Thursday, March 18, 2021

Hearing And Touching The Resurrected Jesus

Discussions of the resurrection appearances tend to focus on seeing Jesus. The tradition of referring to them as appearances is one factor, and there are other reasons for the focus on sight. People tend to value sight above the other senses. Paul focuses on seeing the risen Jesus when addressing his apostleship in 1 Corinthians 9:1, and other resurrection passages similarly emphasize sight (e.g., Mark 16:7, John 20:18). For these and other reasons, discussions of the resurrection appearances are often highly focused on the visual aspect of the encounters, often inordinately so. Critics of Christianity have an interest in simplifying the accounts, as if only a visual experience needs to be explained. And you sometimes come across the claim that only Luke and John refer to people touching the resurrected Jesus, with the suggestion that such details were fabricated in later accounts. The allegedly more developed nature of Luke and John's material is cited as evidence for the evolution of the gospels over time. What I want to do in this post is address some neglected evidence for the involvement of other senses, namely hearing and touch, in the encounters with the risen Jesus.

I'm going to discuss why we should think the resurrection appearances likely involved hearing and touching even if some or all of the resurrection accounts in the gospels and Acts are rejected. Those accounts shouldn't be rejected, and we and others have argued for that conclusion in depth elsewhere. But it's significant that the concept that the resurrection appearances only involved sight doesn't hold up well even under highly skeptical views of the material in the gospels and Acts.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Another Reason Why A Resurrection Body With Wounds Wouldn't Be Fabricated

I've written about the significance of how Jesus is portrayed as having retained his crucifixion wounds after his resurrection in the gospels of Luke and John. Here's another reason why the early Christians are unlikely to have made up such a detail:

"They [critics of resurrection] also make eager use of all the deformities and blemishes which either accident or birth has produced, and accordingly, with horror and derision, cite monstrous births, and ask if every deformity will be preserved in the resurrection. For if we say that no such thing shall be reproduced in the body of a man, they suppose that they confute us by citing the marks of the wounds which we assert were found in the risen body of the Lord Christ." (Augustine, The City Of God, 22:12)

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Neglected Evidence For The Empty Tomb

Disputes over the historicity of the empty tomb usually focus on the gospel accounts. But there's a lot of evidence outside the gospels that should get more attention.

Notice the number and variety of contexts in which Christians were interested in Jesus' burial long before the gospels were written: prophecy (Isaiah 53:9), creeds (1 Corinthians 15:4), theology (1 Corinthians 15:36), ceremonies (Romans 6:4), tracking the location (the tradition behind the Holy Sepulchre site). And notice that these contexts involve more than the mere fact that Jesus was buried. If the empty tomb tradition that's so widely attested from the time of the gospels onward isn't the same tradition that was of such early and widespread interest to Christians before the writing of the gospels, then where is that earlier tradition? Did it universally disappear and get universally replaced by what we see in the gospels? Continuity is more likely than discontinuity. For more about these pre-gospel sources, see here.

The letters of Peter also contain some material that tends to be neglected in this context. See here regarding those letters.

Justin Martyr provides some evidence that's typically not discussed. He not only refers to Jewish corroboration of the empty tomb, as Matthew's gospel does, but also cites a first-century Jewish source in the process. And he refers to how the empty tomb was corroborated not only by the earliest Jewish opponents of Christianity, but also by pagans. For a discussion of all of this material in Justin, see here.