Nine Things You Didn't Know About Christianity, and Some Are True!: Part IV

This post represents the fourth in a series of responses to an article entitled Biblical authority reveals little-known facts about Jesus which is available through the online edition of the Wilmington Star. The first can be found here, the second can be found here, and the third can be found here. The article features nine little-known facts about Jesus as revealed by John Dominic Crossan, one of the founding members and best known stars of the Jesus Seminar. As will be seen, several of the "facts" when taken at face-value are, in fact, true about Jesus or Christianity. However, many of Dr. Crossan’s quotes following the facts show that Dr. Crossan doesn’t quite have a firm grasp on why they are true.

Fact 7. Jesus was not traveling to Jerusalem to provoke the Romans. Again, I find I am in complete agreement with the phrase used by Crossan. Sure, I agree wholeheartedly that Jesus' purpose in traveling to Jerusalem wasn't to provoke the Romans. The Bible doesn't suggest that "provoking the Romans" would have been the purpose. He went there in fulfillment of the things that were prophesied. According to Luke 18:31b-33, Jesus told the Disciples:

31b. Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33. and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.

Zechariah 9:9, which was probably written around 480 B.C., contains the prophesy that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout {in triumph,} O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Thus, it seems that Jesus specifically stated why He was going to Jerusalem -- to fulfill those things that had been prophesied about Him.

Moreover, it seems silly to me that Crossan should suggest that Jesus went to Jerusalem to provoke the Romans when the history shown in the New Testament shows he didn't provoke the Romans at all. Rather if Jesus went to provoke anyone it would have been the Jewish leaders. After all, they were the ones looking for the chance to kill Jesus and used the circumstances to have the Romans put Jesus to death.

Moreover, I suspect that Crossan doesn't even believe that Jesus went to die. Yet, it is clear that Jesus was born to die. The main purpose of His live was for his sacrificial death to atone for the sins of the world. So, to the extent that Crossan's language might suggest that Jesus wasn't looking to die at all, he is (as usual) mistaken.

Fact 8. Disciples had actual visions of Jesus. Here, I cannot even agree with the language because visions suggests that Jesus wasn't present bodily. Now, Crossan and I agree that what the disciples witnessed wasn't hallucinations. He makes it very clear in his comment when he says, "These were not hallucinations. When you've had a vision, you know you've had a vision." But it wasn't merely a vision of the risen Jesus that the disciples witnessed, but the actual real bodily manifestation of Jesus. According to The Bodily Resurrection of Christ Defended by Jason Dulle:

We know Jesus had a physical body upon resurrection because He could be touched (Matthew 28:9; John 20:27, 29); He Himself said He was a physical person and not a spirit (Luke 24:37-40); and He had the ability to eat (Luke 24:41-43; Acts 10:40-41). Although Jesus still retained His physical body, He had abilities not available to normal human beings. For example, on two occasions Jesus appeared to the disciples in the midst of a room without ever having come through a door (John 20:19; Luke 24:36). On another occasion He merely vanished before Cleopas' and another disciple's eyes (Luke 24:18, 31). He seems to have been released from at least some of the laws normal matter is subject to. Even Jesus' appearance was not always recognized (Matthew 24:16; Mark 16:12; John 20:14-15; 21:4,12). All of this demonstrates that indeed Jesus had a physical, but changed body.

Jesus' special abilities were not due too a lack of human flesh, but due to a different human flesh. Jesus' flesh had been glorified and was superseded by, and operated by higher laws so that He could not be bound to the same limitations of humanity as He was before He was glorified.

To hold the view that the resurrected Christ was merely a spirit not only denies the testimony of Scripture, but it also bypasses the very purpose of the resurrection. God made a covenant with David that He would establish his throne forever (II Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 89:3-4, 20-37; 132:11; Jeremiah 33:22, 25-26). In Acts 2:30-32 Peter declared that Jesus was the king that is to reign on David's throne, referencing God’s promise to David that his seed (lineage) would sit upon the throne to rule (See II Timothy 2:8). By stating that it was David’s "seed" who was to rule demands that Jesus have a physical, human existence because David was human. Jesus' body had to be resurrected so that He could physically sit on David's throne and rule with a rod of iron as the Scripture foretold, and as the Lord promised to David.

Jesus' physical resurrection was also necessary so that He could destroy the human problem of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2; I Corinthians 15:12-22--focusing of 17-22, 21-26, 55-56; Hebrews 2:14-18; I John 3:8; Revelation 1:18). After He rose from the dead, thereby conquering sin, death and the grave, He received the power and authority to raise all those who died having their faith in Him (Acts 26:23; I Corinthians 15:20, 23; I Thessalonians 4:14-17).

While visions are an important part of many religious experiences, (notwithstanding the attempts of some to confuse the issue) the Biblical record is clear that Jesus had a bodily resurrection. Thus, to the extent that Crossan suggests that Jesus' resurrection was no more than a vision, he is wrong, wrong, wrong.


Jason said…
To clarify a point (well, sort of clarify it {wry g}): in the March 20, 2007 issue of _Christian Century_, Crossan and Marcus Borg wrote a synopsis of their book (released a week or two ago), _The Last Week: a Day-by-Day Account of Jesus' Final Week_. (A paperback version was released earlier this year with a discussion guide for group study.)

In this article, Crossan and Borg strenuously emphasize (with italics even!), "Jesus went to the capital city of his people to confront Roman imperial power and religious collaboration with it."

Not that they can come up with much for this 'confrontation' (in their synopsis anyway), other than Jesus entering Jerusalem from the east on a donkey's colt instead of (while?) Pilate entering from the west in a military procession. (Some 'confrontation'!) But the point, is that if it looks like Layman is flipflopping between saying that Crossan is saying that Jesus did and did not go to Jerusalem to face the Romans, you can thank Crossan for that: apparently Jesus went there (with italics! {g}) to _confront_ them, but not _provoke_ them. As if there could be a substantial difference in this. (He certainly provokes and confronts the Sanhedrin!--which is what the actual story is about, not what Crossan is imagining to be there.)

Why is Crossan going this route, then, when the actual evidence hardly points that way? The first sentence of his (and Borg's) final paragraph in that synopsis makes his reasoning (such as it is) clear enough, I think: "We ponder all of this very deeply this Lent when liberals sadly and conservatives gladly proclaim our America not only as an empire but as the new Roman Empire."

So, how many conservatives have I heard of, not only proclaiming America to be an empire, not only proclaiming America to be the new Roman Empire, but _gladly_ doing so?? I can count the number of instances on the fingers of no hand... {snorf}

That one sentence, in its ludicrous display, gives a pretty accurate idea of how seriously to treat their attempts. It isn't about accuracy to the facts: any such accuracy is incidental to their political marketing. And their freakish hypocrisy in trying to say such things with a straight face, frankly makes me want to vomit.

With italics even. {g}

Jason said…
Except BK, instead of Layman... {self-correcting g!} Sorry, I was running late to meet my parents for dinner.

Anonymous said…
There would be no need for a strong tradition throughout all the gospels of women finding an empty tomb if a vision or spiritual resurrection was the intended message.
Jason said…
I agree; though the revisionists would say "Why isn't the tomb itself mentioned then outside the Gospels?" And so they postulate that the tomb and thus the bodily resurrection (which clearly is being emphasized by a body missing from a tomb) were invented later--and then try real hard to squint something other than St. Paul _opposing_ the kind of thing they really need him to have been _teaching_ in 1 Cor 15, not to say elsewhere.

After which they stumble rather badly trying to explain why a bodily resurrection needed inventing if a vision or a spiritual resurrection was sufficiently sufficient, easier for Gentiles and/or even for Jews to take. {g}

And, too, they stumble badly trying to explain why, when this tomb story was 'invented', women are persistantly at the core of it. Yet still not expecting it themselves, either.

(To which personally I would add, that it looks extremely likely to me that the author of GosMark is trying to correct what he thinks to be a misunderstanding concerning _himself_, not unlike what the author of GosJohn does at the end of his own account, though the topics are different. Sceptical tomb-invention theories consequently stumble worse on trying to explain why someone would invent a tomb story along with a tacit correction about what people are already in the habit of thinking happened at the tomb story _he just invented_... {g!})
Anonymous said…
Of course the most reasonable reply to these revisionists (who in my most humble opinion ask this question to avoid a historically well-supported position) is to point out that these are already Christian communities Paul is writing to. They already know the traditions, for the most part they have already been convinced.

Also Paul isnt writing a biography or narrative about Christ's life. Paul never needed to mention an empty tomb and its implied from his background as a Pharisee and Jew that he intended resurrection to have the old body changed by God, leaving an empty grave. Proper exegesis of Paul yields this view.

Boy do I have a lot of beefs with revisionist and liberal NT scholarship. Agendas instead of evidence guiding theories. For the most part wholly unconvincing.
Jason said…
{{Paul never needed to mention an empty tomb and its implied from his background as a Pharisee and Jew that he intended resurrection to have the old body changed by God, leaving an empty grave.}}

Though even if we didn't have that background, I think a full accounting of the ideas in 1 Cor 15 would get that across as his intention as well.

{{Also Paul isnt writing a biography or narrative about Christ's life.}}

True; and he himself specifically says in 1 Cor 15 that he's only going to talk about an extremely limited topic, that of "first importance". A tomb per se isn't of first importance. (Nor women at the tomb, nor Joseph of Arimathea.)

From pulling together the first six chapters of 1 Cor, I think Paul is later (in chp 15) aiming specifically at Stepmom-Sleeping-Guy again. {g} SSG's problem was that a bodily resurrection didn't fit into his Epicureanistic philosophical system; consequently, that's what Paul is focusing on affirming over-against. It isn't about about story details.

(It's important to remember, I think, that ancient philosophical systems, whether in the Near East or the Far East, were--and in the Far East still are--more like cult religions, than what we tend to think of today, in our Christianized society, as a 'philosophical' system. When Paul shoots at 'philosophy', he isn't shooting at logical analysis per se. He's going after a lifestyle-cult kind of thing; the kind of thing represented by SSG.)


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