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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The Resurrection of Jesus, a Jewish Perspective

I have been reading the above-titled book by a Jewish Rabbi, Pinchas Lapide, and have found it very informative. Dr. Lapide is an Orthodox Jew, a theologian, a specialist in New Testament studies, and says "I accept the resurrection of Jesus not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event." To him, it is Christians' claims about Messiahship rather than about the resurrection, that is the key divide between Christianity and Judaism.

That in and of itself was interesting enough. But I found some perpsective on a traditional apologetic about the resurrection of Jesus--that the discovery of the empty tomb by women adds a measure of authenticity to the account. Apologists such as William L. Craig have often referred to this as evidence that the discovery of the empty tomb was based in history. The rationale for the argument is that the testimony of women was of less value than that of men in ancient times. Indeed, it appears that it was of little value at all.

Rabbi Lapide makes this argument and provides some interesting Jewish references underscoring the point:


In a purely fictional narrative one would have avoided making women the crown witnesses of the resurrection since they were considered in rabbinic Judaism as incapable of giving valid testimony (compare Luke 24:11).

The distrust toward women's statements in matters of faith goes back to the Hebrew Bible where it says in an old midrash on the Book of Judges (13:8ff) conerning the promised birth of Samson:

"Manoah said to the angel, "Until now I have heard it from the women that I am to have a son . . . but one cannot rely on the words of women; but now the word may come from your mouth, I would like to hear it; because I do not trust her words; perhaps she has changed or omitted or added something" (Numbers Rabbah 10). "

A similar story applies to the matriarch Sarah who simply denied her disbelief in the birth of a son which was promised to her: 'But Sarah denied, saying, 'I did not laugh'" (Gen. 18:15). On the basis of this passage it has been taught that women are unable to give testimony before a court (Yalkut Shimoni I, 82).
It would be an extraordinary claim to argue that the Gospel authors or their sources were unaware of this prejudice. (Note Luke's remak that when the women reported the empty tomb, the disciples' response was: "But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.").

Adding to the weight of this argument is that the Gospels authors candidly record emotions and actions which would confirm the prejudices of their audiences--that the women were confused and overly emotional. Luke notes that the women were "perplexed" and "terrified." When they finally reported what they saw no one believed them. Matthew notes that the women left the tomb in "fear and great joy". The earliest of all the Gospels, Mark, adds even more fuel to this fire. The women were "amazed" they "fled from the tomb" because "trembling and astonishment had gripped them", were "afriad" and "said nothing to anyone."

According to Rabbi Lapide, this is not how anyone would fabricate a narrative they wanted others to believe. Not at that time and in that culture. To date, I've not seen a perusaisive response to this.

Excerpts from The Resurrection of Jesus, A Jewish Perspective, pages 95-96.

3 comments:

'It would be an extraordinary claim to argue that the Gospel authors or their sources were unaware of this prejudice.'

John 4:39 etc
39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers.
42They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said.....

Why was John ignorant of the fact that people simply would not believe something based just on women's testimony?

According to him, many did just that.

Carr,

You can get an account and comment as yourself, ya know?

"Why was John ignorant of the fact that people simply would not believe something based just on women's testimony?"

Are you really contending that the testimony of women was equal to the testimony of men? Are you contending that this episode in John is genuine? Do you know if the Samartians ascribed to the same attitudes about women as the Jews? Most of the sources I've seen on this were Jewish, not Samaritan.

And I never said no one would believe anything a woman said. I said their testimony was of little value, especially compared to that of a man. So the question is, why would you choose witnesses that your audience would be prejudiced against when you could create any witnesses you wanted?

So far, there is no answer to that question.

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