Some Easter Goodies

The views from professional historians via Facts and friction of Easter (hat tip:  Elizaphanian: Nobody sane doubts the existence of Jesus):

Take the question of Jesus’ existence. Dawkins may have his
reservations; so might Onfray and Hitchens. But no one who is
actually doing ancient history does. I contacted three eminent
ancient history professors this week and asked if they knew of any
professional historian who argued that Jesus never lived. They did
not. Professor Graeme Clarke of the Australian National University
was happy to go on the record as saying: "Frankly, I know of no
ancient historian or biblical historian who would have a twinge of
doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ – the documentary
evidence is simply overwhelming." Dawkins inadvertently proves the
point. In The God Delusion his sole example of a serious
historical case against the existence of Jesus is that of
"Professor G.A. Wells of the University of London". Dawkins does
not mention that George Wells is a professor of German language,
not history.

But what of the Easter events? There is a broad consensus here,
too. Few biblical historians accept all of the details of the
Gospel accounts – to the chagrin of some Christians – but most,
whether Jewish, Christian or agnostic, agree that these writings
have preserved a reliable core of information about the tumultuous
final days of Jesus’ life: he created a public disturbance in the
Jerusalem temple shortly before his arrest; he shared a final
(Passover) meal with his disciples; he was arrested by the priestly
elite and handed over to the Romans; he was crucified for treason
under the mocking charge "king of the Jews". These are the accepted
facts of the Easter narrative.

But what of the resurrection? Despite the arguments of some
Christian apologists, most mainstream scholars do not treat the
resurrection as belonging to their field of inquiry. It is similar
to Jesus’ healings. Historians would not say that Jesus actually
performed miracles – that would be to turn from history to
philosophy and theology. They can only say that he did things which
those around him interpreted as miraculous. So, too, with the
resurrection. No historian wearing his or her historical cap would
say that God raised Jesus from the dead. That is a theological
interpretation of the evidence. What most scholars do affirm is
more modest, though not without significance: Jesus’ tomb was empty
shortly after his crucifixion and significant numbers of men and
women experienced what they believed to be appearances of the risen
Jesus. These are the historical facts of Easter Sunday: an empty
tomb and resurrection experiences. They are accepted not only by
serious Christian scholars but also by leading Jewish historians
such as Vermes and self-confessed agnostics such as Professor Ed
Sanders of Duke University, who once wrote: "That Jesus’ followers
(and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a
fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do
not know." This is typical of the responsible historian’s approach
to Easter: whatever the explanation, something extraordinary
happened.

Peter Kirk has a collected a wide range of reflections and studies in What was so good about Friday? including as is proper links to Martyn’s post as President of the Methodist Church in GB: The really good news gospel – Easter message from the President (Ruby has one up for Easter day already: Christ is risen. Alleluiah! (BTW well done Ruby for mastering time travel [very useful for a Vice President of the Methodist Church] – it is now 12:25 but the post is timed at 12:30).

My Easter thinking has been dominated by 1 Corinthians 15 following reading "The Challenge of Jesus" by NT Wright (Amazon Associates link). One key point comes out in this interview – N. T. Wright on Resurrection:

To
preach the Resurrection is to announce the fact that the world is a
different place, and that we have to live in that "different-ness." The
Resurrection is not just God doing a wacky miracle at one time. We have
to preach it in a way that says this was the turning point in world
history. [Hat tip: JOLLYBLOGGER: N. T. Wright on Preaching the Resurrection]

Anyway, time to dash. I have 4 Easter services (two with breakfast), first at 6:30am and last at 6pm. Oh plus a Mother-in-law to collect from hospital (abscess on leg, fixed and should be ready to be collected on Easter Sunday afternoon).

 

8 thoughts on “Some Easter Goodies

  1. Steven Carr

    ‘Professor Graeme Clarke of the Australian National University was happy to go on the record as saying: “Frankly, I know of no ancient historian or biblical historian who would have a twinge of doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ – the documentary evidence is simply overwhelming.” ‘
    The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter – simply overwhelming.
    When did Jesus ‘Christ’ begin to exist?
    ‘Historians would not say that Jesus actually performed miracles – that would be to turn from history to philosophy and theology. They can only say that he did things which those around him interpreted as miraculous. ‘
    Like Paul , interpreting the things Jesus did as miraculous?
    And why are the miracles in the New Testamen off limits to historians in the way that the Koran and the Book of Mormon are not?
    My web page http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/mirc1.htm does all 3 religions for the same price.
    ‘What most scholars do affirm is more modest, though not without significance: Jesus’ tomb was empty shortly after his crucifixion…’
    Oh well, all we need now is some evidence of an empty tomb.
    Christians are debating the resurrection with me at http://resurrectiondebate.blogspot.com/
    They are getting hammered.
    As for Wright, there is a discussion forum at http://www.jamesgregoryforum.org/
    Wright’s arguments were picked apart in a series of posts.
    The organisers were unable to answer them.
    So they simply deleted almost all of them.
    This is a pretty typical Christian response to the arguments of sceptics. Ignore them or delete them.

    Reply
  2. Dave Warnock

    Steven,
    I absolutely agree that in the gospels we see “recapitulation“.
    eg it is no accident that Jesus spends 40 days in the desert (recapitulation of 40 years in the wilderness).
    It seems to me that you are choosing to understand this as meaning that Jesus did not do anything that has echoes of the Old Testament. On the other hand I see this as Jesus choosing to live out these echoes deliberately.
    I don’t delete comments unless they are abusive.
    I don’t see a huge debate being won on any of the places you mention.
    I don’t know why you mention gnostic gospels. As I understand it they are neither consistent with each other or with the gospels included in the canon. They were not included in the canon for good reasons.
    Sorry got to go now to prepare lunch.

    Reply
  3. Steven Carr

    Why would the women remember that she had to act out meeting the prophet at the gate of a city before she could get her child saved?
    How did she know that she had to act out those echoes?
    Why would Jesus remember he had to act out being asleep in the boat before the calming of a storm, because Jonah was asleep in the boat before the storm was calmed?
    And would Christians think 2 seconds before laughing at the idea that Jared had dancing before a decapitation was an ‘echo’ of Salome dancing before a decapitation?
    Or do Christians have one set of rules for 27 books and another set of rules for other books?

    Reply
  4. Dave Warnock

    Steven,
    You like to ask a lot of questions. Do they ever come to an end and what is the purpose? I lack time (and to be honest commitment) to go through the whole of scripture with you verse by verse with each raising 20 questions.
    Maybe instead of firing off hundreds of questions to me you could tell us something about yourself and your own understanding of these issues.

    Reply
  5. Peter Kirk

    Thanks for the link. But I was a little confused by this:
    including as is proper links to Martyn’s post as President of the Methodist Church in GB
    Proper? Why? I’m not a Methodist. I included the quote not because it is what I ought to do but because the words are so good!

    Reply
  6. Dave Warnock

    Peter,
    I was really intending to point out that you had linked to the great post by Martyn whereas I had failed to do so, but the thought clearly came out rather incoherently.

    Reply
  7. Steven Carr

    It would appear that one thing Christians cannot do is answer questions about their own Holy Books – despite studying them for years.
    The Wright forum simply deleted my posts which showed Wright’s arguments for what they were.

    Reply
  8. Dave Warnock

    Steven,
    For someone very eager to accuse others of not taking hours to respond to your 100′s of questions you are very reticent at answering our questions. See my earlier comment to you.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>