Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Applying the Principles, Part II

[Part seven in the Scripture and History series]

Picking up where I left off in "Applying the Principles, Part I", I am outlinging Greg Herrick's application of the principles of historical criticism to the resurrection narratives. Again, you must read the entire linked linked article for the full argument.

III. The tomb was found empty three days later:

  1. Earliest tradition: Paul believed in the empty tomb:
    • "He was raised" - ἐγείρω - in 1 Corinthians 15:4.
    • It was an early tradition Paul received before he wrote about it in 37 - 40AD.
    • Paul would not preach so boldly if he did not believe in the empty tomb

  2. Multiple attestations: The empty tomb tradition is found in:
    • all four Gospels
    • three of the Gospel strata (i.e. Mark, "M" and John).

  3. Dissimilarity:
    • is not overlaid with theology for apologetic purposes.
    • all the Gospel writers use the expression "first day of the week." While the early preaching referred to the "third day"

    This makes it dissimilar to the preaching of the early church and therefore unlikely that the early church invented it.

  4. Embarrassment: women were witnesses to the empty tomb while the disciples were hiding in fear.

  5. Semitisms: Matthew mentioning the "angel of the Lord" and Luke's "bowed their faces to the ground".

  6. Divergent traditions: the different number of angels and the different number of women in the different traditions has been pointed to as a reason to doubt their authenticity.
    • that they differ points to the story not being crafted by the early church. If that was the case they should be uniform
    • as to the reliability of the witnesses themselves, it was not unusual for different writers to focus on the participants they wished and ignore others that were there

    There is no need to postulate other competing traditions.

  7. from the perspective of the Jewish leaders, in the development of their attack on the apostles, they did not deny that the tomb was empty. Besides, the religious leaders could have put an end to the whole mess, if they could have produced a body. No such evidence was ever presented according to our sources.
Herrick - "From the preceding evidence it is clear that the tradition of the empty tomb passes the historiographical tests of: 1) multiple attestation; 2)dissimilarity; 3) tendencies of the developing tradition; 4) Semitisms and 5)embarrassment. Therefore, a belief in the empty tomb is reasonable historically speaking. It bears all the marks of being early, and not a later creation of the church. It is to be regarded as authentic."

IV. Jesus was seen alive and the disciples held the belief of his resurrection.
According to [Lane] Craig there are essentially four lines of evidence one can adduce in support of the historical reliability of the resurrection appearances: 1) The Apostle Paul's testimony; 2) the genuine character of particular resurrection appearances, 3) the evidence for the general trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts and 4) the fact that the appearances were of Jesus' resurrected body. Since we have already discussed #3 and #4 . . . we will concentrate on the #1 and #2.
  1. Paul's Testimony in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
    It is generally believed that the earlier a tradition is, the more likely it is to be authentic. This, of course, is a major idea behind the criteria of authenticity and form criticism . . . We maintain that the "witnesses" of 15: 5-8 are a part of that early tradition. There was not enough time to develop a legend in this regard, for the tradition here can probably be dated before A.D. 40 and some argue before A.D. 37 . . . The Corinthians could have checked it out, and yet there is no reference in our sources to the Corinthians . . . denying the resurrection.
  2. The Historical Veracity of Resurrection Appearances, and Other Phenomena
    • Cause/effect or Correlation:
      • James: The fact James was doubtful of Jesus' identity during his life and that he later became a pillar and apostle in the church requires a sufficient cause. The only reasonable explanation is that Christ did indeed rise from the dead and appear to him, just as tradition says.
      • Paul:
        . . . it is even harder to account for Saul . . . Did Paul suddenly feel remorse for his actions? Probably not. This might lead him to desist from his attacks on the church, but it cannot account for his faith in Jesus as Messiah. Did he just realize from his background that Jesus fits the Messianic bill, so to speak? This is unlikely, since the bodily resurrection of an isolated individual is not found in the Judaism of Paul's day. There was only the general resurrection of all people at the end (criterion of Palestinian environment [context and expectation]). And, the concept of a dying and rising Messiah was probably foreign to Paul . . . He even goes so far as to teach Jewish/Gentile equality in God's plan. . . . Paul suffered greatly as a result of his faith in Christ . . . This is only reasonably accounted for on the basis of his seeing the resurrected Jesus
      • The emergence and growth of the church in Jerusalem and around the known world at that time is difficult to explain on the basis of naturalistic causes. Fear of the religious and political authorities would have squelched the movement
      • Early church treatment of sin:
        They did not tolerate it . . . This is not exactly the way a movement goes about the process of attracting followers. There was belief in Jesus' resurrection and only such a belief would cause sane people to become a part of the church . . . we ought to consider Paul's ethics which he enjoined on the churches in the name of the risen Lord. It is an incredibly demanding ethic and not very easy to live out. It is difficult to believe that people would submit to this without a sufficient reason. The resurrection of Christ provides the a priori reason to move toward a lifestyle like Paul outlines in his letters and also offers the hope required to fulfill that ethic.
    • Embarrassment: In first century Judaism, since the claim of women witnesses would not carry much weight, it is likely that this tradition is true. It does nothing to help their cause in promoting Jesus as risen from the dead. The fact that Paul leaves the women out in his list of witnesses confirms this interpretation.
As I said in a comment at Street Prophets, it is not my intent in this series to convince anyone of anything - other than that believing in the physically risen Christ from the Gospel narratives is not historiographically irrational or insupportable.

That is unless one denies the possibility of the supernatural. That, however, has nothing to do with the evidence - that is about what you are willing to believe.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly