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Old 03-22-2001, 07:51 PM   #61
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I am disappointed that Nomad hasn't yet been able to respond to my scenario. I am curious as to his input. Maybe not enough time has passed since I offered it.
 
Old 03-22-2001, 08:52 PM   #62
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Hi Doc, and thank you for the reply. I was away on business the last couple of days, and am trying to get through all of my threads (if at all possible) tonight.

Since you asked for my reply, I will go through your scenario first. Hopefully I will be able to tackle Iain's as well later on.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by doc58:

Taking your assumption that the resurrection never took place, here is what happened.

The apostles and women had followed Jesus for 3 years. They had staked their lives on Him being the Messiah. They really believed that he would bring the kingdom immediately.
In other words they were deeply emotionally invested in him being their savior. They were in shock and deep sorrow at his unexpected death.</font>
All of this pretty much lines up with what the Gospels tell us, and it certainly makes sense. It tends to be a common trait amongst followers of a messiah as well.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> They were psychologically ripe for any hope that he might be alive.
When the rumor of his resurrection started, they grabbed onto it like a drowning person would cling to a lifeline.</font>
Okay, here is the first big red flag in your theory. Who started the rumours of Jesus' resurrection in the first place? The entire idea is foriegn to the Jewish mind (even to this day), and given the fearful and pathetic state of the disciples, they don't look like probable candidates to be starting such a story and sticking too it.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Around this time, good old impetuous but impressive Peter took the reins of leadership. He couldn't stand the thought of Jesus not being his deliverer and he still felt guilty about betraying him.</font>
I think time lines are important here. By the above argument, it does not sound like you think Peter started the rumours of the Resurrection. In your view, who did?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Later Paul came along. They were very good salesman and effective, persuasive leaders although they didn't always get along.</font>
And this is the next flag. Do you consider Paul's experience on the road to Damascus to be a complete fabrication here? Or do you think that he had some kind of experience of a risen Jesus before he met the disciples in Jerusalem?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The teachings started spreading like Amway-using house to house meetings. Thus momentum was built and cont'd until the big boost came and Constantine decided it would be politically expedient for him to nationalize Christianity. </font>
Okay, you are covering a lot of historical ground here (about 250 years). Why would their story (or a resurrected Jewish peasant) have any selling power? Why would this have any appeal to the educated elites especially? And if there are dozens of stories floating around like this, why pick out Christianity when Mithras and Isis and even Judaism had been around so much longer and had so much more historical credibility behind them?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The fact that these people would be willing to die for their beliefs is not surprising and not unusual. Also, Christianity filled a need for purpose and fellowship that made them feel good.</font>
Both true.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> People were tired of the Romans and tired of the Jewish leaders so they felt good about following a new savior who promised pain for the Romans and pleasure for them eternally.</font>
Jewish converts paid a brutal price for their conversion, often losing their families, and being cast out of the synagogues as apostates. To this day a Jew that converts to Christianity is considered dead to his or her family, and they mourn the lost child. This does not look very appealing to me.

As for the appeal of eternal life, this was being offered by plenty of other religions already (including Judaism), so again, why would Christianity be so special? The problem is made even more problematic by the fact that the Church did expect converts to give all other gods. This looks pretty unreasonable to me, and certainly looked it to the Romans (who otherwise probably would have tolerated Christianity much earlier if they had allowed worship of other gods).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> As the Romans persecuted them, they clung tightly together and loved one another and gave each other hope.</font>
Agreed.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Christianity spread nicely through Europe but unfortunately over time, it failed until today when Europe and the Middle East has few Christian pockets and most of the so-called Chritsianity bears little resemblance to Biblical Christianity.</font>
You've lost me. How has the Church changed in your view? Would you consider my Christianity to be substantially different from that of Peter or Paul for example? If so, how?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Christianity has in general been unable to maintain momentum over extended periods of time and grows by spreading to new places like Korea or Africa or S. America even as it is declining in places like America.</font>
Well, Christianity is still around, and at least 1/3 of the world's population still claims to be Christian, so I wouldn't be writing it off too quickly.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">F Schaeffer and Josh McD have referred to the U.S. as a post Chritsian country.</font>
This is a curious position for them to take. What is their basis for this judgement? (And who is F Shaeffer?)

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">So, assuming the resurrection did not happen, that is my proposal for what did.</font>
Thanks for the thoughts. I would appreciate any answers or elaborations to the questions and points raised above.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 03-23-2001, 01:38 PM   #63
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Okay, here is the first big red flag in your theory. Who started the rumours of Jesus' resurrection in the first place? The entire idea is foriegn to the Jewish mind (even to this day), and given the fearful and pathetic state of the disciples, they don't look like probable candidates to be starting such a story and sticking too it.

Jesus himself. The Jews were aware of this for quite some time- see Matt 27:63 - they even told the Romans - The idea undoubtedly had time to spread to even agnostic gardeners...my story about the gardener and the centurions is sounding better all the time.....

 
Old 03-23-2001, 03:00 PM   #64
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It seems to me that we have some choices for all this stuff:

1. People purposely lied about Jesus/Christianity to spread their beliefs, incorporating the ideas of eternal damnation /eternal reward to frighten or sedduce potential converts.

2. People invented stories/myths/legends about a real person named Jesus over the course of time and wrote them down decades later.

3. Jesus was a fictional character from the very beginning, around which many myths were created.

4 There are natural and mundane explanations for the spread of christianity just as there are for the phenomenal spread of other faiths.

5. Jesus was actually a God, performed miracles and rose from the dead.

Note that we're supposed to make a decisive choice on these options (and perhaps others) based on ancient writings from a time when many Gods were believed in and worshipped and the existence of prophets and miracle workers was not uncommon.

If I ask myself what choice is the least reasonable given the known evidence, my own experiences (or lack thereof) and my knowledge of history, the choice is a fairly easy one.


 
Old 03-23-2001, 11:26 PM   #65
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Okay, let's see if I can get through Iain' post tonight.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Iain Simpson:

{On Joseph of Arimathea's activities}

I agree that it sounds unlikely. But it is not impossible. Unlikely things do happen, just not very often. I think that we can agree that something unusual did probably happen after the crucifixion. But the fact that something unusual happened does not prove a miracle.</font>
I agree that improbable, or even implausible events are not impossible, however, as the number of implausibilities increase, and the reliance upon special pleading also increases, then explanations become problematic to a point that approximates the impossible.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If none of them account for what happened, then we will be left with "not knowing" being the best answer available to us.

True. My guess is that nobody will ever know for sure. But I do not think any of the naturalistic explainations so far put forward can be dismissed as impossible. Improbable maybe, but not impossible.</font>
I suppose that depends on how many implausibilities you are prepared to accept in order to avoid accepting the one implausible explanation offered by Christians. Basically, if the naturalistic explanation is to be granted any credence, it should at least account for the principle events we can agree did happen, together with their apparent consequences.

In the absense of such coherence, then I think the sceptic is safest in falling back on "I don't know" as his best answer, and hopefully he or she will keep trying to find out what that answer might be.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> While this is a definite possibility, it remains unlikely that Jews would have handled the body (even of a family member) on the Sabbath. This kind of ritual uncleanliness (and remember, it is both the Sabbath and the Passover) would have made such action before the ending of the Sabbath anethama to these individuals.

Again, I agree that there are a few problems with this account. But I can believe that a family, shocked and grief-stricken by the judicial murder of a son/brother, may have broken some local customs in order to take his body home for burial.</font>
The big problem here is that the family would not be breaking some local customs as you put it, but deeply held and believed laws of God. To understand the Jews, and how they think, we must not try and project our modern world view onto them. The idea that Jesus' friends or family would break God's laws in order to bury his body, and then would lie about it later to his disciples (and everyone else) is so unlikely as to be impossible in my view.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> What I disagree with is the idea that the oral tradition could have been seriously corrupted in such a short period of time. Even granting that 2 or 3 generations elapsed between the death of Jesus, and the writing of the Gospels, the tradition from Paul (which closely mirrors that found in the Gospels) was handed down to the apostle within 3 years of the events in question. Further, the oral traditions within Jewish circles was very highly developed, and we have no evidence that such traditions were modified in any significant form in such a relatively short period of time (of even a few decades).

I'm not so sure about this. Even in the gospels themselves there is some evidence of elaboration over time. If we take the orthodox view that the synoptics were written in the order Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts we see the account get more dramatic as time goes on.</font>
Actually, there is almost no real embellishment of the Resurrection story itself. Details are added, but none of them are decisive. The key event in all of the Gospels remains that Jesus is risen, and his body is gone. In fact, in GJohn, the Gospel with the highest Christological developement, we are told that the fact of the empty tomb was enough to convince the Beloved Disciple, and he believed (John 20:8).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In Mark, assuming we dismiss the interpolated 16:9-20, there are no accounts at all of appearances of Jesus. The women simply find an empty tomb, and a man who tells them Jesus is risen and gone to Galilee.</font>
Right, and this is the central point in each of the Gospels.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In Matthew we have Jesus appearing once to the women, and a single appearance to the disciples, on a mountain in Galilee. The reference to some of them doubting (28:17)pretty strongly implies that the writer didn't think the apostles had seen him before, e.g. in Jerusalem.</font>
I disagree. The fact that some did not believe right away most likely means that not all of them saw the risen Jesus at the same time. Once they had, all doubt was removed (see also John 20:25-28).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">By the time Luke/Acts is written, the story has avanced. Rather than a single appearance on a mountain, Jesus appears many times over 40 days and "with many convincing proofs he presented himself alive" (Acts 1:3), though the author does not feel tempted to describe more than a couple. Then he ascends into heaven.</font>
Luke's theological and historical polemical purposes were different than were Mark's and Matthew's. Remember that this author is also writing Acts (probably at the same time as he is writing Luke), and he wants to transition from one to the other.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I think this is reasonably strong evidence that the account got more elaborate over time - evidence of distortion by oral tradition.</font>
You are mixing up two concepts. The oral tradition may or may not have been changing by the time the Gospels were written, but the Gospels themselves are not going to tell us this. It is more probable that there were multiple oral traditions on various issues (depending on which set of witnesses each Gospel writer was using), and the evangelists were recording what they knew, and believed to be most important to their particular story.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The other accounts are not without problems either. One of John's stories, about the miraculous catch of fish (21:1-14) is eerily similar to Luke 5:1-11, suggesting that an incident before the resurrection may have ended up being placed after it by the fourth evangelist.</font>
Actually, it is more commonly thought that Luke inserted John's story earlier into his Gospel, but that both evangelists may have had access to the same story (albeit independent of one another). Chronological order was not the primary focus of any of the authors. Each was more concerned with making the Gospel meaningful to their respective communities.

As an aside, I think Luke was more interested in relating the story of how Jesus recruited Peter as a disciple, and Peter's very appropriate reaction to Jesus revelation of His power. John's purposes with the story (and all of Chapter 21) are more ambiguous in my view, but appear to be mostly concerned with investing Peter with the same authority conferred on him in the Synoptics. Referencing back to how Peter was first recruited by Jesus would provide an ideal opportunity for John to do this, without having to break the flow of his Gospel prior to this point.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> As for Pauls account (1 Cor 15), I thought many scholars reckon that it may well be an interpolation.</font>
1 Corinthians 15 (along with the rest of 1 Corinthians) is universally attributed to Paul himself. I have never heard anyone suggest it was interpolated in any important fashion, and certainly not regarding Chapter 15 and the concept of the resurrected body.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Considering the lengths both Paul and the disciples went to assure their readers that Jesus was not a ghost, they must be assumed to be very aware of this objection. Jesus makes a point of demonstrating his physicallity in the resurrection accounts.

Well, to coin a phrase, they would say that wouldn't they? If they were themselves convinced that they had seen him, and wanted to persuade others, they'd have made their accounts as convincing as possible. They were hardly likely to go around saying "well, we think we saw him, but you never know, it may just have been a trick of the light".</font>
This misses my point Iain. The idea of an actual physical resurrection was so foriegn to everyone concerned (because they were Jews, and had no concept of a Messianic resurrection occuring prior to the end times), it is extremely unlikely that they could have invented this bit out of whole cloth. A vision of a risen Jesus would have been much more probable and plausible in Jewish thought, given OT references to seeing such things.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> And as for these days being less credulous than the ancient past, I do not believe that this is actually the case. If anything, we appear to be very conditioned to accept the most bizarre accounts of things like UFO's, the supernatural, X-File type events and the like. I think credulity levels are pretty constant through the ages.

There are certainly a number of people who will believe practically anything they're told, and this is probably fairly constant. But what I meant was that educated, rational people would have been more willing to accept supernatural explainations as fact in an ang when many thngs could not be explained by natural causes. Remember that many "respectable" ancient historians (eg Plutarch, Tacitus) report miracles uncritically. That is what I meant by a more credulous age.</font>
At the same time, please remember that a great many highly educated people still believe in the possibility and reality of miraclulous events. I see no reason to reject them a priori, and think that the miraculous explanation of the Resurrection better explains what actually happened (than does any currently held naturalistic explanation), and accounts for the events that followed it better as well.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Few accounts of anything in history are water tight or invincible to counter arguments Iain. At most, we can only hope to account for the events we do know, and come up with the most plausible explanation that best explains them.

True. None of the explainations are perfect. But I still think that Joseph putting himself in danger, Roman soldiers getting sloppy and taking down an unconscious man and a family moving a body on the Sabbath as more plausible than a miracle.</font>
I understand. At the same time, I hope you can appreciate why I find such a belief to be based more on an a priori rejection of the possibility of miracles than it is on the overall merits of the respective arguments themselves.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I agree, and interestingly, so did almost everyone that lived at the time of Jesus. Remember that people have been scoffing at this story for 2000 years now, and its durability is quite remarkable, even if you do not believe it.

Durability is not evidence for truthfulness.</font>
This was not my point. People were scoffing at this story from the beginning, and for largely the same reasons that people scoff at them today. Not much has changed on that front, and the fact that the story persisted and triumphed over such scepticism at least gives it some degree of credence in my view.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> All the witnesses have been dead for many centuries now, so believers do not have access to any more evidence than non-believers. We are as well placed to answer the question now as the people in the late Roman Empire were.</font>
I agree. On the other hand, the evidence we have for this miracle is not dependent solely upon the witnesses, but also on personal experiences. That is a separate issue, however, and with luck we can look at it as well in a future thread.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Well, if the Resurrection is true, it has a dramatic bearing on everything we are talking about, but it is not the subject I wanted to address in this thread in any event.

This is a hint at the arguament that the spread of Christianity must have involved divine intervention, I guess.</font>
Again you misunderstood me. You had said that the truth of the resurrection story wasn't really the issue here, and I could not disagree more strongly. If the resurrection IS true, then the debate takes on an entirely different meaning. I only wanted to point that out.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> As a layman, if the claims the early church made for itself are true, if all over the Roman Empire the dead were raised, the blind saw, the crippled walked, deadly poisons were drunk with no ill effects and the laws of nature were generally suspended for the aid of the church, my first question would not be "why did the religion spread so quickly" but rather "why did it take 300 years to convert the empire?" I would not have to witness many such events here and now to believe.</font>
All I would say here is that from a historical point of view, 300 years is nothing. The important point is not how many people believed, and when so much as how does each individual respond to the message of the Gospel, and then as now, that question can only be answered one person at a time.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">On the other hand, if there were no divine intervention, the actual truth or falsehood of the resurrection would not be important.</font>
I think it is safe to say that without divine intervention (i.e. a miracle), then the resurrection cannot possibly be true. That is why knowing whether it actually happened or not is so important.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> While I agree that the conviction of the followers is critical to being believed, I do have a basic faith in human nature that we test the truth over time, and each individual and generation comes to an approximation of the truth that makes it possible for them to know what it is.

How can something like the resurrection be tested over time? The evidence comes from secone hand reports of alleged eyewitness accounts. The alleged witnesses are all dead and so cannot be cross examined. The amount of evidence has not increased or diminished since the days of the early church. All that can change is our interpretation of it.</font>
Again you and I are looking at this from very different points of view. If the process of believing the resurrection happened is anything like what happened to me, then critical bits of evidence and information are needed through a process I can only call revelation. I know that is unsatisfying in our scientific age, but it does appear to be consistent with the reports I have read from other converts, so I think that there is some merit to this theory.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I too have faith in human nature, but I think all too often human frailties and fallability gets in the way of it. So I cannot regard something as true just because others have believed in it. Everyone must make up his or her mind on the basis of the evidence available to them.</font>
I could not agree with you more strongly Iain.

Thank you, and peace.

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited March 24, 2001).]
 
Old 03-24-2001, 07:30 AM   #66
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It's high time someone put an end to Nomad's claim that the idea of physical resurrection was utterly foreign to the Jewish mind, etc,etc..

Sorry, Nomad but we're talking Pharisees right? In his defense Paul brought up the fact that he was a pharisee on trial for what? for his hope in the resurrection - the pharisees ably defended him -see Acts 23:1-11.
As a matter of fact, the idea of physical resurrection was quite the theological debate of the day - Pharisees vs Sadducees.
Jesus, PAul, and the Pharisees believed in it, the more popular Sadduccees disbelieved.

one other thing: the Jewish leaders very rarley were out to debunk Jesus claim's to do miracles - they were out to check his doctrine - they were in the midst of Messiah madness and wanted to verify -by means of Deut 13 - whether a true prophet had arisen or not. The Jewish leadres were almost constantly questioning Christ about matters of Doctrine and Law - finally, the Jewish leaders found grounds (in their perception)to charge Christ of blasphemy and hence rejected his claims to Messiahship even if he was doing the miracles (Deut 13)!

The rumor that Jesus was to rise again was first started by Christ and was made public early (see Mark 8:32) - the Jewish leaders were not deaf to this at all - Matt 27.
Given the chaotic atmosphere of the times, it would not be at all an improbable naturalistic explanation to say that some cool headed persons (centurions gardener) could've easily played a hoax (for money) taking advantage of the situation.

BTW - it was Mary Magdalene who was the first to report Jesus risen - and who did John say that she thought she first saw? The gardener - but then she changed her mind. My story accounts for that one!
 
Old 03-24-2001, 07:53 AM   #67
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by jmcanany:

It's high time someone put an end to Nomad's claim that the idea of physical resurrection was utterly foreign to the Jewish mind, etc,etc..

Sorry, Nomad but we're talking Pharisees right? In his defense Paul brought up the fact that he was a pharisee on trial for what? for his hope in the resurrection - the pharisees ably defended him -see Acts 23:1-11.
As a matter of fact, the idea of physical resurrection was quite the theological debate of the day - Pharisees vs Sadducees.
Jesus, PAul, and the Pharisees believed in it, the more popular Sadduccees disbelieved.</font>
Hello jm

I think you misunderstood my point. Jews then (as the Pharisees) and today believe in a general resurrection of EVERYONE on the Last Day. They do not believe in one resurrection by a single individual first, that then shows us that the resurrection is true.

This is why the Pharisees freaked out about the message the disciples were spreading, and wanted it stomped out (Saul included, pre-Damascus days).

My recommendation is that you read some of the material from Jewish sources to confirm what I am talking about here.

Try Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife and also Jews for Judaism

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">one other thing: the Jewish leaders very rarley were out to debunk Jesus claim's to do miracles - they were out to check his doctrine - they were in the midst of Messiah madness and wanted to verify -by means of Deut 13 - whether a true prophet had arisen or not.</font>
I know all of this jm, and it is entirely beside the point on this thread. We are assuming for the sake of an argument that the miracles did NOT happen. It is called a mental exercise, and any of us can do it any time we want to explore ideas with which we may not agree. I want to know how atheists view the events of the resurrection, and what THEY think happened. That's it. I do not expect anyone to convert on this thread, but I do hope to learn a bit from people on the other side of an issue which I feel strongly about.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The Jewish leadres were almost constantly questioning Christ about matters of Doctrine and Law - finally, the Jewish leaders found grounds (in their perception)to charge Christ of blasphemy and hence rejected his claims to Messiahship even if he was doing the miracles (Deut 13)!</font>
Agreed, but beside the point again.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The rumor that Jesus was to rise again was first started by Christ and was made public early (see Mark 8:32) - the Jewish leaders were not deaf to this at all - Matt 27.</font>
And no one, including the disciples understood what He was talking about at this point. They thought He was talking about the Temple, not Himself.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Given the chaotic atmosphere of the times, it would not be at all an improbable naturalistic explanation to say that some cool headed persons (centurions gardener) could've easily played a hoax (for money) taking advantage of the situation.</font>
Well, this idea never occured to anyone at the time jm, unless you know of it appearing somewhere. The Pharisees and Sadduccees thought the disciples stole the body, and for all I know, that is still what Jews believe. They certainly don't think a prank was pulled, nor does anyone else (including you).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">BTW - it was Mary Magdalene who was the first to report Jesus risen - and who did John say that she thought she first saw? The gardener - but then she changed her mind. My story accounts for that one! </font>
Jm? John believed when he saw the tomb empty. That was my point.

I hope that helps clarify my points for you.

Peace,

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited March 24, 2001).]
 
Old 03-26-2001, 08:26 AM   #68
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Interesting -
Tell me Nomad, can you disprove my theory? It is well within the realm of possibility. As a naturalistic explanation it sure beats swoon theories correct? Can you, given your methods, prove that there was no prank (as suggested) committed?

Thank you
 
Old 03-26-2001, 12:30 PM   #69
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by jmcanany:
Interesting -
Tell me Nomad, can you disprove my theory? It is well within the realm of possibility. As a naturalistic explanation it sure beats swoon theories correct? Can you, given your methods, prove that there was no prank (as suggested) committed?

Thank you</font>
Hi jm

The main problem I see with your theory is that it fails completely to account for the resurrection accounts attributed to any witnesses besides Mary Magdeline.

Outside of that, it is logically impossible to disprove an historical claim. We can only rely upon the evidence available to us, and your theory has none whatsoever to support it. On this basis it can be discounted.

Thank you for your thoughts on the thread.

Nomad
 
Old 03-26-2001, 02:00 PM   #70
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The main problem I see with your theory is that it fails completely to account for the resurrection accounts attributed to any witnesses besides Mary Magdeline

Not at all: who would want to be outdone by Mary? Suddenly 'Jesus' starts appearing all over the place, eating fish, having conversations, etc...!!

Outside of that, it is logically impossible to disprove an historical claim.
Agreed.

We can only rely upon the evidence available to us, and your theory has none whatsoever to support it. On this basis it can be discounted.

Then what was the purpose of your thread anyway? According to the 'evidence we have' Jesus rises up and eats fish. Your thread asked us to drop that 'evidence' and asked for any 'naturalist' way of telling the story. QED.
But I also smell another fish: "all we can do is rely on the evidence we have"? Oh is this like something atheists have to do? Who wrote that law? what if your evidence is false(as many think)? Ought we rely on it just because it's all we got? Stop begging the questions.
BTW - It's sort of circular to 'discount the evidence we have' up front in asking for a naturalistic account, then after a naturalistic explanation is given, to suddenly discount it because it 'has no resemblance to the evidence we have'.....

 
 

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