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Old 03-21-2001, 07:18 PM   #1
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Question Atheists: What questions do you have about the Resurrection?

I'm doing an essay on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was just wondering what questions non-believers or atheists have about it? And if you have answers for denying the fact the Jesus was resurrected, what proof do you have?

Thanks y'all,
Andy
 
Old 03-21-2001, 07:51 PM   #2
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Why should anyone take seriously a non-falsifiable claim such as the ressurection of a man almost 2000 years ago?

[This message has been edited by zzang (edited March 21, 2001).]
 
Old 03-21-2001, 09:31 PM   #3
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by AuthenticMan:
I'm doing an essay on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was just wondering what questions non-believers or atheists have about it? And if you have answers for denying the fact the Jesus was resurrected, what proof do you have?

Thanks y'all,
Andy
</font>
Well Andy, for a start it's not down to us to prove the resurrection did not happen. The onus is on the people claiming that it did happen to prove their case. The assumption must always be that if something would have been contrary to the laws of nature, then it did not happen, unless we are presented with some pretty strong evidence to the contrary. So I will explain why I think the evidence I've seen so far is inadequate.

The evidence for the resurrection rests solely with a handful of ancient writings. Primarily the four canonical gospels, plus some of the apocryphal gospels and brief mentions in a few of the later books of the Bible. Since even most Christian believers do not regard the apocryphal gospels as reliable I shall pass over them and concentrate on the evidence presented in the Bible.

Now there are two ways of viewing the Bible - as the inspired and inerrant word of God (the fundamentalist viewpoint) or as books written by men in the normal manner (the rationalist viewpoint). The fundamentalist viewpoint is a minority view even among Christians - fundamentalists compose only a minority of Christians even in America and are of negligable importance globally. For example, only in America is there any significant debate over creationism/evolution - in Europe the issue has been dead for most of the century. So the fundamentalist view is so discredited it would not be worth the bother of refuting did it not remain so pernicious in parts of America. But I will begin with it, to get it out of the way.

Logically, if a book is inerrant, it cannot contain contradictions. If two statements contradict each other then one of them must be false, and if a book contains false statements it is not inerrant. And if God is incapable of making mistakes, it cannot be the word of God. The Bible contains vast numbers of contradictions - if you look around this site you will find many examples. In this context the ones pertaining to the resurrection are most important, so I will concentrate on several areas in which the Gospel narratives contradict each other.

(1) Who went to the tomb early that Sunday morning?

Matthew has Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary. Mark has Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome. Luke has Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and "the others". John has Mary Magdalene only. So the Gopspels do not even agree on who were the witnesses to the event. This is not exactly a good start.

(2) What time did they go?

Matthew has them going at dawn. Mark has it just after sunrise. Luke puts it "very early in the morning", while John thought it was still dark. Small discrepencies maybe, but even a small contradiction destroys the notion of Biblical inerrancy.

(3) Were they present as the stone was moved away?

Mark, Luke and John all have the women simply arriving at the tomb to find it empty. But Matthew says they went there, then there was an earthquake and the angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled back the stone, terrified the guards and spoke to the women. Rather more dramatic than the other accounts, but them Matthew does seem to have been keen on drama at the expense of truth.

At this point it's probably appropriate to note that the writer of Matthew also tells the story of the soldiers being bribed to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep. Strictly speaking this story does not contradict the other Gospels, but it certainly contradicts common sense. In the first place the soldiers could not have reported who stole the body if they claimed to be asleep at the time, and in the second place no bribe could have been big enough to have them admit to sleeping on sentry duty - a capital offence in almost all armies until very recently. I know he has the High Priests promising to keep then out of trouble, but it would be putting a great deal of faith in the priests of a conquered nation to save them from the wrath of their military superiors. If this is the best Matthew could do he should have kept silent on the subject. At least the other evangelists were sensible enough to have the tomb unguarded. Matthew does seem to have been the most credulous of the Gospel writers (at least of those whose works were accepted into the New Testament) - he reports uncritically this and other manifestly absurd stories, such as a seventy year old king killing all the infants in Bethlehem because he thought a baby was about to steal his crown, and the dead saints rising out of their graves at the time of the crucifixion (a far greater miracle than the resurrection itself) - neither of which are reported in any other Gospels.

(4) Did they meet anyone there and what was said?

Matthew, Mark and Luke all have the women meeting one or more people (angels in Matthew) - though they do not agree on how many or wherabouts they were. In each of these three accounts the men/angels tell the women that Jesus has risen from the dead. But in John, Mary Magdalene goes the tomb and sees no-one. And it is not just a case of him leaving the story out - he has Mary then telling two of the disciples "they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have put him". The writer of this Gospel would not have put such words into her mouth had he thought she had just been told what had happened by angels.

(5) What did the women do next?

Matthew has them running off to tell the disciples and meeting Jesus on the way. (Note that this also contradicts Mary Magdalene not knowing what had happened to the body by the time she met the two disciples). Luke has them telling going straight to the apostles, who didn't believe them. John has Mary Magdalene (alone) telling Peter and "the other disciple". But Mark says that they said nothing to anyone. Don't the disciples count as anyone, or are we seeing more completely contradictory stories?

(6) Where and when did Jesus first appear to the disciples?

The accounts here are so disordered and contradictory that it is difficult to know where to begin. Mark does not describe any instances of Jesus appearing at all. (The account in Mark 16:9-20 is universally agreed to be a late interpolation - it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts. You can accept it if you want to, but it just adds even more problems.) The other three Gospels disagree on almost every detail such as time, place, who was present and what was said.

A casual reading of the other three gospels might suggest that the first appearance to (most of) the apostles was in Jerusalem on the same evening as the resurrection, as reported by Luke and John. A week later he appears to all of them in the same place, and rebukes Thomas for asking for evidence. (As an aside, Richard Dawkins once suggested that because of this Thomas should be the patron saint of scientists. I am inclined to agree. Thomas is just about the only person who comes out of the story with any credit.) So by this point, all the Eleven had seen Jesus risen. But then Matthew has them meeting Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. Mat 28:17 “when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted”. Since they doubted it is evident that they had not already seen Jesus in Jerusalem on the day he rose from the dead. I can see no way of reconciling Matthew’s account with those of Luke and John.

Thomas Paine discussed these issues in The Age of Reason two hundred years ago. Had four people given such contradictory testimony in court "they would have been in danger of having their ears cropped for perjury, and would have justly deserved it. Yet this is the evidence, and these are the books that have been imposed on the world as being given by divine inspiration, and as the unchangable word of God". Apart from the fact that we don't crop people's ears any more, his comment is as valid today as it was then.

So, having dismissed the accuracy of the Gospels, what evidence do we have left. Well, there is the arguament that while the Gospels do obviously contain many mistakes, they do still contain broadly accurate accounts. Well, here we must remember that the Gospels were not written until decades after the death of Jesus, and were almost certainly not written by the people whose names they bear, but rather are second or third hand accounts at best. This allows plenty of opportunity for accounts to become distorted, and myths to grow up between the events and their being written down. How much genuine history can we then extract from the Gosples?

Well, the one and only thing which all four gospels agree on is that the tomb was found empty on the Sunday morning. That then is the sum total of evidence for the resurrection. A more reasonable occurance which would have accounted for this would have been that the body was stolen, either by his family, who wanted a burial in Galilee rather than Jerusalem, or by his followers, who wanted to keep the cult going. It is many times more likely that a body should be stolen than that a man should rise from the dead.

Plus, three of the four Gospels say that Jesus appeared to his followers after he'd died. They disagree on almost every detail, but let us assume that there may be memories of actual sightings here, though much distorted and elaborated by years as oral tradition. Well, even if some people genuinely think they saw Jesus, that does not prove he rose from the dead. People also genuinely think they have seen Elvis Presley - in fact probably more people have seen Elvis Presley than saw Jesus. That may sound flippant, but it is a valid point. It is possible that the apostles merely saw someone who looked like Jesus. It is possible that one of them had a hallucination and was believed by the others. Remember, plenty of people think they have seen ghosts, even today. It is even possible that they made the whole thing up to keep the religion going. Or the writers of the Gospels could have been lying or mistaken about what they thought the Apostles thought they saw . Before the resurrection can be accepted as fact, all of these possibilities must be shown to be impossible.

There's actually a paralell discussion going on in the "What Happened" thread, which includes some views on what else may have hapenned. I suggest you read that thread too.

So there we are. I'm afraid the evidence for the resurrection is practically non-existant. Remember, it was a much more credulous age, and stories of miracles were commonplace - and not just surrounding Jesus. Even respected historians of the time (eg Plutarch, Tacitus, Livy, Josephus) reported uncritically miraculous events, and a major task for Roman historians is sorting the fact from the fiction.

Finally, I doubt the resurrection because it's whole premise, and indeed the whole premise of Christianity, seems absurd. This is the most important event in the history of mankind - the culmination of his plan for our salvation. The whole world must believe. If it is that important that we all believe, God should have provided irrefutible evidence to this and every other generation. Instead a handful of people - barely more than a dozen - are introduced as proxies for the whole world, and everyone else must simply take their word for it. But in fact we do not even have their word for it, but just second or third hand accounts of what other people claim they said. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I cannot accept a miracle on that kind of evidence. But if we ask for any more evidence, we are just told "it is a matter of faith", "you must believe or you will be damned" or "it was good enough for the early Christians", or some other feeble arguament.

Sorry. Not good enough. We are bored with the Bible's miracles. The witnesses have all been dead for two thaosand years. Give us some new miracles so that we can judge their veracity for ourselves.

Perhaps I should close with the advice Thomas Jefferson gave his nephew. It is advice anyone would do well to heed.

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear... Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy and Tacitus...For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, etc."

Good luck with the essay.


 
Old 03-21-2001, 09:54 PM   #4
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by AuthenticMan:
I'm doing an essay on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was just wondering what questions non-believers or atheists have about it?

Thanks y'all,
Andy
</font>
Here's something I've always wondered about:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
MAT 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
MAT 27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
MAT 27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

</font>
So we have a scene here where a number of people rose from the dead at the crucifixion. The text doesn't say exactly how many in all, but for argument's sake, let's say there were 2 or 3 dozen such people.

So 2 or 3 dozen people, formerly dead and buried suddenly got up out of their graves, went into the city, and appeared to dozens of other people. Presumably, they also went looking for their (living) relatives and may have tried to return to the homes and resume their previous lives. Perhaps they were farmers or blacksmiths, or worked as stonemasons. Imagine the scene when they showed up for work on Monday morning.

So let me get this straight: 2 or 3 dozen people who have been dead for days, months or years, suddenly come back to life and there is no written record of it anywhere else?


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
And if you have answers for denying the fact the Jesus was resurrected, what proof do you have?
</font>
BZZT. You have it backwards. It's not up to us to disprove your claim.

It's up to you to provide proof in favor of it.


[This message has been edited by Omnedon1 (edited March 21, 2001).]
 
Old 03-21-2001, 09:54 PM   #5
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Iain: you seem to be under the delusion that only 'fundamentalists' teach on the inerrancy of Scripture, but the fact is many conservative Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, etc... theologians hold to this historical view. Also, your 'contradictions' do not exist and I have previously given you a reasonable reconstruction of the resurrection accounts:

Day1a: The women (minus Mary who had gone ahead to report to Peter and the others) see and touch Jesus while returning to Jerusalem from the empty tomb. (Mt.28:8-10)

Day1b: Mary Magdalene sees and touches Jesus outside the empty tomb after she had returned from Jerusalem- her second trip to the tomb. (Jn.20:11-18)

Day1c: Cleopas and another disciple see and speak with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. (Lk.24:13-35)

Day1d: Jesus appears to Cephas, that is, Simon Peter. (Lk.24:34, 1Cor.15:5)

Day1e: The eleven (minus Thomas), 'others who were with them', Cleopas and the other Emmaus road disciple see, speak with, and touch Jesus in Jerusalem. (Lk 24:36-49, Jn.20:19-23, 1Cor.15:5) Note: 'the eleven' is a term which refers to the core group of disciples and does not require that they all be present. Paul uses the term 'the twelve' for this same group of core disciples in 1Cor.15:5. According to John, only ten of 'the eleven' (Luke) or 'the twelve' (Paul) were present on the first day.

Day 8: Thomas and the other disciples see, speak with, and touch Jesus in Jerusalem. (Jn.20:26-29, 1Cor.15:5)

Next appearance before the disciples after Day 8: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana, James and John, and two other disciples see and speak with and eat with Jesus by the Sea of Tiberias. (John 21)

Other events from Day 1 till Day 40 of which we do not know the time of occurance:
- other signs or 'attesting miracles' are performed by Jesus in the presence of the disciples. (Jn.20:30-31)
- Jesus appears to James. (1Cor.15:7)
- Jesus meets with the eleven on a mountain in Galilee. (Mt.28:16-20)
- Jesus appears before 'more than five hundred brethren at one time'. (1Cor.15:6)

Day 40: Jesus leads his disciples out from Jerusalem to Bethany, blesses them, and is carried up into the sky. (Lk.24:50-53, Acts 1:4-9)


Oh, and this is EYEWITNESS testimony, not hearsay:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." 1John1:1-3
 
Old 03-22-2001, 02:45 AM   #6
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">(1) Who went to the tomb early that Sunday morning?

Matthew has Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary. Mark has Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome. Luke has Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and "the others". John has Mary Magdalene only. So the Gopspels do not even agree on who were the witnesses to the event. This is not exactly a good start.</font>
It's a perfectly good start. Each writer records the women that he knew went to the tomb. Obviously some writers will know some women better than others. This argument from silence is probably the weakest one there is. If I was to say that I went to the beach yesterday, and my brother was to say that he went to the beach yesterday, would you conclude that our accounts are contradictory? Of course not.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">(2) What time did they go?

Matthew has them going at dawn. Mark has it just after sunrise. Luke puts it "very early in the morning", while John thought it was still dark. Small discrepencies maybe, but even a small contradiction destroys the notion of Biblical inerrancy.</font>
Dawn, sunrise, early in the morning, still dark, just beginning to get light etc.
These are all different ways of saying the same thing. No way this is a contradiction, it's an agreement!

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">At this point it's probably appropriate to note that the writer of Matthew also tells the story of the soldiers being bribed to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep. Strictly speaking this story does not contradict the other Gospels, but it certainly contradicts common sense....
no bribe could have been big enough to have them admit to sleeping on sentry duty - a capital offence in almost all armies until very recently. I know he has the High Priests promising to keep then out of trouble, but it would be putting a great deal of faith in the priests of a conquered nation to save them from the wrath of their military superiors.
</font>
You miss the strong possibility that the soldiers were temple guards not Roman ones. Therefore if the High Priest told them to do something they would do it.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">the soldiers could not have reported who stole the body if they claimed to be asleep at the time</font>
This is a lie that the Priests made up to hide it, not what the soldiers reported. Matthew doesn't bother refuting it for the very reason that nobody knows what happens when they're asleep.

Tercel
 
Old 03-22-2001, 04:48 AM   #7
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Tercel:
Dawn, sunrise, early in the morning, still dark, just beginning to get light etc.
These are all different ways of saying the same thing. No way this is a contradiction, it's an agreement!
</font>
Have you ever seen a sunrise? It's difficult to confuse "after sunrise" with "still dark."

This is typical Bible apologist nonsense. Looking at obvious contradictions and going "nuh uh!"

But it doesn't matter if all the gospels agreed with each other. Part of the fun of non-belief is not believing the Bible by itself proves anything.

The questions that we have about the resurrection is essentially "where is the evidence that it happened?" You know, the same question we have about pretty much everything else in the Bible.
 
Old 03-22-2001, 06:16 AM   #8
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by irenaeus:
Also, your 'contradictions' do not exist and I have previously given you a reasonable reconstruction of the resurrection accounts: </font>
Ah, back again Irenaeus? If you go back and read my original posts you'll see that I pointed out more problems than I can be bothered to count with your account. If you'd even read my post on this forum properly you'd see why that account can't be correct.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Oh, and this is EYEWITNESS testimony, not hearsay:

(long quote from "John")
Quote:
</font>
Is it? Have you identified the signature? If I think it might have been someone else how can I test that notion?

And anyway it doesn't mention the resurrection. Not much help.


[This message has been edited by Iain Simpson (edited March 22, 2001).]
 
Old 03-22-2001, 06:29 AM   #9
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Originally posted by Tercel:
It's a perfectly good start. Each writer records the women that he knew went to the tomb. </font>
If there were things they didn't know it doesn't exactly support the idea that they were directly inspired by God though does it?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Dawn, sunrise, early in the morning, still dark, just beginning to get light etc.
These are all different ways of saying the same thing. No way this is a contradiction, it's an agreement!
</font>
Still dark and after sunrise are quite different. I said they were minor contradictions, but contradictions they still are. And any contradiction refutes inerrancy.

If you fancy dropping the inerrancy crap and admit that someone somewhere may have got some facts wrong then I'm be quite willing to accept that these two problems are minor and don't in themselves cast much doubt on the stroy as a whole. But the more serious problems which cast doubt on the entire story I've pointed out later in the post. You don't even begin to address them.


(edited for formatting problems)
 
Old 03-22-2001, 09:53 AM   #10
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> You miss the strong possibility that the soldiers were temple guards not Roman ones. Therefore if the High Priest told them to do something they would do it. </font>
I've had chance to go and re-read this bit now.

"And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you." (Matt 28:14)

If they weren't Roman soldiers they wouldn't have been accountable to the governer.

And anyway, why would the temple guards be guarding the tomb anyway? Jesus was killed by the Romans - not the High Priests but THE ROMANS! Crucifixion was a ROMAN punishment for people who had done something against the ROMAN empire. Do you honestly believed the Gospel claim that a governor like Pilate, ruling with an iron fist and backed with the full force of the Roman military, crucified a man he knew to be innocent because he was afraid a few Jews might have rioted otherwise? Do you honestly believe that if he had he'd have kept his post as governor for another three years rather than being sacked for craven weakness? Nope, Jesus was almost certainly killed by the Romans for sedition. This was a bit embarrassing to the early Christians, who were trying to convert Romans when they weren't being persecuted by them. Better on both counts to say that Pilate declared him innocent than to admit to following a traitor to the empire.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> This is a lie that the Priests made up to hide it, not what the soldiers reported. </font>


"They gave large money unto the soldiers,
saying, 'Say ye, his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.'" (Matt 28:15-16).

It's what the elders allegedly told the soldiers to say. They must have been pretty stupid elders to pay soldiers to make a report which would just have been laughed at. More likely Matthew got confused.

Any other refutations of my post, or is that it?
 
 

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