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Aplogetics: Defending the Faith

  

Our faith is under attack. Though many of us are not on the front lines, we all have the responsibility to be ready to make a defense to anyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3.15). Sadly, in most churches we do not do well preparing and teaching our people the reasons why we believe what we believe. For example, why do we believe that there is a God? How do we know the Bible has been reliably transmitted? How can we be so sure that Jesus really was raised from the dead? These questions and many more are increasingly being asked, especially of those in college. What makes matters worse is that the anti-Christians, be they professors or fellow students, are often much better prepared to defend their position than we are. Does Christianity require a leap of faith regardless of the facts? What right do we have to say other faiths are in error if we cannot explain why our own is true? Questions like these have driven me to regularly expose myself to the field of apologetics (not apologizing, but defending or giving reasons for the faith). In this blog post I have collected together a number of resources that may help you give an answer to those attacking our faith.

General Resource Websites

The Resurrection of Jesus

  • The Unofficial N.T. Wright Page
    has tons of mp3s and written sermons by Dr. N.T. Wright (Anglican Bishop of Durham).  He is a first rate historian of early Christianity and has a doctorate from Oxford and has written dozens of books.  He’s widely respected as a NT scholar by both conservatives and liberals.  His tome on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection is called The Resurrection of the Son of God.  He identifies 7 mutations between 2nd temple Judaism and early Christianity that can only be accounted for if Jesus was actually raised from the dead (this is a blog post I did about a lecture he gave that I thought was particularly good, including video or audio download of the lecture).
  • Dr. William Lane Craig
    His website is www.reasonablefaith.org and he has a number of lectures and debates on it.  Also, this website has an obscene number of mp3s including some lectures on NT reliability and a ton of William Lane Craig debates (on both God’s existence and the historicitiy of his Resurrection).

Answering Specific Attacks

  • Jesus as a ripoff of Egyptian gods (i.e. Horus)
    If you are not familiar with this argument watch this clip from the movie Religulous. Here is the blog entry of Dr. Ben Witherington III (professor at Asbury Seminary) in which he analyzes the Zeitgeist movie (which preceded Maher’s film I think) and if you scroll down a bit he demonstrates that even just based on wikipedia information, these theories can be debunked.  The problem (or genius) w/ these types of conspiracy theories is that they require a specialized knowledge of fields that hardly anyone is familiar with.  Thus, the viewer is at a loss to know how to verify the facts.  Two more websites that debunked the Horus/Jesus parallels are  website 1 and website 2.  I’m not sure that either of these two are Egyptologists or even Religion scholars, but the data is there.  I would want to see more qualified people talk about this (like in a debate at a university) so I could hear the conspiracy person respond to this. 
  • Jesus’ family tomb was discovered at Talpiot
    Here are some free audios, but if you are really interested this documentary was really good (they even went back and re-interviewed some people in the first film). Furthermore, Ben Witherington III blogged about this when it first came out and showed how common the names Jesus, Joseph, and Mary were in the first century.

Books

  • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel: this book is extraordinarily good because Strobel, a Yale law graduate and former reporter for The Chicago Tribune, interviews the top Christian apologists and poses to them the hardest questions about NT reliability of transmission and historicity.  He describes the 1 Corinthians 15.3-4 argument briefly yet competently.
  • The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg: haven’t read it but heard good things about it and was impressed by Blomberg’s Veritas lecture which addressed many of the same issues.  Blomberg also has a Gospels/Acts course for free (I just downloaded it) which addresses a number of the issues related to reliability of the Gospels.
  • The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce: haven’t read this one either but it is an oldie but goodie that many people recommend.
  • Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham: I’m reading this right now.  His point is that the Gospels contain significant evidence of being eyewitness testimony and thus are historical in nature (as opposed to saying they are theological stories composed by communities to authorize their own form of Christianity).
  • to find more books, type any of these into Amazon.com and they will generate a list of other similar books (i.e. people who purchased this book also purchased…)

I’m sure there are more that I have forgotten, so if you can think of something, please drop the link in a comment below.

7 Responses to “Aplogetics: Defending the Faith”

  1. on 30 Dec 2009 at 6:15 amMark C.

    Thank you, Sean! This is a great key to the amazing wealth of information that is available out there. We really have no reason to be unprepared.

  2. on 30 Dec 2009 at 6:07 pmRon S.

    A very important subject Sean! It is one we all need to spend more time studying and preparing for.

    I’d also recommend Frank Turek’s web site Cross Examined.org as its primary purpose is to defend Christianity and stand up to the anti-Christian onslaught – especially the ones that happen to teens after they leave the nest. His alarming stat is “3 out of 4 Christian teens leave the church after they leave home”

    Turek’s book (whom he wrote with Norman Geisler) “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” is EXCELLENT. It really presents almost iron-clad proof that Christianity is much more reasonable than Atheism with the evidence for each.

    Of course the only caveat I’d give for people of our persuasion is that Turek (like most mainstream Christian Apologists) beats the Trinitarian drum loudly among the arguments. That said, the overall case presented still stands strong if you view things from an unitarian Christology.

  3. on 30 Dec 2009 at 9:04 pmJohnE

    Great resources Sean.

    I listened to the resurrection debate between Licona and Ehrman ( Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead? http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.4742567/k.F1D9/Debate_Video_Mike_Licona_vs_Bart_Ehrman_2008.htm ) listed on the Apologetics 315 page. There weren’t any big surprises, both parties had good arguments, but some of Ehrman’s position’s weaknesses were obvious.

    One of them was the Apollonius of Tiana argument; the reliability of the source promoting him cannot really compete with the gospels when looked at from a historical point of view.

    The other one was the apparition theory, that the disciples thought Jesus has been resurrected because they had vivid visions with Jesus, after his death. He argued correctly that apparitions and visions where dead people visit their loved ones are fairly frequent and well documented, even in the antiquity. But because these apparitions were mainly experienced by the family of the dead, Ehrman emphasized that Jesus’ disciples were very close to him and loved him profoundly – therefore they are included in the category of the “loved ones”.

    Where he fails though is in the case of Paul. He had a vision of Jesus but was not a “loved one” for Paul. Paul was exactly the opposite in fact. Why would he have such a vision then?

    The idea many scholars have about Jesus’ apparition being initially a kind of vision comes from the fact that the earliest written testimony seems to indicate this. Paul doesn’t seem to be aware of the empty tomb and the women being the first to see the resurrected Jesus. He says in 1 Co 15 he received a tradition that said Peter was the one who Jesus first “appeared” to. When Paul says “appeared”, he uses a verb (horao) that is technically used for supernatural appearances or appearances of supernatural beings, when someone of this nature appears to somebody. This is its usual usage. The word “vision” is a derivative of “horao”, namely, “horama”.

    I searched for the form of the verb Paul uses, and here are the verses that use it. Only the 3 verses from 1 Maccabees don’t have such a connotation:

    LXE Genesis 12:7 And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, I will give this land to thy seed. And Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him.

    LXE Genesis 16:13 And she called the name of the Lord God who spoke to her, Thou art God who seest me; for she said, For I have openly seen him that appeared to me.

    LXE Genesis 17:1 ¶ And Abram was ninety-nine years old, and the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am thy God, be well-pleasing before me, and be blameless.

    LXE Genesis 18:1 ¶ And God appeared to him by the oak of Mambre, as he sat by the door of his tent at noon.

    LXE Genesis 26:2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, Go not down to Egypt, but dwell in the land, which I shall tell thee of.

    LXE Genesis 26:24 And the Lord appeared to him in that night, and said, I am the God of Abraam thy father; fear not, for I am with thee, and I will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for the sake of Abraam thy father.

    LXE Genesis 26:28 And they said, We have surely seen that the Lord was with thee, and we said, Let there be an oath between us and thee, and we will make a covenant with thee,

    LXE Genesis 31:13 I am God that appeared to thee in the place of God where thou anointedst a pillar to me, and vowedst to me there a vow; now then arise and depart out of this land, depart into the land of thy nativity, and I will be with thee.

    LXE Genesis 35:9 ¶ And God appeared to Jacob once more in Luza, when he came out of Mesopotamia of Syria, and God blessed him.

    LXE Genesis 48:3 And Jacob said to Joseph, My God appeared to me in Luza, in the land of Chanaan, and blessed me,

    LXE Exodus 3:2 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him in flaming fire out of the bush, and he sees that the bush burns with fire,– but the bush was not consumed.

    LXE Exodus 16:10 And when Aaron spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and they turned toward the wilderness, then the glory of the Lord appeared in a cloud.

    LXE Leviticus 9:23 And Moses and Aaron entered into the tabernacle of witness. And they came out and blessed all the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.

    LXE Numbers 14:10 ¶ And all the congregation bade stone them with stones; and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud on the tabernacle of witness to all the children of Israel.

    LXE Numbers 16:19 And Core raised up against them all his company by the door of the tabernacle of witness; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.

    LXE Numbers 16:42 And it came to pass when the congregation combined against Moses and Aaron, that they ran impetuously to the tabernacle of witness; and the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared.

    LXE Numbers 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from before the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of witness, and they fell upon their faces; and the glory of the Lord appeared to them.

    LXE Judges 6:12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty in strength.

    LXE Judges 13:3 And an angel of the Lord appeared to the woman, and said to her, Behold, thou art barren and hast not born; yet thou shalt conceive a son.

    LXE 2 Samuel 22:11 And he rode upon the cherubs and did fly, and was seen upon the wings of the wind.

    1 ki 3:5 And the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and the Lord said to Solomon, Ask some petition for thyself.

    LXE 1 Kings 9:2 that the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he appeared in Gabaon.

    LXE 2 Chronicles 1:7 ¶ In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, Ask what I shall give thee.

    LXE 2 Chronicles 3:1 ¶ And Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in the mount of Amoria, where the Lord appeared to his father David, in the place which David had prepared in the threshing-floor of Orna the Jebusite.

    LXE 2 Chronicles 7:12 And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him, I have heard thy prayer, and I have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice.

    NAB Tobit 12:22 They kept thanking God and singing his praises; and they continued to acknowledge these marvelous deeds which he had done when the angel of God appeared to them.

    NAB 1 Maccabees 4:6 ¶ But at daybreak Judas appeared in the plain with three thousand men, who lacked such armor and swords as they would have wished.

    NAB 1 Maccabees 4:19 ¶ As Judas was finishing this speech, a detachment appeared, looking down from the mountain.

    NAB 1 Maccabees 9:27 There had not been such great distress in Israel since the time prophets ceased to appear among the people.

    NAB 2 Maccabees 3:25 There appeared to them a richly caparisoned horse, mounted by a dreadful rider. Charging furiously, the horse attacked Heliodorus with its front hoofs. The rider was seen to be wearing golden armor.

    LXE Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore have I drawn thee in compassion.

    LXE Daniel 8:1 ¶ In the third year of the reign of king Baltasar a vision appeared to me, even to me Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first.

    NAU Matthew 17:3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

    NAU Mark 9:4 Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.

    NAU Luke 1:11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.

    NAU Luke 22:43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.

    NAU Luke 24:34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.”

    NAU Acts 7:2 And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,

    NAU Acts 7:26 “On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’

    NAB Acts 7:30 ¶ “Forty years later, an angel appeared to him in the desert near Mount Sinai in the flame of a burning bush.

    Acts 16:9 During (the) night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian appeared staying before him and implored him with these words, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

    The OT verses are from the Septuagint (abbr. LXE here), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures used by 1st century Christians.

    This idea of Peter having had a vision of Jesus is then connected with the supernatural comings and goings of the resurrected Jesus (appears in the middle of a room with closed doors, disappears from view, etc.; these are in accord with the angelic “appearances” quoted above); and this is further connected with Paul’s view of Jesus having been resurrected with a spiritual body, 1 Peter’s Jesus being made alive in spirit, etc.

    Matthew and Luke’s gospels then, are reacting against an earlier view of Jesus having only a spiritual, immaterial body when they take great pains to emphasize the fleshly body of Jesus. This obviously wouldn’t have been needed if no such views existed earlier. So some scholars believe based on the earliest writings and the rest I laid out above, that at least some 1st generation Christians believed Jesus was spiritually raised because of Peter’s vision, this having evolved later into a full fleshly body resurrection.

    To get back to our topic, defense of our faith. I think the issue is framed in an inaccurate format. “Our faith is under attack”. “Anti-Christians”. It sounds like these university professors (some of whom are Christians) and some of their students have the goal of attacking our faith, to transform us into atheists, or at least to prove we’re gullible or something. I don’t think such thing is happening. By framing it in this way, I think we prepare our fellows to view the writings and ideas of the “liberal” academia through a negative lens, making it something to reject beforehand. It sounds like the advice would be “keep clear of these guys – they’re attacking us, they’re an unhealthy influence, they’re anti-Christians (literally anti-christs) – but go on and arm yourselves with the orthodox defense that rebuts them”.

    The problem is that believers are usually reading only the “conservative” point of view, designed to defend their theology. No one is encouraged to view and study for themselves what the “liberal” academia has to say. At most, they find out about a slight part of these academics’ arguments through the orthodox polemic against them.

    The result: believers are often caught off guard when they encounter “liberal” arguments in their un-cut wholeness, and don’t know how to deal with them. Merely pointing to apologetic sites will not help always, as they cannot (or would not) present the opposing arguments in their entirety. So believers do not get the whole picture, and will not, if part of it is labeled as an attack on the faith.

    Let’s not forget what being Christian meant for a lot of people in the first century: many of the 3rd or 4th generation Christians knew no eye-witnesses, didn’t have the NT but just oral tradition, therefore there was no NT inerrancy view. All they had to rely on was other people’s testimony. Not all agreed in every respect. Did the sky fall? No.

    My advice would be to get familiarized with both points of view. Do not get acquainted with the opposing views through “orthodox” channels. Weigh all the views honestly, without the pre-conceived idea that you already know the answer, and so all you are doing is finding ways to fight back.

  4. on 31 Dec 2009 at 12:38 amRay

    Sometimes apologists want to defend God so much they drive everyone away from him.

    Why do I believe in God? Because I worshiped him and he began to make himself known. As I worshiped him I began to receive some things about him. I began to learn a bit about his ways. He drew me closer to Jesus because I worshiped him, and then I began to find out even more the importance of the cross.

  5. on 31 Dec 2009 at 12:33 pmSean

    JohnE,

    I think you are right on the Apollonius of Tiana argument. The analogy is only skin deep.

    You said,

    Matthew and Luke’s gospels then, are reacting against an earlier view of Jesus having only a spiritual, immaterial body when they take great pains to emphasize the fleshly body of Jesus. This obviously wouldn’t have been needed if no such views existed earlier. So some scholars believe based on the earliest writings and the rest I laid out above, that at least some 1st generation Christians believed Jesus was spiritually raised because of Peter’s vision, this having evolved later into a full fleshly body resurrection.

    The hallucination theory has been repeatedly debunked by a variety of scholars and I’m surprised Ehrman would take that position. I’m not really a fan of Mike Licona, he did pretty bad against Richard Carrier. As I recall William Craig competently defeated Bart Ehrman when they debated using his usual strategy (plus a few new arguments). Anyhow, I don’t think you can read into Matthew and Luke a reaction against something. At least, I don’t see how you are able to make such a jump. First off, Luke is someone who freely admits he wasn’t there during Jesus’ ministry, which is why he has thoroughly investigated the eye-witnesses to get to the truth of the matter. Saying that he tweaked his eye-witness report to push his own theology is to call into question the man’s character and generally reliability. If one were to pursue this he would also have to explain the motive. But, honestly I’m skeptical about such speculative reconstructions. It seems too much like trying to do psychology on ancient people from whom we have inadequate data. Also, the creed in 1 Cor 15 does assume an empty tomb. The key is to interpret resurrection within the Jewish rather than Pagan context. In Judaism resurrection has a range of meaning but one thing is clear–we are talking about people’s bodies coming back to life by a miracle of God, not a ghost or something like that.

    To get back to our topic, defense of our faith. I think the issue is framed in an inaccurate format. “Our faith is under attack”. “Anti-Christians”. It sounds like these university professors (some of whom are Christians) and some of their students have the goal of attacking our faith, to transform us into atheists, or at least to prove we’re gullible or something. I don’t think such thing is happening.

    JohnE, I know it happens. I have witnessed it myself (last semester) and know several people who had similar experiences. In fact, the Veritas Forum was a response to such bullying. Perhaps as many as 70-80% of scholars on Christianity are not believers in Jesus’ atonement (according to Daniel Wallace). A significant swath of these professors take delight in ridiculing and debunking Christianity. This is often done in subtle ways but sometimes it is don’t outright. Generally such professors are not interested in “converting” believers into atheists (I didn’t mean to imply that), but they do want to diminish people’s faith in the Bible as authoritative and historically reliable. Some of the professors who do this are “believers” but what they believe in would disagree with Paul and Jesus. This doesn’t mean we can’t learn from such people, but it does mean that we need to train ourselves, especially our youth who have never been challenged to critical think out their faith.

    By framing it in this way, I think we prepare our fellows to view the writings and ideas of the “liberal” academia through a negative lens, making it something to reject beforehand. It sounds like the advice would be “keep clear of these guys – they’re attacking us, they’re an unhealthy influence, they’re anti-Christians (literally anti-christs) – but go on and arm yourselves with the orthodox defense that rebuts them”.

    Agreed. I don’t think everyone should steer clear from liberal scholarship, but one should examine everything critically. Some of them are anti-Christian, others are sincere believers. There is a wide spectrum. However, what makes them liberal is that they don’t accept the veracity of the Scriptures.

    The problem is that believers are usually reading only the “conservative” point of view, designed to defend their theology. No one is encouraged to view and study for themselves what the “liberal” academia has to say. At most, they find out about a slight part of these academics’ arguments through the orthodox polemic against them.
    The result: believers are often caught off guard when they encounter “liberal” arguments in their un-cut wholeness, and don’t know how to deal with them. Merely pointing to apologetic sites will not help always, as they cannot (or would not) present the opposing arguments in their entirety. So believers do not get the whole picture, and will not, if part of it is labeled as an attack on the faith.

    Indeed. However, our people don’t even expose themselves to the orthodox polemic agianst the liberals, so they are two steps behind. In fact, it would be better for one to educated him or herself on both sides of the issue. The first is to find out our own position, the second is to investigate other people’s views.

    Let’s not forget what being Christian meant for a lot of people in the first century: many of the 3rd or 4th generation Christians knew no eye-witnesses, didn’t have the NT but just oral tradition, therefore there was no NT inerrancy view. All they had to rely on was other people’s testimony. Not all agreed in every respect. Did the sky fall? No.
    My advice would be to get familiarized with both points of view. Do not get acquainted with the opposing views through “orthodox” channels. Weigh all the views honestly, without the pre-conceived idea that you already know the answer, and so all you are doing is finding ways to fight back.

    agreed.

  6. on 31 Dec 2009 at 10:41 pmJohnE

    Sean,

    The hallucination theory has been repeatedly debunked by a variety of scholars and I’m surprised Ehrman would take that position.

    Could you please point these scholars and their work? I’d be interested to study this. Thanks.

    As I recall William Craig competently defeated Bart Ehrman when they debated using his usual strategy (plus a few new arguments)

    I think I remember a debate between them, but I think that was related to textual criticism, not resurrection?

    Anyhow, I don’t think you can read into Matthew and Luke a reaction against something. At least, I don’t see how you are able to make such a jump. First off, Luke is someone who freely admits he wasn’t there during Jesus’ ministry, which is why he has thoroughly investigated the eye-witnesses to get to the truth of the matter. Saying that he tweaked his eye-witness report to push his own theology is to call into question the man’s character and generally reliability. If one were to pursue this he would also have to explain the motive.

    I should amend what I said, it is in fact John and Luke. People can read such a reaction into John and Luke for several reasons. One of them would be that Mark and Matthew have no such events. Even worse, Luke’s account differs significantly from John’s. If Mark is indeed the earliest one among the four – and even if it isn’t – I have a big question mark over my head. How is it that Mark knows nothing of what Matthew, John and Luke have to say? (wasn’t Mark supposed to have recorded what Peter said?) How come Luke Matthew and John add to Mark and have entirely different accounts? There seems to be a lot of adding and modifying in the tradition. What’s worse, Paul, the earliest one, knows nothing of these resurrection traditions. His silence is significant because in 1 Co 15 he was trying to convince some of the Corinthians that dead people do get resurrected. He presents Jesus as a proof, but is not content to merely mention Jesus as resurrected, he provides proof that Jesus was by mentioning the eye witnesses. The tradition he received, as he says, is that he was buried, raised on the 3rd day, and appeared to Peter, the twelve(!), and others. If this wasn’t the point where Luke and John’s account would have been most welcome to convince the resurrection skeptics, I don’t know which would.

    Is it possible that later writers like Luke and John knew something their precursors didn’t? There’s no reason to come to this conclusion. Especially since John and Luke don’t agree. If they would have, than maybe. Luke doesn’t actually say he got his info from eye-witnesses as you said, but that many have tried to compile accounts based on what eye-witnesses said (would these “many” be Mark Matthew and John?); if he was indeed thorough in his investigations and presents the events “in order/orderly”, then Matthew and John were wrong, and Mark was ignorant.

    So this is how one gets to read reactions against a spiritual body resurrection into Luke and John. Why their additions (or the additions in their tradition)? They had to have a reason. This is not psychology, this is detective work 🙂 These additions serve the purpose of showing that Jesus was resurrected in the flesh. Why did the purpose exist (Mark and Paul had no such purpose)? Obviously because such a measure was needed. Why was it needed?

    Also, the creed in 1 Cor 15 does assume an empty tomb. The key is to interpret resurrection within the Jewish rather than Pagan context. In Judaism resurrection has a range of meaning but one thing is clear–we are talking about people’s bodies coming back to life by a miracle of God, not a ghost or something like that.

    When you say “the creed in 1 Cor 15 does assume an empty tomb” you start with the assumption of physical body resurrection being the norm. But things aren’t so black and white. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what a part of liberal/secular academia has to say on the subject. Take for example Gregory Riley, “Resurrection Reconsidered”, p. 8, as an introduction:

    It has been less often noted how late a development in early Christian history was the doctrine do the physical resurrection of Christ, and how common the “heresy” of its rejection in the Church. The original idea was, if not identical with, then far more in accord with “spiritual resurrection” and “Greek” ideas than with mundane resurrection of the body. Paul declared that Jesus had appeared to many irrefutable witnesses (1 Co 15:off), but in a transformed “spiritual body” (vs. 44). This body was a “dwelling from heaven” made by God and given in exchange for the earthly body (2 Co 5:1-4), for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Co 15:50). Mark, the earliest canonical gospel, contains no physical demonstration of Jesus’ post-mortem body. All three synoptic gospels preserve the saying that the resurrected believers would become like angels (Mark 12:25 and parallels). Among non-Christian Greek and Romans, some believed that there was no survival at all beyond the grave, while the majority opinion was clearly that of non-physical, postmortem survival. None at all conceived of fleshly resurrection of the body.

    Opinion among Jews was similar, but ill-defined and among some groups mixed with ideas of a general resurrection of different types. The contrasting and exclusive pair, often seen in secondary literature, of “the Jewish belief in physical resurrection” as opposed to “the Greek idea of immortality of the soul” is far too simplistic to substantiate (on differences among Jews, and rejection of this misleading opposition, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t_8Z33DEYg (which represents pages 15-23; choose HD and pause video to read) and cf. Peter Carnley, The Structure of Resurrection Belief, 231: “There was by no means a clear and uniform tradition which can be used to clarify Paul’s views. Paul inherited a wide spectrum of beliefs which had evolved in Hellenistic Judaism…”) Greeks certainly did not believe in physical resurrection but neither did many Jews; even among the Pharisees and Essenes evidence is at best ambiguous, and very Hellenistic. One would surmise from what evidence there is that the majority of pre-Christian Jews believed in something other than the “Jewish belief in physical resurrection”, and that none had yet conceived of the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh, highly developed in the 2nd century CE and later, which seems to determine much modern thinking.

    […]

    What was the “stuff” of the soul after death? What was it made of, and how did it function? We shall see that all of the things claimed as proofs for the “physical” risen Christ in the Gospel accounts could be said for the “spiritual” Jesus also, and therefore that the proofs offered by Luke and John and the Fathers, for those disposed to see them in a contrary light, proved nothing.

    Riley provides indeed Greek texts that show how they viewed the soul. In archaic Greece, the soul was “conceived of as a material substance, very fine and akin to air and aether, but material nonetheless”. Later this view evolved and the soul was now impalpable. But these souls would appear to living people, and they would look exactly like the dead person. The soul would appear to the living (in a dream for example) with the wounds the body suffered. But the impalpability of the soul was contradicted with ideas that the dead were eating and drinking, had sex (even with the living!), fought in battles of the living and slaughtered a great number of enemies; the living could even threaten the dead physically. The dead are physically tortured in Hades, others are engaging in sports, wrestling, dancing. They were able to touch or be touched if they wanted to, and this is why Riley says some Christians could still hold to a spiritual resurrection, despite the proofs Luke and John provide.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the Hellenistic culture had a huge influence in the region, and the Jews weren’t living in a cultural and religious vacuum. Even the NT shows this influence – and I’m thinking for instance of Matt. 10:28 (they can kill the body but not the soul); I know we spend a lot of energy (God knows I did) to explain that verse away, but it ultimately says what it says. Luke has the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, John has his prologue borrowed from Philo, and so forth.

    JohnE, I know it happens. I have witnessed it myself (last semester) and know several people who had similar experiences.

    I believe you. I didn’t witness anything like that because I’ve been to no biblical studies university, but you certainly have. But still, I can’t imagine that all or the majority of the works and research published by the academics that contradicts the conservative view are meant to be an attack on us.

  7. on 01 Jan 2010 at 6:04 pmJohnE

    Sorry for the blurry video referenced above; the pages are barely readable. I made a better one. Click HD, then full-screen (button next to HD), then pause for each page.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5iVKAEKlhU

  

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