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.

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