Monday, May 15, 2006

The bodily resurrection of Christ

Dagood tries to reinterpret 1 Cor 15 along visionary lines.

He begins by arguing that Paul was a visionary. But this is arguing for something which was never in dispute.

Moving along:

“First we need to look at Paul’s own writings. This was a man who thought people (arguably himself) could either in-body or out-of-body “project” to the Third Heaven and could hear things not permissible to tell. (2 Cor. 12:1-5). If someone said that today, would it be thought of as a physical event, or a spiritual vision?”

Here, context is key.

“Paul stated he had so many exceedingly great revelations, he could even become conceited. (2 Cor. 12:7) If someone said that today, would it be a physical revelation, or a spiritual vision?”

Once again, context is key.

“Paul believed that Jesus spoke directly to him in actual words. (2 Cor. 12:9; 1 Cor. 11:23; 1 Cor. 7:12. Acts 18:9).”

i) This is probably true with reference to 2 Cor 12:9.

ii) But 1 Cor 7:12 and 11:23 have reference to dominical tradition. See Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 525,866-67.

iii) Also, 1 Cor 7:12 doesn’t say Jesus spoke to him. It says the very the opposite. Perhaps Dagood is mistaking v12 for v10. Pity a lawyer who can’t read the fine print!

iv) The divine speaker in Acts 18:9 is not identified, although it could be Jesus. Since, however, Dagood regards Acts as a historically worthless account written by someone who was not a traveling companion to Paul, how is this probative?

v) This poses a dilemma for Dagood:

a) If Acts is unreliable, he can’t use it to interpret Paul and thereby support the hallucinatory hypothesis.

b) But if Acts is reliable, then Dagood should be a Christian.

“He did not receive a Gospel from men, but from revelation from Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11) If someone told you that Jesus actually spoke to them in English words, would you think it actual, or a vision?”

Revelation and visionary revelation are not interchangeable.

“When did Paul get all this information from Jesus? Certainly not prior to his conversion. Apparently not at his conversion. Paul speaks of growing information, and learned experiences throughout the progression of his books. Paul was continually getting revelation, and quotes from Jesus. Now, is the Christian maintaining that Jesus physically re-appeared and discussed these things with Paul? Popping in and out on various occasions?”

This is simplistic. Paul got his gospel from several sources. There was his inspired reading of the OT. There was his divine commission. But he also received some elements of dominical tradition from his contact with the church of Jerusalem. Cf. F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, 88-9; R. Longenecker, Galatians, 24; M. Silva, Explorations in Exegetical Method (Baker 1996), 157-58;

“Why would we, when Paul himself admits in belief of possible “out-of-body” experiences in which a person can enter Paradise, and hear inexplicable things? Paul admits that his comings and goings are dictated by these revelations. (Gal 2:1) Was that a physical appearance?”

i) I guess he means 2:2. Another sloppy citation.

ii) Once again, revelation and visionary revelation are not interchangeable.

“If someone said that today, would we think the new information, the new revelations were spiritual visions, or Jesus physically appearing?”

Depends on the actual wording and context.

“What does Paul say about his own conversion? Not much. He says he was persecuting the church of God, and then God revealed His son “in me.” (Gal 1:16) What little study I have done, indicates the Greek word apokalupto is an internal revelation, not external. In means exactly that—“in” as within the limits of space. Paul does not claim, here, that Jesus was externally revealed to him, but internally revealed in him. In fact, Christians today would use this same language, without even thinking of the implications of a physical appearance.”

Actually, as Silva explains, Paul probably chose this verb for its eschatological overtones. Ibid. 172-73.

“And (with one exception) that is it on what Paul writes about seeing Jesus. Now let’s look at what the author of Acts records.”


“[Side note: Why I doubt Acts as being historical. Acts. 9:1 has Paul asking the high priest for letters to the synagogues in Damascus to take prisoners back to Rome. A Pharisee, asking a Sadducee for a letter of authority in a city in which the high priest had no authority whatsoever. In fact, if found with the letter, it is very likely the high priest would be killed for trying to exert power outside his domain by the Romans. An unlikely request for an unnecessary letter that is only trouble.]”

i) To begin with, 9:1-2 (once again, Dagood’s citation is imprecise) does not specify a formal right of extradition.

But it would only be natural for Paul to have an official letter of reference.

In addition, patronage and favoritism were the social glue of the ancient world.

ii) Beyond this, there is evidence that Roman conferred the right of extradition on the Jewish state (1 Macc 15:21), and such a right was reaffirmed with special reference to the high priesthood by Julius Caesar (Josephus, Anti. 14:192-95).

If Dagood were not such a slob, he could find the documentation in Bruce’s commentary on the Greek texts of Acts (233).

“Does Paul see Jesus? Nope. He sees a light and hears a voice. (Acts 9:3) It should be noted that Paul did not recognize the voice; let alone any claim to recognize a face that wasn’t seen. The people with him did not see anyone.”

If he doesn’t see Jesus, then how is this an argument for the hallucinatory theory of the Easter appearances? Dagood’s contention is self-defeating.

“God himself now says that Paul has a vision. (Acts. 9:12) A straight reading of the text would be that Paul saw a light, and later saw a vision of some sort.”

The vision in 9:12 is not the Damascus Road encounter. And it says nothing about a flash of light followed by a vision. So this is by no means a straightforward reading of the text.

Dagood is conflating two different events.

“But perhaps the author of Acts is adding their own bend to the story.”

Why does Dagood use a plural pronoun (“their”) with a singular noun (“author”)? Does Dagood suffer from double vision?

Maybe he doesn’t have a real copy of the book of Acts before him. Perhaps it’s just a visionary copy.

“ Let’s see how the author records what Paul says happened. Nope, again we have a bright light and a voice. (Acts 22:6-7) No mention of Jesus.”

No mention of Jesus in 6-7 because Jesus is mentioned in v8. Either Dagood needs a new pair of glasses or else his visionary copy of Acts lacks v8.

“Think on this for a moment. This is a fellow that has so many revelations; he has a problem with pride. He talks regularly of Jesus teaching him directly.”

This, as we’ve seen, overplays the actual state of the evidence.

“Yet the one thing he does NOT say is ‘Jesus appeared to me on the road.’”

i) All three conversion accounts single out Jesus as the divine speaker (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15). Dagood is such a buffoon.

ii) Anyway, even if, ex hypothesi, Jesus did not appear to Paul in a vision, then how, again, is this pertinent to the hallucinatory theory/

“According to Acts, immediately after recounting his tale of seeing this light and hearing this voice Paul DOES refer to a later instance in which Jesus appeared to him. In a trance. (Acts. 22:18) If Paul deliberately and particularly refrains from stating he saw Jesus at this event, how can the Christian claim to know more than Paul? “

Which event? The Damascus Road encounter? As I just said, Jesus is specifically identified as the object of the sighting.

“When Paul tells the tale to King Agrippa (same thing. Lights. Voice. No Jesus) he refers to it as a vision. (Acts. 26:19)”

i) Obviously wrong. See 26:15.

ii) Yes, a vision. Subjective or objective?

“If someone said this today, would you believe that Jesus actually physically appeared, or that this was a spiritual vision?”

If the vision affected other eyewitnesses, as did the Damascus road encounter, then it would be a physical event.

“Taking all of this into account, if there was nothing more, we would be done. Paul speaks as if these were visions; Acts speaks as if these were visions.”

Note the persistent equivocation of terms. Objective vision or subjective vision?

“So now we come to the lone applicant for a physical appearance—1 Cor. 15:8 Paul says Jesus appeared to Peter first (the Gospels say some women) and after that to Peter (the gospels have two unknown followers) then the Twelve (the Gospels only have eleven.) Paul records Jesus then appeared to over 500 (not in the Gospels) and then to James (not in the Gospels) and then to all the apostles (possibly in Matthew. You know—where some of them doubted.) Then, finally to Paul.”

We’ll pass on this tendentious summary.

“When? When did Jesus make this appearance to Paul? Before Paul’s conversion? This is extremely problematic, because it would mean that Paul saw Jesus post-mortem, and was not convinced.”

A non-issue.

“At Paul’s conversion?”


“This is contrary to both what Paul says in Galatians, and what Acts records as having happened.”


“Yes, I know the Sunday School stories all have Jesus appearing in the flash of light. Just not what the authors record, even though the author immediately records events of Jesus appearing at a later time.”

Actually, Dagood’s grasp of the Bible has not advanced over Sunday School. If anything, it’s regressed.

“The only possible remaining time, is some period after the conversion event.”

Name two or three Pauline scholars who takes this position. What are their arguments?

“Which starts to create problems.”

Yes, bad interpretations have that effect.

“If Acts is going to be considered History, Paul records having visions of Jesus while in a trance.”

“Visions of Jesus in a trance.” I thought Dagood only gave one example of that. Where did the plural sneak in?

“When Paul uses the word ‘appear’ in 1 Cor. 15, he could easily be meaning that as in ‘appear in a vision.’”

If you turn a blind eye to the context.

“Remember, this is the fellow that believes people can have auditory visions in the Third Heaven; it is not out of the realm of possibility, that he can hold to visual visions in this world.”

Actually, that’s quite a leap for exegetical purposes.

“We are always informed that ‘Scripture must interpret Scripture.’”

This is a slogan. A more correct formulation would be to interpret a writer according to his own usage as well as the given context.

“ If every other verse points in one direction, and one points in another, we are to look at the anomaly and see how it fits to all of the other instances.”

Except that every other verse does not point in one direction. This is an exaggeration, based on slipshod exegesis—if you can even call it exegesis.

“Every other verse points to Paul believing he had spiritual visions in Jesus. Spiritual Revelations. Spiritual conversations. Some while in a trance.”

Repeating an overstatement and retailing equivocations doesn’t make the claim any truer than before.

“If, in 1 Cor. he says Jesus ‘appeared to him’ and elsewhere these appearances are visions, the most natural conclusion is that Paul is talking about visions.”

Nothing like a valid conclusion from a false premise!

“In fact, in order to get the results desired, the Christian must abandon the normal claim of Scripture interpreting Scripture!”

Abandoning a popular slogan. Hardly the same thing as grammatico-historical exegesis.

“If the Christian is claiming Paul is stating a physical appearance, when did it occur, and why was it not recorded?”

Several confusion at work:

i) Paul never wrote a gospel. The epistolary genre is quite different from the narrative-historical genre.

ii) The case for the bodily resurrection of Christ has never been predicated on Paul’s conversion experience. That’s a red herring. Even if it were a subjective vision, this would be wholly indifferent to Luke 24 or Jn 20-21.

iii) Dagood is assuming, without benefit of argument, that Paul would use his conversion experience as an interpretive grid for the nature of the resurrection. That’s a non sequitur.

Paul never turns his conversion experience into a hermeneutical paradigm for the nature of the resurrection.

If we want to know what Paul thought of the resurrection, you don’t try to infer this from his experience as a seer, or the use of a verb in his account of the Damascus Road encounter.

Rather, you study his explicit and extended teaching on the subject in the totality of 1 Cor 15.

“I have compared these visions to Virgin Mary appearances, and wondered why Christians hold Paul’s visions as actual, but not the Virgin Mary’s. I have been informed they are nothing alike. Let’s see.”

What Dagood then proceeds to do is to studiously ignore all of my detailed argumentation, and, instead, appeal to his new-fangled argument for the commonality between Marian apparitions and Pauline visions.

I have now responded both to Dagood’s old argument as well as his new argument.

He, by contrast, has not even replied to my original rejoinder.

But that’s fine. His silence is an admission of defeat, which is why he tried to mount a new argument—one that is, unfortunately for him, not more successful than the last.


  1. wah, atheists posts are getting boring.

  2. John,

    It's terrible that you think that the subjects your own teammates have chosen are so boring.

  3. Ha ha ha. You always. You can't even understand a *yawn* and who it's directed against. That's amusing to me. But carry on. Don't let me interupt you.

  4. obviously it is *John* who didn't get Evan's oh-so-subtle point.

    Carry on John, don't let us interupt.

    p.s., still waiting for my signed copy of your book.

  5. Paul, why thank you buddy. So.....the check's in the mail?