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.