Thursday, 11 May 2017

Death and Legend in Judea

Introduction


Well, Easter has come and gone again.  That seems to be a good time to talk about the resurrection. Because many Christians have been talking about it.  How else can we explain the empty tomb if Jesus wasn't magically resurrected via the power of an ancient bloodgod? It's the only explanation that makes sense! (rolls eyes).

The problem with the question is its loaded nature.  The empty tomb is presented as a fact.  This has some major credibility problems.


Problem 1: Timing


The empty tomb isn't used as proof of Jesus' divinity and resurrection until we get to the gospels.  The  (genuine) letters we have from Paul do not mention it. Nor is it present in other early NT letters.  For something that's supposed to convince us all that Jesus was divine and resurrected, its absence for decades in early Christianity literature is astonishing.

The gospels are generally reckoned to be written after Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans (70 CE) because they're not referenced in earlier Christian documents. Paul seems completely unaware of them.  And prophecies of Jerusalem being sacked are always easier to make after the event...

The sequence for the gospels is usually reckoned as Mark, followed by Luke and Matthew, and finally John.  This spans around 30-40 years.  And all are long after the alleged event. The gap between when the empty tomb alleged occurred and when it's first mentioned is extraordinarily large.


Problem 2: Inconsistencies


Despite the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) patently using the same sources, they can't keep the empty tomb story straight. Throw in John and it gets worse.  The number of women who went to the tomb, when they went, what they saw at the tomb, what they did afterward, whether they were believed or not are all inconsistent across the gospels.

The Apologist gambit is to assert that this is what we expect with eye-witness accounts.  No. It's consistent with a bunch of people who didn't balk at making things up to sell their religion.


Problem 3: It conflicts with Roman practice


As far as we can tell Romans did not normally allow crucified victims to get buried in tombs. Crassus left thousands of ex-slaves rotting on crosses after the suppression of the Slave revolt.  Normally crucified victims were left aloft to be picked clean by birds and the like.  

To be buried, and buried ceremoniously instead of in a common pit, is a deviation that begs for explanation.   


Problem 4: Joseph of Arimathea


It has always struck me how much of a Deus ex Machina Joseph plays.  In order to get Jesus from the cross, into a tomb and in the time available, requires a very powerful and capable character.  There's nobody in the disciples capable of pulling this off.

Enter Joseph.  He fixes all the problems with the plot.  First, he's politically powerful.  He's part of the council that condemned Jesus.  But like all superhero fiction, he has a secret identity.  He's also a disciple of Jesus.  He's influential enough to persuade Pilate to take the body off the cross.  He's also rich.  This is also necessary for the plot.  They have to buy linen cloth and 100 pounds of myrrh and aloe that evening.  He's also already got a tomb ready.   Every plot-hole (bar one) is immediately fixed.  Evening might be approaching when he asked Pilate for the body, but Jesus is lying in a shroud, in a tomb, with a stone covering the entrance in time for his resurrection. Phew!

The remaining plot hole of course, is there isn't enough time to get this all done in the time available. 

Joseph's appearance in the story is dramatic.  He's not mentioned in the gospels before this.  And he disappears just as dramatically. He's never mentioned again.  He's not mentioned in Acts, he's not mentioned in any of the letters preceding the gospels.  Paul, Peter and James have no recollection of him at all. He's a powerful and connected guy with massive influence, and nobody mentions him?! Amazing.  

Joseph only has one job.  He appears at exactly the right time to fill in a bunch of critical plot-holes, and then disappears.  He has the traits of a literary invention that appears decades later when the empty tomb story gets added to the Jesus legend- not the traits of an historic person. 

(If you want a much deeper analysis of Joseph of Arimathea, I recommend John Loftus' blog).


Conclusion


I don't feel that I need to explain the empty tomb, because I don't think there was one.  Early Christendom was plagued with doctrinal problems.  Hints of this are preserved in the letters of Paul, James and others.  This also created a range of heretical sects, such as the Arians.  

The gospels weren't written to be histories.  They were written to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah and of divine origin.  And by drawing on the authority of Jesus and the early disciples, they could be used to resolve doctrinal disputes.  Was the resurrection a mostly spiritual or personal visionary event?  Or was it a physical event?  For anyone who believed in a physical resurrection, the canonical Gospels make a perfect argument. And they get more elaborate the later the gospel is composed. It's the last gospel, Johns, that introduces Thomas as the clincher for the physical resurrection. 

So either major scientific laws were broken to miraculously bring the offspring of an ancient god and virgin back to life.  Or the belief that the resurrection was a physical event evolved slowly in a community that was willing to add embellishments that showed this, in retelling, over decades.  It's not really difficult deciding what's the least plausible.





38 comments:

  1. Of course I'm going to write a rebuttal to this Kaimatai. 😜

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    1. No. You'll do what you always do. Write a lengthy turgid piece, packed with bible verses and quotes from your favourite apologists. You'll ignore my objections in favour of strawman arguments. Then you'll advertise it on twitter and bask in the praise of the Xtians that follow you

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  2. You're funny Kaimatai. How about unblocking me so I can read what you're writing on the tweets I'm tagged in?

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  3. I'm pleased to report that this article from William Lane Craig offers a strong response to your post: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/dale-allison-on-jesus-empty-tomb-his-post-mortem-appearances

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    1. Could you let me know
      1) what his source for a mention of Joseph of Arimathea before the gospels was?
      2) what his source for a post-resurrection (sic) mention of Joseph was?
      3) What his source for a mention of the empty tomb was between its alleged occurrence, and the composition of the gospels decades later?

      Thanks

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  4. https://cyberpenance.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/__trashed-3/

    Here is another article that responds to some of your points, As for your questions, I need to do some research. I'm teaching a May term class in the coming week, so I'm very busy. I'll write next weekend. Have a good one.

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    1. You do know I can use google right? I don't need you to act as my search engine. It's unreasonable to supply me with links and expect me to read them, if you can't outline what problem they resolve.

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  5. OK, Kaimatai, you've convinced me that I need to write a full response to each of the issues you have presented above. I copied your article into a document and I'll have the response to you ASAP. I've been meaning to write on the empty tomb and the women's discovery of same, so your article presents a nice way to do same.

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    1. That's fine. Just remember anything over 1000 words for a blog starts to impact on readability. You are allowed to tackle each problem in different posts, and it's not compulsory to quote CS Lewis :)

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  6. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-historicity-of-the-empty-tomb-of-jesus#.WRzWEYNiYc8.twitter

    Hi Kaimatai- I found another WLC article that responds to most of your blog. I'm going to look up more on Joseph of Arimathea since that part is outstanding.

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    1. If he has actually successfully responded to it, why can't you answer my questions from May 14th?

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    2. Sources are listed at the bottom of each of the WLC articles. Much of his discussion includes appeal to logic in reconciling your issue with Joseph of Arimathea and the women at the tomb.

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    3. So, no, he hasn't answered my questions.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. Why did you remove the third WLC article?

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    1. Because you're spamming me with WLC links.
      Because you're posting assertions, rather than any comments that would persuade me to visit his blog.
      Because you're not interested in dialogue, but just in leaving a footprint of WLC blog-links on my post. I'm not interested in aiding you in this gambit.

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  9. I'd like to debate but I'm relegated to these comments and for some reason I can only make comments on my cell phone so I'm typing much slower.

    That said, it appears you want a summary of what WLC says for your above points. Is that the case?

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    1. I have no idea why you're restricted to just a phone. Google Blogger is a pretty device-friendly platform.

      If I wanted to find links, I'd be using Google, not waiting for Christians to post links. I don't think it is too much to expect someone to provide a precis of how the link addressed a problem. Simply asserting it does is unconvincing.

      In general, I don't have a lot of interest in WLC, especially his appalling charade that he understands cosmology. I'm not motivated to visit his blog unless I'm persuaded he really does address my problem.

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    2. Fair enough. Tomorrow I teach my last class for a while. After I finish grading, I'll write this up. Have a nice night/day.

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  10. Here is my response:

    https://christianapologistweb.wordpress.com/2017/05/20/resolving-controversies-surrounding-joseph-of-arimathea-and-the-women-who-discovered-jesus-empty-tomb/

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    1. Did you find anyone who mentioned Joseph before he appears in the gospels? Any mention of the empty tomb before Mark (c. 70 CE)?

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    2. Even Bart Ehrman notes Joseph's authenticity. Who's your source? He's mentioned by independent authors in the Bible. Why would they invent a story with a hated Sanhedrin member? Also, Mark was not circa 70. Did you read my response?

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    3. Crossan, Parsons and Loftus think he's a literary fiction. But this isn't a contest about authorities. This is about the bizarre gap between the alleged resurrection, and Joseph's very late (and dramatic) appearance/disappearance.

      I assume then, you've not found mention of the empty tomb, nor Joseph, that predates the gospels.

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    4. Before I answer, can you confirm you read my rebuttal? Just want to be sure we're on the same page.

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    5. Let me know when you've read my response. Hope you're having a good day, enjoying bike rides, photos, and good grub. 😜

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    6. 1) Trying to identify someone’s academic background on the basis of their social media name is absurdly unreliable.
      2) Your post is the turgid mess I predicted, packed with irrelevant tangential posts.
      3) For someone who is arguing Christians did not make things up, you make a lot of things up. The brief persecution of Nero, in Rome, does not describe the normal risks faced by early Christians.
      4) Your dates for the gospels deviate so greatly from scholarly consensus over the last century, your source must have found them on the underside of the urine-soaked park benches he was licking the lead paint off. Your early dates have no credibility.
      5) You failed to identify a pre-gospel source for the empty tomb. Any pre-gospel mention of Joseph. Any post-mention of Joseph. The defense of ‘why would they invent a Sanhedrin?’ is an inept appeal to incredulity. The plot demanded a politically powerful character. A Sanhedrin meets that criterion. Matthew fixes the Sanhedrin dilemma by just making him rich. John fixed the dilemma by making him a secret disciple.

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    7. Parenthetically, how many times have you posted a link to your blog on twitter, advertising it to your followers?

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  11. It's my pinned tweet. If you unblock me, you can see how often I tag you. 😜

    I cited my sources and they're reliable. Sorry my conclusions don't align with your hypotheses.

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    1. Your Gospel dates are deep in the lunatic fringe. They're not only unreliable, they're not credible. You're also not getting unblocked on Twitter. I'm going to assume you've posted a link to your blog on Twitter more than once, in the last 24 hours.

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  12. Of course I have! In fact, I just retweeted it again. Thanks for the reminder. You know, you're getting kind of famous with my followers: lots of exposure. 😜😜

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  13. How can you say the Gospels are all post 70 when none mention the war or the deaths of Paul or James?

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    1. Because it's the scholarly consensus for over a century!

      All are dated post-50s CE because Paul and other writers in this period were unaware of them. Paul tellingly, seems unaware of the litany of miracles and signs describe din them.
      Mark is usually dated 65-70 CE. He uses Latinisms and adopts a conciliatory attitude toward Romans that is appropriate for a milieu of rising tensions between Romans and Jews. Hence his gospel is just before the sack of Jerusalem.
      Luke and Matthew use Mark, so have to be dated after Mark. The "prophecies" of Jerusalem's sacking and destruction of Temple reveal the authors were already aware of it.
      John appears aware of the Jewish Birkat haminim curse, which didn't originate until 86 CE.
      As the gospel narrative finishes in 33 CE there's obviously no reason to include the deaths of Paul or James as these occurred decades later.

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    2. Yes, but the church split Luke and Acts into 2 books. Why didn't Acts include the fall of Jerusalem or martyrdoms of Paul and James?

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    3. Acts concludes with Paul arriving in Rome c. 60 CE.
      Paul's alleged martyrdom and the sack of Rome is *after* this. As Acts largely describes the growth of the Christian church among non-Jews, outside Judea, under the leadership of Paul, there's no requirement to include the death of James in this story.

      No sane person is going to reject decades of scholarship by experts in history, textual analysis and the NT, on the amateur arguments of an evangelical ex-cop pretending to be an expert!

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    4. Sorry, I meant sack of Jerusalem, not Rome.

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    5. Wallace isn't my only source, which you know, I have MANY others, such as William Lane Craig whom Krauss says "puts the fear of God in atheists."

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    6. This is the Craig who can't find a reference to Joseph or the empty tomb, before Mark's gosepl (c. 70 CE) right? My, that is scary (rolls eyes).

      It's like nobody beforehand had any knowledge of these, because they were made up later...

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  14. I'm bummed you won't unblock me as we actually have much in common, aside from our religious views. Oh well.

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