Wednesday, 20 February 2008

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.

1 comment:

  1. 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’.

    Acts. "They came together on the first day of the week".

    Also, it is easier said than done to stone five thousand men with women and children under a Roman occupation where individual stonings happen because of negligence, not unlike Mafia killings in cities otherwise under the rule of law.

    But you might have hit one of the main motives for rejecting the Christ even after the empty grave posed a serious problem. One main motive for stoning St Stephen. One main motive for Saul, not yet converted, to go around all of the Jewish world with lettters ordering persecutions. One reason why St James was martyred in Jerusalem.