibilities for him, for yourself and for all who look for his promised return.

The theologian Karl Rahner speaks of the revolutionary implications of Jesus’ resurrection using the image of a volcano: What we call Jesus' resurrection - and unthinkingly take to be his own private destiny - is only the first surface indication that all reality, behind what we usually call experience, has already changed in the really decisive depth of things. Jesus' resurrection is like the first eruption of a volcano which shows that God's fire already burns in the innermost depths of the earth, and that everything shall be brought to a holy glow in his light. He rose to show that this has already begun. The new creation had already started…

The resurrection of Jesus is good news because it opens up to us a perspective that gives both a purpose for living and a reason for dying. In the greatest of hardships we can sense eternal brightness ahead as surely as the Good Friday centurion could look at the carnage of the Cross and say God is at hand.

As Christians we live with pain and sorrow and things that seem utterly brutal and uncontrollable but we live with a God who brought Jesus from death and all that is out of nothing.

How can anyone live meaningfully without the belief that what usually happens is not what always happens because there are always the possibilities of God which exceed our asking or imagining and which will be revealed after our death?

The accounts of the Resurrection end with the risen Christ directing the disciples 'Go, tell all'.

This is why Mother Teresa could speak of Jesus Christ as the Truth ‑ to be told, the Life ‑ to be lived, the Light to be lighted, the Love ‑ to be loved, the Way ‑ to be walked, the Joy ‑ to be given.

Steven Carr's First Response

I would like to thank John for his article.

Firstly, I would like to point out that it was the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century who changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, If Christians in pre-70 Jerusalem had a Sabbath on Sunday, they would have been stoned to death faster than you can say ‘historical anachronism’.

I should point out that Tacitus says nothing whatever about any resurrection or even claims of a resurrection. He does say that a lot of Christians were accused of setting fire to Rome. Of course, Tacitus never mentions any Christian who allegedly saw a resurrection. It appears that Christians really were willing to die for a lie, unless they actually did set fire to Rome. Nero was looking for scapegoats. If an absolute dictator is looking for scapegoats, then no Christian could have escaped by saying that he didn’t want to be a Christian anymore.

So martyrdoms under Nero prove no more than the people found guilty in Stalin’s show trials prove that they really were plotting against Stalin. There would have been no chance to ‘recant’, and in any case, we have not one case throughout Roman history of any Christian ever being accused of preaching a resurrection.

The anonymous author of the Gospel of Mark wanted his readers to believe that Jesus had been tried by a kangaroo court , that only had one aim – to find Jesus guilty.

The anonymous author pointed out the lack of credibility, by pointing out how they differed from each other, even though they agreed on the main points of evidence - 'Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.' " Yet even then their testimony did not agree.'

John points out how the Gospels differ from each other, and tries to argue that this makes them more credible.

Why should we accept a standard of evidence that the Bible itself claims would be rejected even by a kangaroo court, looking for anything they could use as evidence?

The Gospels are anonymous works which contradict each other.

The earliest writings of anybody about the resurrection of Jesus are by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. It shows a remarkable lack of detail. All the resurrected Jesus does is 'appear' in an unspecified manner to various people.

Mr. Twisleton tries to prove the resurrection, so naturally he alluded to details from the Gospel stories. But it seemed that it never occured to Paul to allude to any Gospel stories when he talks about the resurrection.

Is John cleverer than Paul or is it that those stories simply did not exist when Paul was writing? Even when trying to talk about the nature of a resurrected body, Paul never draws on any alleged personal experience anybody ever had. The Gospels give a wealth of alleged facts about the nature of a resurrected body, but Paul never uses any, even when trying to refute the claims of people he calls 'idiots'. Why doesn't Paul simply rub their noses in the fact that their own Lord and Saviour, the very person they worship, had allegedly claimed that a resurrected body was made out of 'flesh and bones', and yet they still were asking with what sort of body a corpse comes back with?

Of course, Paul couldn't tell these Jesus-worshippers what their own Lord and Saviour had allegedly said, because neither he nor they had ever heard of any such stories.

From Paul's letter to the Corinthians , we learn that converts to Jesus-worship simply scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse. As Christians , they believed that Jesus was still alive, but they were baffled by the idea of corpses returning to life. From this we know that these converts were not converted by stories of corpses rising and eating fish. Converts believe what converted them. That is what conversion means. But these people did not believe in corpses rising. So they had not been converted by stories of a corpse rising and being touched.

This in itself is enough to refute the idea that the corpse of Jesus rose from the dead. Because these converts to Christianity had no idea that any such thing was supposed to have happened. It can't have been a core doctrine of Christianity that the corpse of Jesus rose from the grave, because converts believe the core doctrines of what they convert to, and these converts to Jesus-worship scoffed at the very idea of a corpse rising.

Of course, these people believed Jesus was a god, so they had no problem with the idea of a god living after the body he inhabited on earth had died, just as other people had no problem with the idea of Zeus turning into a swan and back.

In fact, there is nothing in Paul's letters to suggest that any Christian believed in a corpse rising. Paul contrasts the scoffers at resurrection with people who took part in baptisms for the dead. This seems to suggest that the baptisers believed the dead were already alive, but whatever the truth of that, there is nothing in Paul to suggest that these other Christians believed in a corpse rising.

Or else why would Paul not contrast their correct beliefs with the allegedly false beliefs of the Christian scoffers?

Paul attacks them on quite a different front. He regards them as idiots for having a model of a resurrection that involved a corpse rising. Paul writes 'You do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed.' Just as a farmer sees dead seeds even after the wheat has risen, so Christians should expect to see corpses, even after the resurrection.

For Paul, what rose from the dead was a new body, made of heavenly material. Paul trashes the idea that resurrected beings are made out of the dust that a corpse becomes - 'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God...'

Paul regarded heavenly things like a resurrected being as being as different to earthly things as a fish is different to the moon. Paul gives a whole host of categories of different things - man, animals, birds, fish, the sun, the moon - none of which turn into each other, to stress to the Corinthians how wrong they were to think that a resurrection involved a corpse turning into a resurrected being.

None of this makes any sense if all Paul had to do to persuade the Corinthians of a resurrection was to persuade them that a corpse rose from the grave.

But it makes perfect sense on Paul's view that the body was destroyed, and that we get new bodies. Paul is clear on this in 2 Corinthians 5 'Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.'

Paul uses metaphors for resurrection like changing clothes and moving to a new building, because he believed that Jesus left his earthly body behind at the resurrection and moved to a new body. Jesus had changed bodies in the way that we change clothes.

This is why Paul never refers to a corpse rising or the resurrection of the flesh. He did not believe in it.

Misleading English translations often add the word 'body' to passages in Paul which lack the word 'body'. I'm sure John will quote them, and I will point out where Paul refrains from saying that dead bodies rise.

Paul was a mystic who claimed to have visited Heaven and to have had revelations from Jesus.

He believed Jesus was alive, and had become 'a life-giving spirit'.

The converts to Jesus-worship accepted that Jesus was alive, but scoffed at the idea of a corpse rising. This made them doubt the resurrection , as they were not gods like Jesus and could not survive the death of their body.

Paul calls them 'idiots', and explains to them that there whole concept of resurrection was wrong. They would be resurrected just like Jesus, and also become 'life-giving spirits'. - "The first man Adam became a living being" ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.'

But for Paul, people would leave 'Adam's' body behind. That was an earthly thing, and could not be resurrected and become a heavenly thing. Paul believed he had to be rescued from his body, as he writes in Romans 7:24 'Who will rescue me from this body of death?'

This is the context of 1 Corinthians 15 and the only thing which explains why Paul wrote as he did - with no reference to corpses rising, and no personal testimony from anybody as to what a resurrected body was like.

For early Christians, resurrection did not involve a corpse rising. They either scoffed at the very idea, or regarded it as irrelevant to a resurrection, and as absurd as the idea of a fish turning into the moon.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Comment by the Reverend James Hollingsworth

Dear Steven, John

Thank you for your thoughts and deliberations so far.

I like the opening gambit that things are not always as they seem. I’ve just heard a science lecture in which I’m told that Strong theory (was it?) proposes at least 11 dimensions and possibly 13 so far. I’m not sure what that means but certainly Newtonian Physics is now relegated to the level of Helpful Primer.

I’m not sure that Richard Dawkins would thank you for putting his name in the same sentence as Dan Brown! Though I have never understood the whole ‘Resurrection as political invention later’ argument. For me more useful thoughts are to be found in the embarrassments of the empty tomb being found initially by women (something that would not be persuasive to early jews or gentiles and you might think that a more astute author would edit that bit out as unhelpful and not the main message here) likewise that silly phrase at the end of Matthews gospel ‘but some doubted’ clearly this author has not been to the same Team Building Meetings that I go. He’d clearly not had a text from New Labour on how to stay On Message. I don’t quite see the Contradictions that Steven sees but this is for two reasons I think. Firstly because a different angle is not the same as a contradiction. When I’m trying to work out from my children who did spill the milk I will get quite different tales but they often agree on the essentials (John knocked over the glass) whilst interpreting it differently (Janet nudged me at the time). So perhaps we’re using this word Contradiction in a slightly different sense. Secondly, I did have trouble following Steven’s arguments about the corpse and this might be because I’m not so familiar with his paraphrasing of the bible. On the one hand it seems that a lack of Paul banging on about a living corpse seems to prove that Paul didn’t think there had been a resurrection. On the other hand, Steven seems to argue, that the People hearing this would have been fine with it anyway (Zeus returning to a swan) or the People thought it absurd / irrelevant. This obviously makes it hard for St Paul to please both Steven and all of Paul’s initial readers! Perhaps it would be helpful to bear in mind that the Church has never believed in a resuscitated corpse but only a resurrected one and we’re not quite sure what that means except that whereas Lazarus was brought back to life and eventually died (interesting interpretation of this in the film Last Temptation of Christ where Lazarus is murdered to hush it all up), Jesus seems to have gone through death – so Jesus travels from Emmaus to Jerusalem quicker than most and appears inside locked rooms and yet eats fish (I’ll bet that fish was wishing to be the moon now).

I do admire Steven’s obviously correct tautological definition of a convert – they believe what they are converted to – or at least the core beliefs – if only this were true. I’ve never been to a church where people just believe what they are supposed to believe! (whatever that might mean!)

In my church you’ll find folk who don’t believe they just like a good song and to be with people (community based), some believe in a creator God, in a God who answers prayers, in a God who meets with them in worship, in a God who gives them meaning and purpose and makes sense out of life’s question, some will believe in a God who gives hope even beyond death and others in a God who cleans their slate and helps them to live now. I could keep going.

This doesn’t quite relegate the Resurrection to the level of So What? Because it feeds into their beliefs about God’s power and love and purpose. But it does mean that most Sundays I talk about God’s love etc more than banging on about a living corpse. If you were to read my sermons you could perhaps accuse me of the same inadequacies as St Paul – it would seem that I have not heard the stories of the resurrection, perhaps someone should write them!

John Twisleton's First Reply

I am grateful to Steven for engaging with some of my arguments.

The presuppositions in any resurrection debate are important and one of them is whether people are open to what is called ‘metaphysics’, science that is ready to look beyond the material order. This is why the main thrust of my leading article was that what usually happens doesn’t always happen. It was an attempt to soften folk up to what is really at issue in my way of looking at the subject.

This is why I started with such a broad brushed picture touching on philosophical and legal evidence as well as eye witness evidence and its corroboration outside the New Testament.

I am particularly grateful to Steven for filling out my own argument through bringing in St. Paul. Fancy my painting a picture of the resurrection from Christian tradition which ignored the ‘least of the apostles’ (Paul’s phrase – not mine)!

It seems from Steven’s response built on Paul that for him what is at issue is whether a corpse can be raised then or now i.e. whether there is metaphysics (in my jargon). For me the resurrection is something far more than resuscitation of the dead. It’s about a whole new order of things opening up as in the volcano image I related from Karl Rahner.

All of that being said I am bound from Steven’s response to engage with St. Paul’s witness to the Resurrection and how it harmonises with the eye witness accounts related in the Gospels.

Before I do that let me deal with the three lesser matters Steven challenges me about.

‘The Emperor Constantine…changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday’. The regulation came because of a dynamic that flowed from Christian origins. Revelation 1:10 speaks of the Lords’ day. Acts 20:7 has Troas Christians assembling to break bread on the first day of the week. 1 Corinthians 16:2 has new converts setting apart their alms on the first day of the week. This hallowing of Sunday rather than Friday/Saturday evidently links with a widespread conviction among Christians that Christ rose from the dead ‘on the third day’ (1 Corinthians 15:4). Second century writers like Ignatius and Justin Martyr affirm this hallowing of Sunday as the Christian holy day, long before Constantine’s edict of 321AD that Sunday should be made a public holiday. My point about the significance of pious Jews being persuaded to change their holy day still stands as corroborative evidence of something tremendous impacting upon their lives.

I wonder if Steven might have swallowed Dan Brown’s logic in Da Vinci Code that Christ’s divinity was a Constantinian construct? Constantine is important but he only became so because he made space for ascendant Christianity. That ascendancy, and the public affirmation of Christ’s divinity, lifts from a community which flows forward from that recorded in the New Testament, a community of the resurrection – we might argue more here I’m sure.

Another lesser point I must answer is related. Steven is right that Tacitus does not mention the resurrection directly but, as I wrote, he is a reliable witness to the extraordinary growth of Jesus’ followers following his crucifixion. This is consonant with his death not being the end of the story in the literal sense. Christians know it was not.

The analogy Steven makes between Mark’s dismissal of Jesus’ trial and his own invited dismissal of the four gospel accounts of the resurrection, both on the grounds of contradictory evidence is over ambitious to put it mildly. We can no doubt return to the eye witness accounts and their disparities – I mentioned some – but I repeat my own sense that an invented tale would be far neater than the consequences of a metaphysical out-of-this-world event. More down to earth, what the lawyers have to say about the evidence is also important here. I stand with the opinion of a former Lord Chief Justice that In its favour there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the Resurrection story is true.

So to the real meat of Steven’s argument against mine: St. Paul’s witness to the Resurrection, how it harmonises with the eye witness accounts related in the Gospels, and whether ‘for early Christians resurrection did not involve a corpse rising’.

‘Is John cleverer than Paul?’ Steven writes of me disputing my going to the eye witness accounts of the resurrection as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John before examining 1 Corinthians 15. I grant that the latter, written around 56AD, is a shade earlier than the four gospel accounts but I would dispute with Steven that, because this is so, the gospel accounts are less credible. The evangelists and Paul were handing on oral traditions linked to eye witness accounts so when things were actually written down is not so vital.

It is true that St. Paul does not mention the empty tomb in his 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 gospel reminder but this was a reminder and not a full argument towards conviction. Paul is assuming he has done that persuading for his readers before. On this occasion he does not need to give the whole history of what God has done in Jesus. ‘That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day’ implies Jesus’ ‘corpse rising’ and leaving an empty tomb even if that is not spelled out.

Steven Carr’s discussion of what makes converts and his disavowal that there ‘corpse rising’ had anything to do with this leaves us with a series of inner illuminations granted to individuals. Paul’s talk is of appearances, of which he was granted an exceptional one years later. When he writes though of how ‘Christ appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time’ how can we explain such a sight without a physical element?

I agree with Steven that there are evident inconsistencies between talk of the resurrection as a spiritual and as a physical event. As I set out at the beginning we are talking metaphysical truth if we are talking truth at all. Christian tradition holds the physical element of Christ’s resurrection (‘corpses rising and eating fish’) alongside the spiritual element (‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’) as surely as it holds God and the world together through what is seen as characteristic of reality following God’s being made incarnate in Christ.

If Christ is raised and human being are to be raised historical examination will only take us so far because we are talking about the very end or purpose of history – history as His Story (and ours as well by incorporation into Christ)! This does not mean our debate should end of course because the consonance of Christianity with historical evidence demands debate.

I know of people who have been in this debate and like the former Lord Chief Justice come to admit the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ yet without following its logic, as many would see it, into commitment to the risen Lord Jesus.

This brings us back to philosophical considerations about the nature of love and free will which are latent in the resurrection accounts which do not compel allegiance. Astonishing as they are they left people then as they leave people now with a free choice that goes beyond the evidence any debate brings to us. ‘When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted’ (Matthew 28:17).

Monday, 18 February 2008

Response to the Reverend James Hollingsworth

First of all, I should respond to claims by the Reverend Hollingsworth that Gospel writers would have known that the testimony of women was not taken seriously.

Firstly, it appears that the Gospel writers were just not aware of this fact. John 4:39 says 'Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the women's testimony.'

Another anachronism in the Bible - for the Reverend Hollingsworth has spoken and stated that the testimony of a woman would not be persuasive.

Secondly, it appears that the anonymous authors of Mark and Matthew had to spin away the known fact that these alleged 12 disciples just don't seem to have done anything. Paul never mentions any 12 disciples doing any evangelising, for example. He only knows of 3, and one of them was not even alleged to be a disciple.

So Matthew comes up with an absurdity that some of them were doubters - even after allegedly seeing proofs supplied by the Son of God Himself. It is easy to see how absurd it is by looking at my opponents in the debate who have no doubts, despite never having seen one of these alleged proofs.

And the anonymous author of Mark simply has no disciples at the scene.

And Mark claims that these women told no one. The reader is informed by a young man of the resurrection, but the reason nobody had heard of this story is that, according to the anonymous author of Mark, the women did not tell anybody.

It would be interesting to visit the Reverend Hollingsworth's church - the one where the preacher never mentions Gospel stories when talking about the resurrection, and where new converts to Christianity are baffled by the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse.

He has trouble understanding my arguments. For this I must plead partly guilty, but I also feel Paul must share some of the responsibility.

As he had never seen a resurrected body, nor met anybody who had seen a resurrected body, he was forced to work from theological reflection and reasoning, rather than personal testimony. Hence his obscure statements about 'this perishable must put on imperishability'

It seems that even after his first letter to the Corinthians, they were still puzzled. So Paul wrote a second letter, making even clearer his view that the body we live in now will be destroyed, not saved.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes 'For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made from hands, eternal in the heavens.'

For Paul, our current body was a tent, or a set of clothes. Come the resurrection, we would move to a new building, or change our clothes.

The current body will be destroyed. The spirit and the body will not be saved together. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:5 'You are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord', Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10 'For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receieve recompense for what has been done in the body...'

The body was only temporary. It was an earthly thing, and so could not become a heavenly thing.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:13 'Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food', and God will destroy both one and the other.

Paul did not have a model of resurrection that involved earthly bodies being restored to life. The Christian converts he was writing to thought that resurrection would have to involve a corpse being raised, and so they naturally scoffed at the idea.

For who had ever heard of a corpse rising from the dead?

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Steven Carr's First Response to John Twisleton

It seems that the evidence of pious Jews changing their holy day amounts to one mostly Gentile church deciding to collect money for charity on Sunday, and some other references , none of which are connected to a resurrection even in the Bible. John cites Revelation 1:10 for example - ' I was in the spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice....'

The loud voice belonged to Jesus. Revelation emphasises that Christians would see Jesus after the alleged resurrection 'in the spirit', and have visions of Jesus, with no reference to seeing a physical body.

Paul himself declares that he had a 'revelation' (the exact same word as in the Book of Revelation).

John does not even attempt to show why the witnesses at Jesus trial were discredited by their testimony not agreeing, while a Lord Chief Justice does not bat an eyelid at Matthew having the disciples go to Galilee, while the anomyous author of Luke has his Jesus give strict instructions that they are never to leave Jerusalem.

Rather than make a fallacious appeal to the authority of a Lord Chief Justice, I think John should ask himself why historians simply dismiss anonymous claims as not evidence, and why no Lord Chief Justice has ever allowed a supernatural claim to be given in evidence in his court. As soon as a Lord Chief Justice talks about his own area of knowledge, he knows better than to admit the possibility of the supernatural.

Perhaps Lord Chief Justices should stick to law, rather than make claims about history that they cannot produce evidence for.

John claims the gospels were handing on eye-witness testimony. He ought to produce evidence for such claims. The Gospels are anonymous works, which never mention any sources, nor give any indication that the authors had sifted out true stories from false.

The Gospel of Mark, for example, has no attempt at chronology, no indication of who the author was, no indication of when he was writing, and no indication of any sources.

It has none of the markers that ancient historians used to indicate to their readers that they were attempting to write history.

Luke and Matthew both used Mark as a source. They never indicate this and they simply changed whatever they wished in Mark to suit their own private theological agendas.

This is all well-known and elementary knowledge about the Bible, and means that the Gospels simply cannot be read as history. It cannot even be shown that the earliest Gospel was ever meant to be taken as history. They are theological tracts.

Luke is the only person who even attempts to claim he writes history, and much of what he writes comes from Greek literature (such as Homer and Euripides). Or he copies from the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Or he copies from the Gospel of Mark.

Luke probably even used Josephus as a source. The one thing we can be sure of is that, unlike every other serious ancient historian, he hid behind a mask of anonymity and never made any attempt to name sources or indicate how he came to know what he claims is fact.

And these 'facts' include such absurdities as the foetus John the Baptist leaping for joy in the womb when the pregnant Mary entered the room, and a claim that a real man from Macedonia appeared to Paul in a trance, and that a real angel appeared to Joseph in a dream.

The reality is that trances are just trances, and people do not teleport across countries to appear in trances. Dreams are just dreams , and angels do not convey real messages from any alleged god in a dream.

I'm sure that if there were a god who wanted to impart information of vital importance to mankind, he would choose better methods than having anonymous authors plagiarise each others work. Perhaps though, God couldn't afford a real historian, like Josephus.

John asks how Jesus could appear to 500 people without it being a physical event?

I can find people who claim that the Virgin Mary appeared to literally millions of people on the side of an office building in Pensacola, Florida. Or that the Prophet Muhammad , or a verse from the Koran, appeared in the seeds of a tomato.

There is nothing to distinguish Paul's claim of Jesus appearing to 500 brethren to recent widespread claims of Jesus appearing on a slice of toast.

The word for 'appeared' in 1 Corinthians 15 is 'ophthe'. Throughout the New Testament this can be, and usually is, used to indicate non-physical appearance.

For example, in Acts 2 ,3, tongues of fire 'ophthe' (appeared) on the disciples heads. I guess their heads must have been physically on fire.

John also makes excuses why Paul never mentions the gospel stories to the Christian converts who scoffed at the idea of a corpse rising.

The obvious reason is that no such stories existed. Paul tells the Corinthians that God will destroy both stomach and food. How could he say that when his heart was allegedly bursting with the news of his Lord and Saviour eating fish?

This is why Paul never mentions any empty tomb. John claims Paul 'implies' an empty tomb.He does not, no more than the claim of the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28:13 that 'I see a divine being coming out of the ground' implies that the body of Samuel had left the tomb. John must produce evidence that Paul believed in an empty tomb, and not simply beg the question. Paul says Jesus became 'a life-giving spirit'.

He never tries to persuade the Jesus-worshippers that a corpse left the ground. His whole approach is to show that their model of a resurrection is mistaken and foolish.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Response by the Reverend James Hollingsworth

Dear Steven

How kind to reply so swiftly and with such detail. Thank you.

I should apologise and say that I think I meant to refer to String Theory rather than Strong theory.

I would find it helpful to understand a bit more about what would constitute proof for you.

The embarrassment of Female Testimony I think still holds given their standing in a court of law. So when trying to persuade distant people they might not accept it as proof that some women saw an empty tomb. On the other hand, meeting a woman who excitedly gives her story about how Jesus knew everything about her, would be a different situation.

You seem at one stage in your argument to prefer the proof from personal testimony – I saw and touched the resurrected body! (the sort of stuff that we see in John with Thomas for example, or the whole approach of Luke in both his gospel and sequel). And yet I have often found that people are not persuaded by other people’s stories – they need to know that can really trust you. Perhaps to see the difference that it makes to your life (pragmatic). Perhaps if they could experience something (though then we enter the problem of whether One experience is enough to get you going!).

And then curiously later in your response you downplay St Paul’s use of reason. Of course his style of reasoning would have been Rabbinic rather than Cartesian but nonetheless as clear a style of reasoning as you might get (and in 2 Corinthians he gets positively Greek, an impressive step I feel).

St Paul’s proof consists not just in Reason but also in an experience and clearly one that shook his paradigm upside down. Perhaps a wiser rabbi would have helped him come to terms with his blindness and would have helped him understand the voice he had heard and so on. However, Paul’s own experience mingled with his deep learning and reason leads him to another conclusion.

Your suggestion of Disciples Doubting (in Matthews Gospel) as a deliberate spin shows a helpful example of two people (you and I) seeing the same words and coming to quite radically different conclusions. Its not new: Jesus performs a miracle and the crowds say we must follow him and the religious leaders say we must stop him. I’m not quite sure how to respond to such an argument except to say That’s not how I see it. I can’t possibly see how its in the Gospel’s interest, in Matthews interest, how its going to help readers to take up this faith that Matthew has spent the last 27 chapters telling you about, it seems to me to undermine his very purpose. Likewise there’s other stuff that’s not helpful such as Matthew alone telling us about multiple resurrections. Really, Matthew, you should understand that this is not helpful to your readers, either it did or didn’t happen and frankly if it did happen (these others restored to life) then its not that helpful!

I do find most thought provoking this notion that these early Christians didn’t know about a bodily resurrection. Your use of 2 Corinthians is very clever in this respect. I remember from my studies of early church history something about how some people found the notion of Jesus as God as being really quite easy, the problem was explaining to them that he was fully human too. St John alludes to something like this in his epistles and in jargon we refer to it as the rise of Gnosticism. When preaching to people with this propensity then, you might want to emphasise that Jesus did come in the Flesh – an odd expression from St John given his negative use of the motif of the World, the Flesh [and the devil]. In this way, to see St Paul as dealing with diverse culture from Corinth who seem to have had a mix of extreme views that seem to be built on the idea that Its my body that does the sinning whilst my soul and leads to the conclusion – therefore Go Sin! Or therefore deny your body everything! In that setting, I’m not surprised to find Paul trying to help them receive the gospel by shaking up their world view.

This leads me to ask, if the Church had gotten by for so long without needing a physical resurrection that no one was expecting and they didn’t need anyway, Why invent it later? Its not as if it has done us any favours! People say to me: I love the teachings of Jesus but do I have to believe in the miracles? (as if belief is a tick list and if you can tick enough of them we’ll give you eternal life plus a free gift of some nice hand luggage.)

Friday, 15 February 2008

Response to James Hollingsworth

James asks me what would constitute proof? I feel a bit like a poker player asked what he would accept as proof that his opponent has a full house. Seeing a full house would constitute proof.

Sadly, James only seems to have a pair of two's, so I find his request for what counts as proof that he has a full house a little strange.

His main argument for his full house is that women were witnesses. So what is his evidence that Joanna, to name one of these alleged women, actually was a credible witness.

Of course, a glance at the gospels shows that the first person to announce the resurrection in the 4 Gospels was a young man, an angel of the Lord, two young men in dazzling clothes and Jesus himself.

It seems the gospellers took no chances on people thinking women were the first to announce the resurrection and made sure that their readers knew that it was an angel of the Lord or Jesus himself who told the world that a resurrection had taken place.

Suppose I did know that women were regarded as not credible witnesses. How would I use such a prejudice to persuade my readers of what I wanted them to believe.

First I would have a women examine the evidence and come to a false conclusion – that the body had been taken by persons or persons unknown. The first-century reader would smile at the foolishness of a woman, always getting the wrong idea. No wonder women’s testimony was unreliable.

Then I would have some men examine the evidence that the woman looked at. Naturally, they would do a more thorough job than an unreliable woman, and they would not jump to such a false conclusion that somebody had taken the body.

Then I would have the woman’s unreliable testimony corrected by a man, or possibly by two angels, or even Jesus himself, who would explain why it was wrong for the woman to conclude that the body had been taken.

So starting from a belief that a woman’s testimony was unreliable, and that somebody would use that prejudice to discredit ‘false’ claims about the body being taken, we have pretty much got to John’s Gospel as a perfect example of how a false story would be written about an alleged resurrection.

James seems to think it perfectly fine for early converts to Christianity not to believe in stories of Jesus rising from the tomb. Perhaps they only went to church for a good sing, and free bread and wine on Sunday

And James thinks it fine for Paul not to draw on any first-hand experience of what a resurrected body was like, when trying to teach people what a resurrected body was like. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul complains about people preaching a different Jesus to the one he preached, yet Paul apparently saw no need to refer to any of these supposedly true stories about Jesus. Perhaps stories of corpses rising were one of the many stories that Paul knew Christians were fabricating about his Jesus - the one who 'became a life-giving spirit, and the one where the body that was planted into the ground was not the body to be'.

James is right that Paul is trying to shake up the world view of these converts to Jesus-worship who scoffed at the idea of a corpse rising, but who accepted the idea of God creating Adam from dead matter. He is trying to tell them that their beliefs that a resurrection involves a corpse rising is wrong, and that they will be resurrected in the same manner as Jesus, who had revealed himself in a 'revelation' to Paul.

This is what Paul knew had to be corrected - the belief in resurrection as a process of a corpse coming back to life. The converts did not understand that they too would be given a spiritual body. 'If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body', writes Paul. So these converts could believe in a resurrection because they would be given a spiritual body, even if they mistakenly believed they only had their natural body, which, of course, died, as everybody knew.

Paul had no concept of a corpse coming back to life. Perhaps some of the false Christians that Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 11 did, but Paul did not.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Reply from John Twisleton 01/03/2008

Steven is getting value for money from James and I as we devote ourselves to holding him to address the facts of the matter. This in the face of a rhetorical flow that jumps all over the place and has, in some instances, appeared before on related blogs Steven has engaged with.

I was in Brighton this afternoon talking to some people who were handing out tracts on the resurrection and they’d heard of Steven all right.

I’m still in for this debate but I would appreciate a little more candour from Steven about his own presuppositions and motivation for engaging repeatedly in this debate.

I’m in for a resurrection debate because it points people to absolute love and absolute certainty. However Steven interprets St. Paul on the resurrection a third of dwellers on the earth concur with the apostle’s certainty that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39)

If this debate is going to be effective and enriching, yes, we need to clarify the objective, historical basis - but we also need to get into one another’s shoes as best we can.

I have always admired Albert Camus for his protest atheism. It has a deep moral thrust to it. In the Myth of Sisyphus Camus affirms life as being like the continual rolling of a stone up a hill only to see it run back down again. Where is the meaning of suffering? For Camus it does not lie in the death and resurrection of the Son of God as it does for me but it lies in the voicing of protest at the meaninglessness of life. Camus addresses the worst things in the world and sees the resurrection as a terrible thing. It seems to minimise suffering by saying ‘all will be right in the end’. How can it ever get right again? Camus says.

A similar line of thinking can be found in Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov where one brother describes a child being torn apart by dogs in front of his mother. He says however wonderful heaven is he would refuse a place there so appalled is he at the thought of all ever being right in the end.

I’m doing Steven’s job for him in presenting what I see as the most powerful argument against Christian faith in the resurrection. I would accept it - if I did not know Jesus to be alive and yet still wounded by iniquity. In three weeks time I will be blessing the Easter Candle and will be sticking what are effectively nails in its side. As Charles Wesley wrote ‘Those dear tokens of his passion still his glorious body bears’.

Steven, what are the most powerful arguments you can see for Christianity or are you in no doubt at all that it is absolutely misguided? You rebuke James for his candour in admitting the various nuances of Christian allegiance but his humility and honesty rather commend him in my book. To refuse to admit the possibility at least of being mistaken is at the heart of the world’s woes and it is not just religious people who think like that. In my experience magnanimity is found all the more where the resurrection of Christ is acclaimed.

Back to your second response to me on the historical basis of the resurrection. I think you would find very few contemporary scholars rubbishing the solidity in history of the New Testament record despite its theological interest in Jesus.

I read that Tacitus’ Annals of Imperial Rome (116 AD) survive mostly in one manuscript from 850AD whereas manuscript testimony of the New Testament amounts to 5,000 Greek manuscripts that date from 100AD earliest.

The gospel narratives contrast with the apocryphal gospels rejected for their fancifulness by the early church in favour of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Yes, you are right strictly to query these as original authors, but the associated traditions eg. Papias (125AD) linking the gospels eg. to St. Peter (Mark’s Gospel) are never lightly dismissed.

One of the problems we have in this debate is that when you see Jesus is alive, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16, you do not ‘see him from a human point of view’ any more. That being said I value the debate because Christians are not entitled to the sort of triumphalism Camus would abhor which forgets that the Lord who is raised is the one who expects nothing of us that he is not prepared to go through himself. As we read in 1 Peter Chapter 2 ‘Christ also suffered…when he was abused he did not return abuse…He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live…’

I want a debate on the resurrection that is as generous and accommodating and intelligent as Jesus himself would want!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Response by Steven Carr 02/03/2008

It appears John has simply no idea how to produce any evidence of a resurrection. This is not too surprising, as there is no evidence of a resurrection.

His evidence now consists , apparently, in the fact that the Holy Roman Empire made and preserved a lot of copies of the New Testament, while the works of Tacitus were not copied as frequently.

There are literally millions of copies of the Book of Mormon, but I'm sure John would laugh at the claim that every time the Book of Mormon is reprinted, it becomes more and more backed by evidence.

How can the number of times a Gospel was copied possibly count as evidence for it?

His claim that the earliest copy is from 100 AD is simply unfounded. The earliest manuscript is called p52. It does not contain the name 'Jesus', and dates from 125 to 150 AD.

His other claim is that a Christian called Papias alleged that somebody called Mark based his book on what Peter had said.

This is all just hearsay, as meaningless as claims by Mormons that Brigham Young believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

It is a plain fact that the Gospel of Mark never identifies any author or any source. It never gives any even half-decent attempt at chronology, or any attempt at showing how the author came to learn things like Pilate thinking it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him , or what Satan said to Jesus in the desert.

It has none of the markers that ancient historians used to indicate that they were writing history.

It is a theological tract , using the Old Testament to create stories about Jesus.

For example, the stories of Elijah and Elisha were plundered by the anonymous author of Mark to create new stories about Jesus.

Take 2 Kings 4:27-37, where a distraught parent of an only child comes to Elisha just as in Mark 5:22-24 (which continues in verses 35-43) a distraught parent of an only child comes to Jesus,pleading for help.

In both stories someone tries to discourage the parent from bothering Elisha and Jesus.

In both stories it is unclear to some people in the story whether the child is dead ,dying or asleep.

In both stories the child is in a house some distance away.

In both stories a second source comes from the house and confirms that the child is dead.

In both stories Jesus and Elisha continue anyway to the house.

In both stories the parent precedes Elisha or Jesus

In both stories Elisha and Jesus seek a high degree of privacy by turning people out of the house before their miracle .

The story in Mark is such an obvious rewrite of the story in Kings that if I remind you that Jairus in Mark 5 falls at Jesus's feet, you can guess what the parent in 2 Kings 4 did.

The name Jairus has 2 meanings. 1 is 'he enlightens'. The other is 'he awakens'. Is not 'he awakens' a remarkably apt name for someone in a resurrection story, where Jesus says that the child is not dead but sleeping?

As confirmation that Mark used 2 Kings 4 for his stories of the feeding of a crowd, and the raising of a dead child, Mark 5:42 says that after the miracle, the parents were 'amazed with great amazement' (exestesan ekstasei megale), while 2 Kings 4:13 we have 'amazed with all amazement' (exestesas... pasan ten ekstasin tauten)

Another example of the Elijah/Elisha miracle stories being recycled to provide material for Mark's book is the feeding of the 5,000.

In 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha has a great many people to feed with only a few loaves of bread and a little other food. He delegates the task of feeding. There is a complaint that the quantity is too small. The feeding continues and everyone is fed. There is surplus bread left over. This older story from Kings has exactly the same plot as the feeding of the 5,000 - only the numbers are different.

The feeding of the 5,000 is such an obvious rewrite of the story from Kings that if I remind you that Jesus used barley bread, you can guess what type of bread Elisha used.

On page 176 of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, written by a raft of Catholic scholars, it says that 2 Kings 4:42-44 is 'obviously the inspiration for the NT multiplication miracles'. I like the word 'obviously'.

It is obvious, isn't it?

Which is more likely, that somebody fed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread or that a religion was based on frauds and lies - as every religion throughout history has been based on?

We know from modern experience that when Paul says Jesus 'appeared' to 500 brethren, he means no more than what is meant when followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi claimed that he levitated in front of them.

At least the followers of the Maharishi produced photographs of the Yogi in mid-air. 1 Corinthians 15 doesn't even have anything other than bare claims that Jesus 'appeared'. No details, no confirmation, no dates, no times - this all adds up to no evidence.

John asks me to get back to the facts.

The facts are that early Christians claimed Jesus 'appeared' to them (in much the same way as modern Christians claim Jesus appears on the side of a slice of toast??), but early converts to Jesus-worship simply scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse.

From this solid fact, attested to by primary evidence - namely the letters of somebody who was there - we know that early Christians did not spread tales of corpses rising from graves.

Or else early Christians would have believed what had converted them.

What had converted them was vague tales of 'appearances'.

Only when we come to anonymous works, works which plagiarise each other and plagiarise the Old Testament, only then do we come to stories of Jesus eating fish and ascending into the sky.

But there is nothing to back up these anonymous works, or anything which says there are anything other than the fabricated stories we know Christians were making up as early as when Paul was writing 2 Corinthians 11:4.

But if John has any real evidence, then he should start producing some very quickly.....

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Response from James Hollingsworth 05/03/2008

Dear John, Dear Steven

Thank you for adding a bit more.

Both sides of this discussion (and that’s how I see it) need to be careful in our use of language.

Eg: John’s use of Absolute: absolute love, absolute certainty – it’s the kind of church language that we like and are familiar with. I suppose by it we mean a sense of love (and by that word we would mean agape, a choosing sacrificial, self-giving sort of love) that is unconditional, regardless of our previous sin or behaviour and welcomes us.

Where as Absolute Certainty – I suppose I would take that to mean not unconditional certainty, nor even the sort of certainty that cannot be doubted, but the sort of certainty that shapes a life and gives purpose and meaning and opens us up to that Love. Its that sort of absolute certainty that enabled me to propose to my wife.

You even invite Steven to fall for an old trick asking him if he thinks religion is ‘absolutely misguided’. Its only a trick because the moment he says Yes, he has chosen the easy option of extremism and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of anything any religion might be about. Perhaps it was wise that Steven ignored this point altogether!

Meanwhile, Steven’s use of the word “obvious” is an excellent example of good rhetoric. When I took my philosophy degree we had lots of fun pointing out the inadequacies of the expression ‘common sense’. Likewise the repeated insistence that neither Paul nor the early Christians believed in a corporeal resurrection, as if the repetition makes it read as if this is now established fact. It is an excellent style of arguing though I remain unconvinced.

Steven calls for proof and evidence but won’t seem to allow the gospels to be submitted. He plays the trick of willfully misunderstanding John’s point: the large number of copies of Gospels etc is not offered as evidence of what they say but merely that this is what the early church believed from a very early stage. As opposed to much else that passes for ancient history but was written hundreds of years later and where there are very few copies to check to see how they have been adjusted across the centuries. A really exciting example of this would be to compare the Masoretic Isaiah Scroll (something like 900ad) with the Dead Sea Scroll version – they show an astonishing reverence for the art of accurate copying and this gives us good reason to think that these are the words that started with Isaiah.

And alas St Mark failed to put in footnotes. Unlike modern journalism which is obviously always correct and truthful and gives full references to their sources, Mark fails to meet up to modern standards. Indeed his greek is really quite shoddy, so shoddy that posh scholars had to give it a special name Koinonia Greek (common greek) and Mark’s appalling use of the Present tense is called by scholars The Historic Present. Luke’s Greek is tidier and he gives some signs of his sources but it won’t be enough for Steven. Though I think that the remark from Papias is helpful (that Peter was Mark’s primary source)

The Elisha / Elijah parallels are obvious. As are the Moses, Joseph, Jacob, David ones, goodness me, I think I can spot some Isaiah in there too, Hosea even a bit of Jeremiah. We in the trade refer to this as Typology. So we’re okay with the thought that Mark is writing the History of Jesus from his standpoint and using his form of interpretation.

Alas that doesn’t mean that the feeding of four and five thousand didn’t happen. (odd that Mark should use both when he didn’t need to having invented the ‘fairytale’ point that Jesus is like Elisha. Perhaps there were two separate occasions oh but wait that would undermine Steven’s point). And it is somehow disappointing that Jesus can’t ascend in a more exciting way than Elijah. Luke is an intelligent doctor you would have thought that he could have invented something at least as exciting as the Old Testament writers. Unless of course there were still enough people around to say No, that’s not how it happened.

Now look at me, I’ve written a long winded reply and managed to do the thing that irks me with Steven’s reply. You have asked for proof and I have given you none. Of course, I cannot submit the gospels (you are determined that they are biased and written too late). I cannot submit St Paul because you are convinced that he didn’t know anything of a corporeal resurrection. So I cannot submit written evidence.

This is a shame as we cannot use that hard work done in that old book “Who moved the stone” initially written by a convinced atheist (you can tell by his style of writing) who ended up converting himself (you can tell by the style at the end of the book!).

If I were to produce Jesus, a living person with holes in all the right places then you could say Its not the real Jesus. He could then talk to you (in Aramaic) and you could still insist that he was as good / bad an actor as the bloke from the film Passion of Christ. The only proof I can think of would be one where Steven got to push in the nails and then sat inside the tomb himself to wait.

Meanwhile John has offered what others have felt to be helpful, perhaps not proof in the strictest sense of the word but something that helps. He writes of ‘knowing Jesus to be alive’ of when ‘you see Jesus is alive’. For some of us this refers to a spiritual experience which whilst these can be right or wrong can at least be tested by the life that is lived as a consequence. For others it refers to a weight of evidence, the earliness of the gospels, the integrity of the apostles, the tomb remains empty, yes even the witness of the women, but then broader, the explosion of the church - a peaceful revolution across the known world that came about by persuasion and prayer.

My apologies for such a lengthy reply. I fear I’m about to be quite busy over the next couple of weeks so if I don’t reply before Easter please don’t take it the wrong way.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Response by Steven Carr 08/03/2008

It seems that James has no evidence at all for any corpse rising from the grave.

His only evidence is that Mark wrote shoddy Greek, and that the Dead Sea Scrolls show that out of the 38 Old Testament books which were found there, either whole or in part , one manuscript of Isaiah is very close to a later copy.

What about the other 37 Old Testament books found among the Dead Sea Scrolls? They show little sign that the text was fixed, so James concentrates on the one from the 38 which he thinks is relevant. But what relevance is it to show that there were no more changes 600 years after Isaiah allegedly wrote chapters 1 to 66 of his book, than there were 1500 years after Isaiah allegedly wrote all 66 chapters?

James claims the point of citing the 5,000 Greek manuscripts , of which 4000 date more than 4 centuries after any alleged resurrection is to show what the early church believed.

How can making a thousand copies of a manuscript 400 years after the people lived provide proof of what those people believed? How would it be relevant if we had a million copies from 4 centuries after they lived? What does writing the same thing out over and over again make it true?

In any case, we know what the early church believed. We know from 2 Corinthians 11 that Christians were fabricating stories about Jesus. We know that the church in Thessalonia was clearly getting worried about the fate of Christian corpses. We know from 1 Corinthians 15 that early converts to Jesus-worship were scoffing at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse.

We know from Romans 7:24 that Paul wanted to be rescued from his body. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says 'For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands'.

Paul preached the destruction of the body, and preached that we moved from our present body to a new body.

The Christians he was writing to also believed in the destruction of the present body, which is why they doubted that they could live after they died. Paul thinks this is foolish, because they do not know that there are two bodies 'If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body'

Paul did not believe in corpses rising from tombs. He believed that there was a spiritual, heavenly body which would be our home in the resurrection. He believed that our present body was the body inhabited by 'psyche' , (by which he seems to mean life), and that it was useless once we lost our psyche. So it would perish. Paul never mentions anything about a dead body rises, even to people who doubted that dead bodies rise. Paul claims only that the dead rise, and that they will have new bodies. If Paul believed dead bodies rose , he would say so. Instead, he says 'You do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed.' What rises from the ground is not the seed . The seed is simply there to tell God what to create. Plant seeds of wheat and God gives it a body of wheat. Plant human corpses, and God creates spiritual bodies, made out of entirely different material to our present bodies.

This contradicts the Gospels where the body that was planted was the body which came out of the ground, complete with wounds.

Now we turn to the Gospels. Paul preached the destruction of the body, not its salvation. The Gospels preach the salvation of the body, not its destruction.

The Gospels are anonymous works, of no historical value. They clearly plagiarise each other and the Old Testament.

James calls this 'typology'. This is a meaningless word.

The Gospels simply contain Old Testament stories rewritten to become stories about Jesus.

Jesus in Luke 7 raises the son of a widow from the dead. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah raises the son of a widow from the dead. Both stories employ exactly the same words - and he gave him to his mother.The Greek is 'kai edoken auton te metri autou', copied word for word from the Septuagint version of 1 Kings 17.

Did Luke use 1 Kings 17 as a basis for his story? Jesus met the widow at the gate of a city. Elijah met his widow in 1 Kings 17:10. It should come as no surprise that it was at the gate of a city. Luke 7 also copies other phrases from the Septuagint version of 1 Kings 17.

Luke copies 'kai egeneto' (and it came to pass). 'Kai egeneto' is used many, many times in the Greek Old Testament and Luke used this phrase from the Septuagint so much that it has become a cliche. When writing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith also used 'and it came to pass' a lot. Here he was copying from the King James Bible , but we can see that the writer of Luke's Gospel copied in a very similar manner to Joseph Smith.

Luke writes 'tay pulay tays poleos kai idoo' (to the gate of a city and behold), which is almost identical to the Old Testament Greek of 'tou pulona tays poleos kai idoo'.

Luke often used the Greek Old Testament for his stories. In Acts 10, Peter is told in a dream to eat unclean animals. In the Old Testament, Ezekiel 4 also has a story of somebody who is asked to eat unpalatable food.

According to Acts , Peter, an Aramaic-speaking Jew managed, in a moment of terror, to remember the exact phrase from the Greek translation of Ezekiel 4:14! Was it realistic for somebody described in Acts itself as ignorant (idiotes) and illiterate to bring to mind a Greek translation that he would not have known? I think not. I suspect Luke 'borrowed' words from the Greek translation of Ezekiel 4:14 to put into the mouth of Peter. It is not as though it is a common phrase which Peter might have hit on himself. 'Medamos, Kyrie' (By no means,Lord) is used only here and in Acts 11:8 , which is basically the same story again.

James calls this 'typology'. It is not. It is fraud and lies. It is as fraudulent as when Joseph Smith took Old Testament stories and rewrote them to become stories in the Book of Mormon.

James claims Luke gives hints as to his sources. He does not. All he ever claims is that some written accounts were based on eyewitnesses, (whom he never names), and that these anonymous accounts from anonymous eyewitnesses have been passed down to 'us' (ie Christians of his time), and that he has read them and is now rewriting them.

We can take a real historian , Josephus, and compare him with the fake historians of the Gospels.

Josephus mentions his sources frequently, among them: Berosus, Jerome, Mnaseas, Nicolaus, Manetho, Moschus, Hesiod, Menander, Dios, Herodotus, Megasthenes, Philostratus, 1 Maccabees, Polybius, Strabo, Livy, etc. Not all these sources are good but at least we can see where Josephus is coming from. Some of these sources are still extant and we can see how Josephus used them. We can see where Josephus changed from one source to the next, as his knowledge gets more or less detailed.

James says that Mark isn't as good as modern historians.

James has hit the nail on the head. The anonymous author of Mark isn't any good.

That is why James cannot find any evidence for the resurrection. For some reason, the God James worships has had people write works which look just like every other fraudulent religion based on lies, and which look nothing like any decent history.

John Twisleton 08/03/2008

Have I really no idea how to produce any evidence of a resurrection as Steven claims?

I cannot accept as obvious that my 3,600 words so far on this blog are so empty!

I will summarise the evidence I have presented so far in our debate:

1The existence of a community founded on the resurrection with a dynamic inexplicable without it

2The credibility of the New Testament witness to the resurrection surviving two centuries of critical scholarship with the arguments running onwards

3There is no grave claimed for the founder of Christianity, something even Muslims concur with, so this is obvious to well over half the world today

4Throughout history men and women whose living encounter with Jesus led them to face torture and death rather than agree his corpse lies in Palestine

5In the New Testament records the change in the disciples is inexplicable without a cataclysmic external impact upon their lives

6The abandonment by devout Jews of traditions like Friday Sabbath that ran in the face of centuries of tradition within weeks of the claimed resurrection has no rival explanation

7Josephus, Pliny and Tacitus give substantial independent back up to the remarkable phenomenon of the growth of the community of the resurrection which is the church

8What usually happens doesn’t always happen.

9Even if we rightly suspect supernatural claims this one is exceptional in its moral basis in a God who accepts suffering and brings it meaning

10There is a philosophical basis for particular phenomenon having universal

Steven has made his choice to argue number 2 and a small section of it ignoring the rest of my arguments so far!

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is built on an accumulation of evidence. It is not the accumulation of people and documents saying the same thing deafening out opposition as Steven suggests and James has already countered. That would be Maria’s song from Sound of Music ‘I have confidence in confidence’ – this isn’t Christianity! Christian confidence is well based on both God and the facts.

It is ironic that Steven’s whole argument with the facts is from Paul. Steven disclaims Paul’s belief in Christ’s bodily resurrection. Since he rejects the Gospel accounts as historically based he rests his case even if billions see otherwise!

I find Steven’s case ironic because the whole thrust of St. Paul’s writings, the earliest Christian documentation, repeats the strain again and again that Jesus Christ was and is raised as first born of the dead (Romans 4:24f, 6:4, 6:9, 7:4, 8:11, 29, 34, 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:4, 12-17, 20, 29, 32, 35, 42-44, 52; 2 Corinthians 1:9, 4:14, 5:15; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10)

Critical biblical scholarship has established these Pauline texts as the earliest evidences of the resurrection followed by the later gospel narratives. The empty tomb narratives are a solid part of this documentation. The reason the tomb’s emptiness has come down to us is the witness from the start of Christianity to Jesus Christ being raised and appearing.
Steven is saying a contemporary perception of Jesus on a piece of toast weighs as much as what he would see as totally subjective appearances to the apostles including Paul. I am saying that the appearances related in the New Testament are linked to an astonishing event – it’s obvious as you read the book unless your philosophical bent is some how skewed against objective truth. ‘Christ was raised on the third day…and…he appeared (to several people and groups)’ (1 Corinthians 15:4f).

How is that event of Christ being raised best described? Indeed we have a choice but would it not be less credible if we did not have a choice? Textual critics have yet to undermine the potentially complementary witness of the seven passages Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28, Luke 24, John20 and Mark 16:9-13, Acts 1:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

The main inconsistencies are in geography and timing. When you are recording an event that stretches the boundaries of space and time that is unsurprising. That has not deterred the ongoing digestion of these passages over centuries and their acceptance by eminent historians and lawyers as I have said.

I am very impressed by Steven’s rhetorical play in his treatment of the alleged recycling of the Elijah/Elisha miracle stories. James has dealt with this already. It is a real problem for 21st century minds to get into typology. This is nothing that makes Mark a manufacturer of history despite his theological standpoint. How can you avoid a theological standpoint anyway if you are writing about something like this? Something shouting to the world that God is after all not above us or beyond us but with us and ahead of us making a place for us beyond the grave so that ‘man (sic) is the macrocosm and the whole created order is the microcosm’ (Nicodemus the Solitary)?

If 2 Kings 4:42-44 is to Catholic scholars ‘obviously the inspiration for the NT multiplication miracles’ it doesn’t mean it wasn’t also obvious to God as he came on earth to set the scene for the resurrection by such miracles. People do say they’d believe in God if they could see him doing miracles once again (he does!).

I deliberately put the existence and dynamic of the church as community of the resurrection first in my top 10 for the resurrection because the feeding by Jesus in the Eucharist is my own day by day encounter with the resurrection. This is nothing out of the blue for the God of the Old Testament was known to be a miraculous provider.

When it comes to the resurrection what happened to Jesus and the apostles can and must be argued about but what has happened to the world in the arrival of a new form of living in radical forgiveness (the community of the resurrection, the church) would be my first talking point!

In his book on the resurrection our Archbishop of Canterbury says he attempts to sail ‘between the Scylla of critical pedantry and the Charybdis of vaguely religious psychology’. I see something of both in this debate, Steven.

If we make the establishing of the empty tomb narratives our goal that can reduce to pedantry because it’s not the prime issue. This to me is ‘who left that tomb and where can he be found?’

If we make the resurrection a helpful symbol of love’s triumph, bringing meaning to suffering etc. we also make it less than it is as rooted in the historical order.

You are a great help in holding me down to the facts of the matter and of history.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Steven Carr's response 09/03/2008

John's words are in bold.

Have I really no idea how to produce any evidence of a resurrection as Steven claims?


1The existence of a community founded on the resurrection with a dynamic inexplicable without it

We know early converts to Christianity scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise corpses.

The Mormon church was founded upon remarkable claims. What does that prove? Would John preach to his parishioners that there must be something in Mormonism, because look at the millions of Mormons who believe it?

2The credibility of the New Testament witness to the resurrection surviving two centuries of critical scholarship with the arguments running onwards

What credibility? The New Testament claims the foetus John the Baptist leapt for joy in the womb when the pregnant Mary entered the room. What credibility does that have?

These 'New Testament witnesss' claimed Jesus ascended into the sky until he reached the clouds. What credibility does that have?

3There is no grave claimed for the founder of Christianity, something even Muslims concur with, so this is obvious to well over half the world today

How is that evidence for anything?

4Throughout history men and women whose living encounter with Jesus led them to face torture and death rather than agree his corpse lies in Palestine

What does that prove? Men and women throughout history have died for Islam. Jews have died rather than eat pork. Is that proof that pigs really are unclean?

5In the New Testament records the change in the disciples is inexplicable without a cataclysmic external impact upon their lives

Even the New Testament claims no resurrection caused this. Even the New Testament claims the disciples went back to fishing after seeing the resurrection. Acts claims the disciples needed prodding to do anything. Only when tongues of fire 'appeared' on their heads (opththe, same word as when Jesus 'appeared' to people in 1 Corinthians 15) did these disciples do anything.

When tongues of fire 'appeared', were the disciples heads physically on fire? Or does 'opththe' , which describes how the fire appeared and how Jesus appeared, describe non-physical appearances?

I assume John will give some evidence of the transformation of these disciples. (Evidence, how Christians hate that word). Find one person who knew the disciples who wrote that they were 'transformed'....

6The abandonment by devout Jews of traditions like Friday Sabbath that ran in the face of centuries of tradition within weeks of the claimed resurrection has no rival explanation.

This is fantasy. If Jews in Jerusalem had changed a Sabbath to Sunday, they would have been stoned to death before you can say 'historical anachronism'

But did Christians keep special days?

Galatians 4 - You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Paul attacked Christians who kept special days, and never once tells them that there is a special day that they ought to observe.

And Christians were clearly not observing Sunday as a special day , to be contrasted with the way they observed certain months or seasons.

So the claim that very early Christians met every Sunday to observe a resurrection is a fantasy, destroyed by Paul's attack on the very idea that any day ought to be observed.

7Josephus, Pliny and Tacitus give substantial independent back up to the remarkable phenomenon of the growth of the community of the resurrection which is the church

A church , of course, which contained converts scoffing at the idea of God choosing to raise corpses, and one of whose leaders claimed that Jesus had become a spirit, and a church which produced works claiming 'All flesh is grass', despite John's belief that some flesh did not see corruption.

The Mormon church grew remarkably. What does that prove?

8What usually happens doesn’t always happen.

This is not an argument for anything, unless John is claiming that perhaps Jesus body was beamed up by aliens..

9Even if we rightly suspect supernatural claims this one is exceptional in its moral basis in a God who accepts suffering and brings it meaning

This is just theological waffling and is not an argument for anything.

10There is a philosophical basis for particular phenomenon having universal

This is not an argument for anything at all.

I find Steven’s case ironic because the whole thrust of St. Paul’s writings, the earliest Christian documentation, repeats the strain again and again that Jesus Christ was and is raised as first born of the dead (Romans 4:24f, 6:4, 6:9, 7:4, 8:11, 29, 34, 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:4, 12-17, 20, 29, 32, 35, 42-44, 52; 2 Corinthians 1:9, 4:14, 5:15; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10)

Critical biblical scholarship has established these Pauline texts as the earliest evidences of the resurrection followed by the later gospel narratives. The empty tomb narratives are a solid part of this documentation.

What nonsense! Paul never mention an empty tomb, despite all those references to Biblical passages, none of which mention an empty tomb.

Paul preached the destruction of the body, not its salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:1 'For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands...';

Paul thought our earthy body could be compared to a tent, which we left to move into a new building.

Paul's other favourite metaphors were our body as a suit of clothes, which we changed for new clothes, or a seed, from which a new plant emerges (leaving the seed-case behind)

Paul's concept of a resurrection was moving from one body to another.

This is something he stressed to the Corinthians when he wrote 'If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body'

Paul only ever argued with people whose model of a resurrection was of a corpse coming back to life. He regarded such ideas as foolish, tells such people 'You do not plant the body that will be...'

Paul then stresses that earthly things are as different from heavenly things as a fish is different to the moon. He goes on to tell the converts to Jesus-worship who did think a resurrection involved a corpse rising, that there are 2 bodies – a natural body, and a spiritual body.

And then Paul trashes the Jesus-worshippers belief that somehow a resurrected body would be made from the dust that corpses become :-

'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God...'

Paul is clearly trashing the idea that the resurrected Jesus had a body made of flesh and blood. That was Adam's body , made from the dust of the earth. Resurrected Christians would be made from heavenly stuff (whatever that is), and not from flesh and blood.

The people he was writing to did believe that a resurrection had to involve a corpse rising.

But these early converts to Jesus-worship scoffed at the idea of a corpse rising, and so did not believe in a resurrection.

Textual critics have yet to undermine the potentially complementary witness of the seven passages Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28, Luke 24, John20 and Mark 16:9-13, Acts 1:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

Is John really claiming that Mark 16:9-13 is authentic? Even many modern translations of the Bible skip those verses as inauthentic.

And John just has to glance at a Bible to see that it contains footnotes pointing out that various parts of Luke are missing from early manuscripts.

Historians have yet to establish anything at all of any significance in any of those chapters.

For example, Acts 1 claims Jesus ascended into the sky, until a cloud took him from view.

But we now know there is nothing above us except space. Ancient writers thought the journey to Heaven involved travelling upwards , and so wrote a story of Jesus doing just that.

We now know that this was make-believe as there is the Solar System once you get past the clouds, not Heaven.

As I have pointed out already, and as John has failed to address, the earliest Gospel is anonymous and has no markers indicating that it was ever meant to be taken as history.

We know from 2 Corinthians 11:4 that Christians were easily fooled by false stories about Jesus.

That is as true then as it is now.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

John Twisleton 18 March 2008

Resurrection debate – John Twisleton’s fourth reply 18.3.08

If Steven thinks I can give no evidence of a resurrection, I am at a loss to continue after my last ten point broadside! All I can say is that resurrection for John Twisleton is different from resurrection for Stephen Carr.

For Steven resurrection is God raising corpses and he will not allow of this without cast iron corroboration.

We live mindful of a great many events in history which left no photographic record. (Interesting that there is, even here, literally a shred of evidence for the resurrection in the scorch mark on the shroud of Turin). The standard of evidence Stephen demands overall would question Caesar crossing the Rubicon. I sense even if he had been sitting by the tomb of Jesus as it burst open, he would question.

I am grateful for Steven’s reminder that the finding of the empty tomb is a tradition Paul is surprisingly reticent but I do not see any incompatibility with Paul’s overall witness here. The twenty-four references I listed in Paul’s writings attest Jesus Christ was and is raised and so are consistent with his being dead and buried. The teaching on baptism in Romans 6 affirms Christ’s burial and raising as something that continues to impact.

Look at the wider context, Stephen! Look at this Jesus, as the whole New Testament describes him, and the hostility he invoked that brought him to a tomb! Could this be God “dying from what is ours so we can live from what is his” (St Augustine)?

Look, as you imply, at Pentecost, but see the clear link between the momentum of the Spirit, as recorded in the book of Acts and the metaphysical event that followed Good Friday!

Thomas said, “Unless I see…I will not believe” (John 20:25) but you are saying “even if I see…I will not believe!”

I would deal with your difficulty over the anonymity of St. Mark’s gospel but your line of argument has already dismissed the failure of two centuries of critical scholarship to underline the historicity of the resurrection so I am less inclined to take things that way.

You compare the credulity of millions of Mormons to the faith of billions of Christians. Did you notice the scholarly reaction of universities across the world to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code in its dismissal of the canonical gospels? You would get a similar hostility from historians to the book of Mormon but not to the gospel accounts you try to sideline, ironically by using St. Paul.

Lesser points you raise: “The disciples went back to fishing after seeing the resurrection” There is a spiritual truth here, maybe for you even, because it was the anointing in the Holy Spirit upon those same disciples that seems to have underlined to them the significance of Easter making it a truth to be told down twenty centuries. It is possible, as the disciples demonstrated, to see truth without registering its significance at a personal level

I fall into agreement with you over Paul’s insistence on the role of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the resurrection eg. when he insists “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3b). The same apostle nevertheless insisted that this revelation was rooted in the historical evidence that makes Christianity Christianity when he wrote: “I hand it on to you as of first importance what I in turn have received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

I think for you to agree with Paul and I would involve your suspending judgement on the truth of the resurrection as ‘corpse raising’ with cast iron corroboration and to welcome what billions have come to see it as - the ‘opening up of the kingdom of heaven to all believers’ (Te Deum).

Friday, 8 February 2008

Steven Carr March 19 2008

It is surprising to be in a debate where your opponent cannot answer your points and just ignores them.

In my first post, I wrote the following :-

'Even when trying to talk about the nature of a resurrected body, Paul never draws on any alleged personal experience anybody ever had. The Gospels give a wealth of alleged facts about the nature of a resurrected body, but Paul never uses any, even when trying to refute the claims of people he calls 'idiots'. Why doesn't Paul simply rub their noses in the fact that their own Lord and Saviour, the very person they worship, had allegedly claimed that a resurrected body was made out of 'flesh and bones', and yet they still were asking with what sort of body a corpse comes back with?'

On this, and many other of the points I have raised in the debate, John has been unable to come up with any answer, not even an unconvincing one.

I see that John has pretty much abandoned any attempt to show there is evidence for the Gospel stories of a corpse rising, and is now resorting to attacks on me , with statements like ' I sense even if he had been sitting by the tomb of Jesus as it burst open, he would question.'

I remind him that early converts to Christianity scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse.

They , and Paul, were in a much better position to judge than John is.

Paul can produce nothing better than vague 'appearances' to Christians. Early Christians believed that what happened in dreams, visions and trances was real. The New Testament is full of passages which assume that what happened in dreams, visions and trances was real. Even if the New Testament stories about Peter having a vision of foods being declared clean is unhistorical, clearly the writer thought the story was credible.

Paul believed he had gone to Heaven. He also believed Jesus had appeared to him. If you think that what happens in trances and visions is real, then he really would have believed that Jesus appeared to him. Paul might even have had a vision of Jesus appearing to 500 people, just in the same way as stories I have heard of modern Christians who have had visions of the walls of Jericho being destroyed.

Paul produces no more than claims of 'appearances'. That is it. Paul literally cannot flesh out those stories of 'appearances'.

This is not evidence, no more than claims that spirits appeared to Red Indian medicine men is evidence of spirits.

And Paul simply trashes the idea that corpses rise. Corpses dissolve into dust, and this is what Paul thought of the idea of resurrected beings made of dust. 'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God...'

Paul thought that bodies were destroyed. 'For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands'

Paul thought of resurrection as changing clothes, or moving from one building to another.

To Paul, Jesus had left his earthly body behind, to be destroyed, and moved into a heavenly body.

That is why Paul attacks the converts in Corinth whose model of a resurrection was that of a corpse rising from the grave. As they had never heard of a corpse rising from the grave, they scoffed at the idea of a resurrection. Paul regarded this as idiocy, because in his view, resurrection did not involve a corpse rising from the grave.

John claims that 200 years of critical scholarship have not dented the reliability of the Gospels.

He should get out more.

This claim of his is simply an empty claim, which not even John tries to back up with any actual evidence.

The earlies Gospel is anonymous. It is written by somebody who never attempted to state his sources, never gives any indication of who, why or when he was writing. The author never gives any attempt at chronology, or use any of the standard literary conventions that indicated to ancient readers that the work was even meant to be taken as history.

The third Gospel at least attempts to be taken as history, However it too gives no indication of authorship or date. The anonymous author of 'Luke' also used Mark as his main source, and simply changed whatever in Mark did not suit his own private agenda.

Using anonymous sources, without telling anybody, and rewriting bits of them to suit yourself, are not the hallmarks of a good historian.

These are elementary facts, yet John can state that the Gospels survive critical scholarship. This is a totally empty claim, without any substance.

John claims that doubting vague reports of 'appearances' by somebody who claimed to have gone to Heaven is on a par with doubting the crossing of the Rubicon.

This illustrates the remarkably low level of knowledge of historical method by Christians.

There is nothing wrong with not knowing how real history is done, provided you do not say that your beliefs are based on historical events.

Let us look at some of the evidence for Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and see if we can do better than somebody claiming he had a revelation of Caesar crossing the Rubicon, or that he saw Ceasar crossing the Rubicon in an 'appearance'.

First of all, do we have followers of Julius Caeasr scoffing at the whole idea that Caesar had an army which crossed the Rubicon?

No we do not.

Do we have a book by Julius himself. claiming that he got from Ravenna to Ariminum, a journey only possible by crossing the Rubicon? (Unless Caesar ascended into the sky, like Jesus allegedly did)

Yes we do.

Do we have 3 letters by somebody dated in the same year as this Rubicon crossing, pointing out that Ceasar was preparing to invade Italy, and then had invaded Italy?

Yes we do.

And this source is Cicero. He is a named source, and somebody who was in a good position to know, and somebody whose reliability can be investigated.

And he doesn't claim that Caesar 'appeared' to cross the Rubicon.

Other people also recorded the event. Livy and Pollio , for example.

Do we have letters by Pilate or Joseph of Arimathea , from the same year as this alleged resurrection, claiming that something bizarre was happening,even if they doubted it was true?

No we don't. There might be good reasons why such evidence is missing, but the fact remains that there is just no such evidence.

John just has no evidence for a resurrection, other than some anonymous books which also record that Jesus travelled into the sky, and some letters by somebody who claimed that Jesus became a spirit, and that he himself had gone to Heaven.

John has less evidence for the resurrection than there is for the miracles of Glycon, the snake-god.

John seems to be reduced to claiming that the Shroud of Turin is evidence, when all the historical and scientific evidence is that it is yet another hoax produced by Christians.

There is so little evidence for Christianity that evidence has had to be forged.