CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In an e-mail exchange with a Christian, I was asked to give my opinion about a blog entry by an ex-apologist who goes by the name of Exapologist entitled William Lane Craig on the Origin of the Belief in Jesus' Resurrection. Exapologist claims to have found a flaw in William Lane Craig's argument counter to the idea that the resurrection appearances weren't hallucinations.

According to Exapologist, Craig's argument can be put into the following syllogism which, subject to a correction of the context of Dr. Craig's argument I make below, I will accept as accurate for purposes of this post:

1. If belief in Jesus' resurrection was due to something other than experiences as of Jesus risen from the dead, then the belief was derived from either Christian influences or Jewish influences.
2. If it was derived from Christian influences, then Christianity existed prior to itself.
3. Christianity didn't exist prior to itself.
4. Therefore, it wasn't derived from Christian influences. (From 2 and 3)
5. If it was derived from Jewish influences, then the idea of a single individual rising from the dead before the end of time was extant in Jewish belief prior to Christianity.
6. The idea of a single individual rising from the dead before the end of time was not extant in Jewish belief prior to Christianity.
7. Therefore, it wasn't derived from Jewish sources. (From 5 and 6)
8. Therefore, the belief wasn't derived from either Christian influences or Jewish influences (From 4 and 7)
9. Therefore, belief in Jesus resurrection was not due to something other than experiences as of Jesus risen from the dead (From 1 and 8)

Exapologist believes that the argument is flawed at paragraph 5. Exapologist writes:

For as a number of NT critics have pointed out, and as is fairly clear from the writings of the NT itself, the earliest Christians believed that Jesus' putative resurrection was (to use Paul's terminology) the "first fruits" of the general resurrection of the dead at the end of time. This is an agricultural metaphor. When farmers reaped and ate the first fruits of the harvest, they would then reap the full harvest the very next day -- the "general" harvest was "imminent", as it was "inaugurated" with the reaping of the first-fruits. Similarly, the earliest Christians believed that the final judgement and the general resurrection were imminent, given their belief that Jesus' resurrection was itself the inaugurating event of the general resurrection and the end of all things. Thus, contrary to what Craig says on this matter, there is a continuity between the beliefs of the early Christians and the beliefs of many Jews of his time: Jesus' resurrection was fundamentally construed in these eschatological terms.[1] And of course, as Craig acknowledges, the idea of a general resurrection at the end of time was a common Jewish belief at the time. Thus, premise (5) is false, and the argument is unsound.

Although I know that skeptics seem to hate it when I do this, let's put the argument in context. This argument is made after Craig has made strong arguments in support of the belief that Jesus actually died on the cross during the crucifixion, that he was laid in a tomb that was known, that the tomb was empty, and that the disciples claim to have seen Him "on the third day" and thereafter. The idea that Jesus' appearance was the result of hallucinations by the disciples is the attempt to explain what most Biblical scholars (even those who have no faith in the accuracy of the New Testament texts) acknowledge was an honest belief by the apostles that they had seen something and thought it was Jesus risen from the dead. Even in the atrocious "In Search of Jesus" with Peter Jennings that was on television a few years ago, all of the scholars interviewed acknowledged that the disciples had seen something that led them to believe that Jesus had risen. This is a point that is pretty much beyond dispute.

Now, the question for the skeptics is how to account for the post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus in light of the evidence of the death of Jesus, His burial in a known tomb, and the empty tomb itself. One theory that is presented -- a fairly weak theory, I might add -- is that the appearances were hallucinations. Consider the following from Dr. Ben Witherington, III's essay He Is Risen Indeed:

The suggestion that the disciples were victims of a hallucination, or their experience was the ultimate example of wish projections, or they merely saw visions has several problems. First, on all accounts the disciples doubted, deserted, and denied Jesus at the end, with the possible exception of some of his female followers and perhaps the Beloved Disciple (a Judean disciple). They were hardly in a psychological condition to produce a fantasy about a risen Jesus. Their hopes had been utterly shattered by his crucifixion less than three days before. Second, it will not do to suggest a mass hallucination, because all the traditions we have suggest that Jesus appeared at different times and places to different persons, last of all to Paul. I know of no basis for the notion of a contagious hallucination. Third, it is hardly believable that the earliest Christians would have made up the notion that Jesus appeared first to some women. We find no extended discussion in the Gospels of a personal appearance first to Peter or to James the brother of the Lord, but we do have stories about the appearance or appearances to the leading female disciples. Given the patriarchal world of the earliest Christians, it is not believable that a missionary-minded group would make up such a story. Nor is there any basis for the suggestion that these appearance stories were largely generated out of the Old Testament, which hardly mentions the notion of resurrection from the dead. In other words, the evidence as we have it strongly resists attempts to redefine "resurrection," if, that is, we wish to preserve any continuity with the historical Christian witness on this matter.

Another excellent source for understanding the weakness of the hallucination hypothesis is Dr. Gary R. Habermas' essay Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: HALLUCINATION; The Recent Revival of THEORIES. Dr. Habermas points out multiple problems with the hallucination hypothesis demonstrating that for the post-crucifixion appearances to be hallucinations they must overcome a number of very difficult objections. Moreover, the hallucination theory has a very minimal explanatory scope when viewing the entirety of the evidence. In other words, the hallucination hypothesis could possibly explain the appearances, but does nothing to explain other issues related to the resurrection, e.g., the empty tomb.

Exapologist tries to make the claim that Jesus' resurrection was expected by the apostles which would explain how they would be primed for a post-crucifixion experience. To support this idea, Exapologist points the early Christian view of Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection. But, of course, the understanding of Jesus as the firstfruits as expressed in the New Testament (found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28) is the result of Paul looking back in hindsight and seeing what Jesus had already done. But to be able to look back and see that Jesus had arisen first is quite a different proposition from looking forward prior to the actual resurrection and expecting Jesus to rise from the dead.

There certainly is agreement that the Jewish view was ultimately looking forward to a bodily resurrection. But as William Lane Craig points out in his on-line article Visions of Jesus: A Critical Assessment of Gerd Lüdemann's Hallucination Hypothesis, the Jewish belief was that a bodily resurrection would occur only after the coming of the Father at the end of the world. Here's what Craig says:

Jewish hope in the resurrection of the dead was invariably a corporate and eschatological hope. The resurrection of all the righteous dead would take place after God had brought the world as we know it to an end. Surveying the Jewish literature, Joachim Jeremias concluded,

Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event of history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return to the earthly life. In no place in the later Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to δ ο ξ α as an event of history.{41}

Even if the disciples' faith in Jesus had somehow managed to survive the crucifixion, they would at most have looked forward to their reunion with him at the final resurrection and would perhaps have preserved his tomb as a shrine, where Jesus's bones might rest until the eschatological resurrection. That was the Jewish hope.

But we know that that did not happen. Despite their having most every predisposition to the contrary, it is an indisputable fact that the earliest disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that God had raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

Look back at what Exapologist claims: the firstfruits analogy set forth in the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is a continuation of Jewish thought. Certainly, I'll agree that it is an extension of Jewish thought (as is all Christianity, ultimately), but it is not an extension that is not readily foreseeable. In fact, it is this absense of a connection between the teachings about the Messiah being resurrected separately prior to the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus (or, at least, the disciples' claims that Jesus had, in fact, been bodily resurrected) that is missing in exapologist's argument. Exapologist sets forth nothing that shows that any significant number of Jews were expecting the Messiah to rise bodily ahead of all of the other people. Instead, he simply acknowledges what Dr. Craig acknowledges in his writings -- that the Jewish teachings expected a bodily resurrection. But Dr. Craig's explanation goes beyond that statment. Dr. Craig's argument emphasis that the Jewish teachings prior to Jesus' resurrection about a bodily resurrection prior to the end of time was just the opposite of what Exapologist suggests in his argument. Craig points out that the Jewish teaching was that no one would arise bodily until the end.

So, in my opinion, Exapologist has a large hole in his analysis -- the failure to show that any Jewish teachers expected the Messiah to rise bodily before the end of the world. Without that teaching being shown, there is nothing to show that the disciples would have expected the bodily resurrection of Jesus by himself as the firstfruits prior to the resurrection itself. Without that connection, Craig's argument stands and premise #5 has not been shown to be false.

17 comments:

Actually, if the syllologism is accepted as being accurate to WLC's argument (contextually or otherwise), there _is_ (strictly speaking) a fault in it, at element 3: for WLC is hardly going to deny that Jesus was frequently trying to teach the apostles (if not the disciples generally) that He would rise again soon after His death.

Consequently, 3 is false: Christianity did exist 'before' Christianity.

Keith Parsons (among other people) has pointed this out before. And while I would strongly counter-riposte that trying to build a hallucination expectation theory from this ultimately runs into insurmountable problems by conflicting with the extant data we do have (e.g. it fails to account for certain story characteristics as received), nevertheless Keith's observation and critique ought to be admitted as a valid technical riposte to this form of the syllologism.

Jason Pratt

That's a better criticism than the one cited by exapologist. I think, however, that it fails because the Bible makes it very clear that the disciples were completely lost on what Jesus was saying. Yes, he told them, but they didn't understand what he meant. So, yes, if they had understood, maybe they would have looked for him, but as it was, they were running and hiding and thought it was all over.

And I should add that the faith that the disciples had in the teachings of Jesus very likely vanished due to the manner that he died. After all, Jesus was whipped, tortured, and hung on a cross where he died a painful death. I strongly believe that the disciples would have looked at the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death and ask themselves: would the messiah, the chosen one of God, really allow himself to die in that gruesome of a way?

As I said, it "runs into insurmountable problems by conflicting with the extant data we do have (e.g. it fails to account for certain story characteristics as received)." {g}

Even so, the observation still invalidates the syllogism as given. Technically, (3) is still wrong: there was _one_ Christian prior to Christianity (so to speak). Thus (4) as presented is technically wrong, too.

A proper modification would be something like

(3) Jesus was a Christian influence (distinct from being a Judaic influence for purposes of this discussion), who taught the idea of a single individual rising from the dead before the end of time.

(3.1) Had the disciples been expecting vindication on this, however, the subsequent authoritative stories would have reflected this. (e.g. the Christian leaders can be trusted because they bet on the right horse and were vindicated in their own trust.)

(3.2) But the subsequent authoritative stories do not reflect this. They tell about the apostles failing utterly, and show no one at all (except ironically Jesus' own enemies in the Sanhedrin in a way!) expecting Jesus to rise again.

(4) Therefore, belief in Jesus' resurrection wasn't derived (in its original stages) from Jesus' prior influence.


The parenthetic qualifier in new (4) is necessary for fairness sake, since there would be a realistic limit to how far apostolic scepticism would hold after reports start coming in, especially since by the same story contexts Jesus _had been_ trying to prep them for this.

If I gave the impression I wasn't in agreement with you, I apologize. Yes, the same thought had crossed my mind, but I had put it aside because I was focusing on dissecting the argument by exapologist which was wrong. I agree with your revision of Craig's argument which properly takes into account the fact that Jesus Himself was predicting his own resurrection (with little impact on his disciples).

Herod believed Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist, and you find in the Bible itself! So there is proof, based upon what you believe that the Jews believed there could be a single person resurrected from the grave, not just in a general resurrection in the end of times.

But since you are dealing with history through the eyes of faith, you should consider what I wrote here, and deal with that.

Herod believed Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist, and you find in the Bible itself! So there is proof, based upon what you believe that the Jews believed there could be a single person resurrected from the grave, not just in a general resurrection in the end of times.

But since you are dealing with history through the eyes of faith, you should consider what I wrote here, and deal with that.

John,

Can you just post a comment without turning it into a plug for your own site? It's gotten pretty embarassing.

And I am glad to see you believe that Matthew and Mark accurately recall what was being said about Jesus by his contemporaries.

More substantively, you are missing the point. WLC knows just as much as the rest of us that there are examples of dead people miraculously being restored to life in the Old and New Testament. Jesus himself raised Lazarus from the grave. But that is not what WLC's argument refers to. Jesus was the "first fruits" of the general resurrection. That is, his resurrection was a "permanent" one because he had a glorified body of a type that we will all have at the end of this age. Lazarus and company were not raised from the dead in the eschatological resurrection sense. They were restored to life but not to a new kind of existence in new transformed bodies that would not die. But according to the disciples, this is exactly what they encountered with Jesus.

Besides, Antipas was not what we would call a devout or observant Jew and was influenced by the Hellenistic culture to a great extent. As Wright correctly noted, "we should not ... regard Herod and his court as the most accurate indicators of mainstreatm second-Temple Jewish belief." TROSG, page 413.

I am surprised you did not refer to Matthew 16:14 (and its parallels), in which there seems to be more than just Antipas who thinks Jesus may be the Baptist in some form. But again, whether this refers to some who believed Jesus was John raised from the dead or Jesus with the "mantle" of John, it does not refer to an eschatological resurrection of the dead. But again, that is precisely what the early Christians believed about Jesus' resurrection.

As Wright again notes, "We do not find here any suggestion, apart from the new powers such being might have, that the body itself had been in any way transformed -- or, presumably, that it would not or could not die again." TROSG, page 414.

Hi CC,

Reading your post, I think you miss the point at crucial places in your reply. The key point is that, based on Jesus' teaching about the eschaton, and the widespread expectation of an imminent eschaton, the earliest Christians had adequate conceptual categories to construe their experiences of Jesus as part of the final eschatological event. Craig makes a point about the nature of hallucinatory experiences being governed by pre-existing mental categories, denying that the earliest Christians had such. And my point (or Christian NT scholar Dale C. Allison's point – see his books, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, and The End of the Ages Has Come) is that, in fact, they did.

I think you're right to want to counter the hallucination hypothesis with Craig's abductive inference for the resurrection of Jesus, but most middle-of-the-road scholars would probably say that we have an abductive inference, at least equally strong, that Jesus made a false prediction about an imminent eschaton (Jason, I know I haven't responded to your post on this -- I hope to get to it soon). An imminent eschaton is also implied throughout the rest of the NT corpus. So it seems to me that Craig's abductive inference is deflated by the abductive inference to a failed eschatological prediction.

Also, John nicely points out that premise (6) of my reconstruction of Craig's argument is false -- since some people believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead (and this before his crucifixion) -- it's not true that there wasn't an extant belief in single resurrections prior to the general resurrection (unless, again, they construed that as "the first-fruits" of the general resurrection) -- in which case the argument is unsound for reasons independent of mine

Regards,

exapologist

Exapologist,

Layman has already responded to the question of the John the Baptist resurrection, above, and has done so quite convincingly.

The question of whether Jesus made a false prediction about an imminent eschaton is outside the scope of this post, but I will say that I don't agree that he did without commenting further.

The main point you try to make is "based on Jesus' teaching about the eschaton, and the widespread expectation of an imminent eschaton, the earliest Christians had adequate conceptual categories to construe their experiences of Jesus as part of the final eschatological event." My point is that there was no "widespread expectation" of an individual resurrection -- certainly no understanding that the messiah would self-resurrect. As I expressed in my prior response to Jason's comment, the record (the only record available) shows that the apostles didn't understand or expect Jesus' individual resurrection from the dead. They felt defeated and uncertain. The idea that following this state they had a mass hallucination wherein they all saw and heard Jesus in his resurrected form is simply absurd.

Hi BK,

I read Layman's reply about the John the Baptist, but I must register my disagreement as to its adequacy in overcoming the problem. The evidence about whether the reports of Jesus conceived as a resurrected John the baptist simply aren't fine-grained enough to discern whether they saw him as permanently resurrected or as a restoration to a life of ordinary mortality. But of course this sort of stalemate works against the person making the sort of argument Craig is advancing here. If we lack evidence either way, then we must suspend judgement on premise (6), making the argument worthless as a piece of apologetics.

In any case, I doubt whether the resurrection/restoration distinction would help in this context. Is it that much of a conceptual jump for the earliest Christians to move from a concept of Jesus as restored to mortal life to one of a glorified, immortal one? For my part, I don't see why they couldn't have had visions of Jesus restored to life, as a sign of God's endorsement and vindication of his person and teaching. Then, since Jesus isn't seen in any constant or permanent manner, they re-construe his resurrection as being of a different, more exalted sort. The point isn't whether it's likely that this is what happened. Rather, the point is that such a conceptual transition doesn't seem particularly problematic. But if not, then one wonders why scholars outside of more-or-less conservative circles should take this argument seriously (which they don't).

Finally, your latest reply re: my original post is surely too nitpicky. Jesus preached a fundamentally eschatological message. There was a widespread belief that the eschaton was imminent. According to Luke, Jesus' disciples are reported to have expected that the eschaton would occur at any moment. Similar ideas occur in the other synoptics. Matthew's gospel has deceased saints rise out of their tombs during events surrrounding Jesus' crucifixion (BTW, WLC is uncomfortable about the historicity of this passage). Furthermore, and as you mention, the disciples were downcast, and in utter despair. They "left everything" to follow him -- just the sort of catalyst-like condition in which despairing people experience conversion visions. In this eschatologically charged context, we find the disciples construing their post-mortem experiences of Jesus in terms of the thoroughly eschatological concept of a resurrection -- indeed, as the first-fruits of the general resurrection (and again, construing him as the first-fruits suggests that the rest of the general resurrection event will occur imminently, just as the general harvest occurs the very next day after the gathering of the first-fruits). But you want to say that this isn't a sufficient conceptual atmosphere for the earliest disciples to construe their experiences of Jesus as a resurrection? I'm afraid I don't find this reply persuasive.

I leave you with the parting shot.

Hey Exap,

{{The key point is that, based on Jesus' teaching about the eschaton, and the widespread expectation of an imminent eschaton, the earliest Christians had adequate conceptual categories to construe their experiences of Jesus as part of the final eschatological event.}}

Something that admittedly should be taken into account. Indeed, strictly speaking it's something that no theologian denies. (For that matter, I think the evidence about Herod and popular thought ought to be taken a bit more seriously by our side instead of waving it off as not reflective of what the disciples could have believed. {nodding in John Loftus' direction})

This is not the same, however, as providing an explanation for the experiences themselves; and trying to position it as such is going to run into conflicts with the eventual shape of the data.

Furthermore, in order to even get the theory off the ground as something more than a pickle-on-the-window hypothesis (my brother, in his college days, used to visit Taco Bell late at night, where he and his friends were fond of amusing themselves by tossing pickles up onto the windows to see how long they would stick {g}), significant concessions will have to be made to historical accuracy in the texts; and those concessions, limited though they may appear at first glance, have implications going rather further than the first glance.

This was my general point to Keith Parsons when we publicly discussed the matter last year at Victor's site (dangerousidea.blogspot.com, for readers who may not know Victor Reppert, though I know Exap does. {s}) I see no reason to say anything different today.


{{I know I haven't responded to your post on this -- I hope to get to it soon}}

I do, too--especially since my agreement about the failure of the syllogism (as stated) involved an observation stronger than Jesus making a prediction about an immanent eschaton. True, I'd include that, too. But there's more than that in the data about what he was predicting, and you know it. The curious question here is, why are you making the restriction? Why not concede that Jesus, as reported, was not only making predictions about an imminent eschaton, but also about his imminent resurrection after being zorched by his enemies in Jerusalem? Strictly speaking, there wouldn't seem to be any naturalistic objection to that, and it would add strength (on the face of it) to an expectation so strong it might lead to hallucinations. So: why restrict? (And you _are_ restricting, or you wouldn't have made a point of including the "false prediction" part.)


{{The point isn't whether it's likely that this is what happened. Rather, the point is that such a conceptual transition doesn't seem particularly problematic.}}

So, you're not trying to make a point about its liklihood. You're only trying to make a point about... its... um... problematichood. Or lack thereof. This is different from liklihood how? {g}


{{Furthermore, and as you mention, the disciples were downcast, and in utter despair. They "left everything" to follow him -- just the sort of catalyst-like condition in which despairing people experience conversion visions.}}

The contextual situation was rather stronger than that; beyond even what Layman and BK mentioned. And there is no good reason to suppose the records aren't being realistic on this point.

(Borrowing from my discussion with KP here...) Jesus, under popular belief (and the disciples are clearly shown to be constantly on the side of popular belief), was supposed to save the good people from the bad people. But he didn't. He was caught, and bad people tortured him to death (partly on a charge of being a terrible traitor to God) in a way that was (popularly!) understood to be cursed by God. And he didn't use his awesome superpowers to get out of it. [note: Keith had conceded as part of lending strength to a hallucination hypothesis that Jesus was believed by his disciples to have awesome superpowers. {s}] Why not?

On terms of popular belief, there could be only one reason why. Jesus claimed to have received his power from God. God (apparently) abandoned him. That meant Jesus either was (as his opponents were saying) a traitor working with the devil instead of with God, or it meant something even worse. It meant that he was once a good person whom God had indeed been helping and giving authority, but then he somehow went bad--just like Satan.

That's why the death can only look to the disciples like a failure beyond intensity of description. A dead man is not going to raise himself from the dead; and God is not going to raise a traitor (or worse a Satan) from the dead. It isn't just over. It's _worse_ than over. The _best_ case scenario is that Jesus made some kind of horrible (even damnable) mistake with good intentions. All the apocalyptic preaching means nothing--worse than nothing, if he was being heretical! It would (in their mis-understanding) be only another nail in the coffin (so to speak).


You haven't been exactly avoiding this element in your discussions; but you have been downplaying it. I don't believe it's realistic to downplay it, though: the eventual story shape isn't that the disciples were sitting around in a state of desperately failing hope. The eventual story shape is that no one was expecting Jesus to come back, including the disciples, including (at first) after they started hearing weird things from people who _weren't_ reporting seeing him but were reporting other things instead. (And then eventually from people who were hearing from people who had seen him. And then eventually from people who, in the stories, are seeing him right that moment...)

These are details of the eventual data, and the existence of those details in the data is something that has to be counted into (and accounted for in) a coherent large-scale historical theory.

If you reply (as Keith eventually did, trying to avoid being critted on this ground) that you are not trying to at least contribute to a coherent large-scale historical theory, then you aren't yet even operating at the level of your opposition. Picking at problems in our own attempts at providing a coherent large-scale historical theory is one thing, and not necessarily a bad thing. But making alternate positive hypotheses which are not intended to contribute to a large-scale historical theory in turn, is comparatively specious.

Which, by the way, is why conservative scholars (and even moderate scholars) frequently don't take revisionist theories seriously.

Jason Pratt


(Note: Anyone interested in the dialogue I mentioned above can find Keith's original post, on this topic, as an open letter in response to James Patrick Holding here; my first reply (where by the way I make some errors I later correct in Keith's favor) here and here; a followup from me in the first comment here; Keith's reply to me here; and the final part of the exchange (so far as I know--and keep in mind, in his favor, that Dr. Parsons usually has larger fish to be frying {g}) here. Jim Lippard, whom I've corresponded with for several years, and who as one of the leaders of the Internet Infidels hardly has a pro-Christian axe to grind, thought the exchange interesting enough to link to in his own blog, back when we did it.

Gosh, I hope the html coding comes out all right in all that... {whew})

Opps, composition/editing error.

"And then eventually *from* people who were hearing from people who had seen him. And then eventually *from* people who..."

Those two 'froms' shouldn't be there. I revised the planned sentence structure while writing, though, and inadvertently left them in from the prior design.

JRP

First, I read your response re: John the Baptist and don't think that your counter-argument to Layman's post makes a stalemate. Even if it did, it doesn't somehow mean that the argument is worthless. It still makes the case that the Jewish teachings about the messiah didn't reflect an individual resurrection from the dead. The disciples, of course, lived in this Jewish society and would have had that engrained in their thinking. So, it would have had to been a very strong understanding that Jesus was coming back from the dead in a glorified body. That's not what is shown in the New Testament.

I think that the conceptual transition of the sort you mention is rather interesting. Because it suggests that they had a hallucination of some type that wasn't what they expected. But at the same time, you are arguing that they had the hallucination because of what they expected. Given the accounts of Jesus' resurrection in the NT, the hallucination hypothesis simply can't explain what they saw in light of their expectations.

But what I find most interesting is that you appear to have modified your original argument. You originally said that the teaching of Jesus being the first resurrected of the dead was widely taught in Christian circles and was therefore the cause of the resurrection. Now you seem to be acknowledging that it wasn't widely taught, but rather that Jesus taught it. But the basis for that understanding has got to be the Bible which also teaches that the disciples felt defeated with the crucifixion of Jesus which they didn't see coming.

You find that nitpicky? Well, I'm sorry. I never thought I'd persuade you since you have apparently rejected something that you once understood well enough to be an apologist. I personally doubt it had anything to do with the strength of the evidence given that the case for Christianity is very strong, and so I was presenting an argument against your position for those who aren't as invested in debunking Jesus as you.

Btw, I remind any readers to keep in mind, that if Felipe (that's Exap) never gets around to answering my questions, it isn't necessarily because he doesn't think he has good answers. Besides, I worry that I may have been too sharp toward him, personally--I can be very incisive, and I mean it only for helping people think more clearly about the issues involved. But it can also _easily_ make me seem more oppositional than I actually am.

(I apologize to BK, too, since he's actually here, and while I'm at it {s}; I worry that I was too gung ho in chasing down my point in regard to my first comments here, too. {bow})

JRP

I read Layman's reply about the John the Baptist, but I must register my disagreement as to its adequacy in overcoming the problem. The evidence about whether the reports of Jesus conceived as a resurrected John the baptist simply aren't fine-grained enough to discern whether they saw him as permanently resurrected or as a restoration to a life of ordinary mortality.

It is ridiculous to claim that this is a "stalemate" and that the reference to Herod could just as easily be referring to an eschatological resurrection before the general resurrection. The reference simply refers to someone being brought back to life. There is precedent for this in the Old Testament and in Jesus' own ministry. We should take it as meaning just that. To claim that it could just as easily mean something it gives no hint of meaning is to read into it what you want and for which there is no evidence.

Additionally, the eschatological belief about Jesus' resurrection is intertwined with the early Christian belief in his messianic status. This is no accident. While Prophets appear throughout Jewish history, the Messiah was to come during or right before the new age. Odd then that if Herod or the others mentioned in Matthew 14:16 thought Jesus' resurrection was an eschatological event that they do not regard him as a messiah. At most he is a prophet. In Matthew 14:16, the belief that he was John the Baptist come back somehow is distinguished from Peter's correct belief that Jesus was the Messiah.

So no, there is no stalemate here about the meaning of Herod's comment. The evidence goes only so far as indicating that he may have believed there was some sort of miraculous raising of John the Baptist, a Prophet, from the dead. To say the evidence for this view is the same for the view that Herod thought John the Baptist's resurrection was an eschatological one that preceded the general resurrection from the dead is absurd.

BK,Layman and Jason,

I'd just like to say WOW!!! and again WOW!!! I'm joyfully very impressed with the newest state of Christian apologetics. WLC wrote an introduction to his book "Hard Questions..." where he called for Christians to be good Christians intellectually in addition to other Christian attributes, and you guys really have taken him up with that exhortation. Excellent, excellent work.

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