Some village atheists left comments on Jason's post:
I will respond to them here.
"the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many."An no historian wrote once-in-a-history mass resurrection event? How is this even vaguely possible?
i) Suppose Josephus wrote about it–or Tacitus. Would you believe it? No. You'd dismiss that as a superstitious legend. You'd just take that as proof positive that ancient historians were credulous and uncritical.
ii) Suppose you had a modern-day report of a "mass resurrection event" in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Suppose you had multiple eyewitnesses. Would you believe it? No. You'd say what's more plausible: that it's a hoax or that something like that really happened?
iii) It also depends on how you visualize this unique "mass resurrection" event. The account doesn't describe observers watching the graves open. Rather, it only talks about the result.
Depending on when they died, they'd generally be unrecognizable. Only living friends or relatives would know who they were. Most folks wouldn't know these people ever died in the first place.
For that matter, if they died when they were old, but were rejuvenated, then even people who knew them might not recognize them right away.
A God walked couple of years in Judea and Galilee, and nobody wrote about it. Is it more likely that he did not exist at that period?
i) Jesus didn't appear to be a God.
ii) So you fall for the mythicist view that he didn't even exist?
iii) In fact, many people wrote about it. It's in a collection of writings called the NT.
The earliest Resurrection “encounters” were based on “visions” of Jesus instead of actually seeing him in the flesh.
Classic false dichotomy, as if "visions" of Jesus are necessarily opposed to actually seeing him in the flesh.
"In the earliest reference (c. 50 CE) to the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.3-8, we read…"
That's in a chapter which repeatedly stresses the physicality of the resurrected body.
Paul includes himself in his list of those to whom the risen Jesus “appeared”. He makes no distinction, but in fact equates, the appearance of Jesus to him and the appearances to others. The Greek verb Paul uses for all these appearances he mentions is the same one – ὤφθη (Greek – ōphthē) meaning “appeared, was seen” – in each case.
“The choice of this word is significant because it does not necessarily imply the actual appearance of a person, but may only indicate an unusual phenomena…the use of the word ὤφθη in enumerating other visions in the Pauline lists…excludes such details as prolonged conversations, meals and resumption of ordinary life, on which the gospels dwell.” – Charles Guignebert, “Jesus” pg. 523
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. V, p. 358) points out that in this type of context the word is a technical term for being “in the presence of revelation as such, without reference to the nature of its perception.” In other words, the “seeing” may not refer to actual sensory or mental perception. “The dominant thought is that the appearances are revelations, an encounter with the risen Lord who reveals himself…they experienced his presence.”
i) An exercise in misdirection, since the NT witness to the bodily resurrection doesn't turn on the meaning of one verb. In context, Paul emphatically discusses the physicality of the resurrected body.
ii) You artificially isolate the verb from what comes before. Paul says Jesus "died" and was "buried" (3-4). That accentuates the physical death of Christ. He then says Jesus was "raised." That stands in contrast to physical death. Hence, that implies restoration to physical life.
There are many instances where it’s used of spiritual “visions”.
For example: Acts 16:9-10 “And a vision appeared (ōphthē) to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia…And after he had seen the vision (horama), immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia.” Is there anyone who thinks the Macedonian man’s physical body was actually standing in front of Paul when he “appeared” to him?
Same thing in Mark 9:4/Matthew 17:1-3, Moses and Elijah “appeared” (ōphthē) to Peter. Matthew 17:9 calls the experience a "vision". Did their physical bodies actually appear?
The word is used in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT) to describe how the Lord God appeared to the patriarchs (e.g., to Jacob in a dream, in Gen 31:13). In the LXX stories that use this word, the emphasis is more on the presence of God and on its power to reveal than on the “reality” of the experience.
i) That reiterates the same confusion, as if the sense of one word is determinative.
ii) In addition, night visions (Acts 16:9-10; Gen 31) typically refer to revelatory dreams. That's hardly parallel to the resurrection appearances of Christ.
iii) You're deriving your conclusion in Mt 17:9, not from the meaning of the word, but from the presumption that these are ghosts.
“When Paul classifies the Damascus appearance with the other in 1 Cor 15:5 this is not merely because he regards it as equivalent….It is also because he regards this appearance similar in kind. In all the appearances the presence of the risen Lord is a presence in transfigured corporeality, 1 Cor 15:42. It is the presence of the exalted Lord from heaven. This presence is in non-visionary reality; no category of human seeing is wholly adequate for it. On this ground, the appearances are to be described in the sense of revelation rather than making visible.“ – Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 5 pg. 359.
To begin with, that's just one scholar's interpretation. And even then, he says it is a corporeal presence.
We know from the book of Acts, Paul’s description of his encounter on the Damascus road makes it clear that this was a vision – a light from heaven and a disembodied voice – not an encounter with a physically-revived former corpse returned to life.
That's another false dichotomy. Luminosity isn't opposed to physicality. The same author, in his Gospel (Lk 9), records the luminosity of Christ at the Transfiguration. Likewise, Paul refers to the luminosity of Moses when he encountered God (2 Cor 3:13).
We also know that the companions of Paul did not see or hear the vision/voice properly. This indicates that the experience was, at least in some sense, subjective to Paul. If Jesus' physical body was present then it would have been seen by the companions.
Another erroneous inference. One again, the same author, in his Gospel (Lk 24), records a physical appearance of Christ to disciples on the Emmaus road. Yet their recognition was initially inhibited by divine agency. And that's in a Gospel which, as you yourself admit, accentuates the physicality of the Resurrection.
As far as the appearances go Paul makes no distinction, but in fact equates, the appearance of Jesus to him and the appearances to others in 1 Cor 15. So if we’re to take the accounts in Acts 9:3-8, 22:6-11, 26:13-18 as historical then the appearances mentioned in 1 Cor 15 were originally understood to be spiritual "visions" instead of actually seeing a physically resuscitated corpse. This comes as no surprise considering Paul himself admits to having "visions" and "revelations" of the Lord (2 Cor 12:1). By Paul's own admission, he was "seeing things."
That actually proves the opposite. Precisely because the Bible describes subjective visions, people in Bible times knew the difference between subjective and objective visions. Do you suppose Paul is suggesting in 1 Cor 15 that 500 observers were in a simultaneous trance state?
Paul indicates no knowledge of an empty tomb…
He had no firsthand knowledge. So what?
...nor does he refer to any of the physical/bodily details that end up in the later gospel accounts.
Since the appearance of Christ on the Damascus road was blindly bright, Paul would be unable to make out physical details.
Acts also records Peter as having “visions” in Acts 10.10-16. At the beginning, Luke says that ‘a trance came upon him’, and afterwards that he was perplexed at ‘what the vision which he had seen might be’ (Acts 10.17). Later, Peter begins to explain it, saying ‘I saw a vision in a trance’ (Acts 11.5). This makes Peter a particularly suitable candidate for ‘he [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve’ (1 Cor. 15.5).
So we have evidence that two of the eyewitnesses mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:5-8 were susceptible to having “visions”.
A non sequitur. The witnesses to the Resurrection (e.g. Lk 24; Jn 20-21) didn't see Jesus when they were in a trance state. They were wide awake and interacting with their physical environment.
In the earliest manuscripts of Mark (c. 70 CE) there are no resurrection appearances.
i) That's equivocal. Although doesn't narrate resurrection appearances, he does refer to them.
ii) I date Mark to the 40s-50s.
In Matthew (c. 80 CE), only Jesus’ feet are mentioned
i) You think it refers to detached feet? Are you even trying to be serious?
ii) I date Matthew prior to 70 AD.
...and he appears on a mountaintop but “some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).
A mark of authenticity. Not the kind of detail you'd expect Matthew to invent.
The exact "nature" of the appearances in Matthew is questionable.
The fact that they "And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him" (v9) is clearly physical. Cf. Mk 5:22; 7:25; Lk 17:16.
In Luke 24:39-43 (c. 85 CE) we find the first explicit reference to Jesus' physically resurrected body and John (90-120 CE) gives us the Doubting Thomas story.
i) I date Luke prior to 70 AD. And I'm inclined to date John prior to 70 AD. I think the "postscript" (Jn 21) is based explained by the Peter's recent demise.
ii) John records Doubting Thomas as a foil. That's how it begins, not how it ends.
Also in John, the deity of Jesus is stressed which is nowhere mentioned in the synoptics. How could they have failed to mention the obviously important detail that Jesus was God? This seems to be clear evidence of a legend growing in the telling with the earliest beliefs being that of “visions” then to bodily encounters all the way up to Jesus being God in the flesh in John. If this story were true we would expect a lot more consistency than we actually get from the documents.
i) That evinces your ignorance of Synoptic Christology. Cf. Sigurd Grindheim, Christology in the Synoptic Gospels.
ii) Mark was written by a native of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) who may well have had some direct knowledge of the historical Jesus. He was a younger contemporary of Jesus. And Jesus made trips to Jerusalem. Matthew was written by a disciple who spent 3 years with Jesus, so we'd expect him to be more detailed than Mark.
Luke explicitly says he's supplementing prior accounts, so we'd expect him to be more detailed than Mark. Moreover, he draws on a multiplicity of informants.
John was written by a member of Jesus' inner circle. So we'd expect his account to have the most insider information. Indeed, John may well have been a childhood friend of Jesus if, as J. A. T. Robinson has argued, they were cousins.