Joshua featured on Veritas Forum

(Mervin Bitikofer) #61

I think you said somewhere back in this thread that Paul considered himself on exactly the same level with the original witnesses … and Paul makes it apparent that he certainly doesn’t consider himself inferior to them in a lot of ways.

But by your own quote from I Corinthians 15 (verse 8, 9): “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” [emphasis added so you don’t miss it this time]

It also seems apparent that Paul does actually distinguish himself from the original disciples, which in fact probably explains why he is so defensive and at pains to justify his ministry to others. I would say he was not only aware of the distinction that he himself concedes but he is also quite sensitive about it. That he saw Jesus in a visionary sense (as opposed to fleshly) is neither here nor there if one wants to keep nitpicking on resurrection evidence as you do. The fact is, it changed Paul’s life dramatically, and in a material sense probably not for the better. Paul’s testimony is of key importance and his new-found reversal of devotion is one of the harder things to explain by those who are at pains to dismiss the Christian faith.

(Andy) #62

Regarding your NT Wright quote. While he distinguishes his Paul’s experience from the Apostles, he is not claiming Paul’s experience was “visionary”. In his later work “The Resurrection of the Son of God”, Wright very much affirms that Paul’s claim was a material sighting, in line with what the Apostles experienced.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #63

I get this. Paul calls himself ‘untimely born’. But does it mean Christ appeared to him in a different way from the appearances to the other Apostles? You guys (NT Wright included) want to emphasize the wrong parts. :wink: The part I’m concentrating on is ‘appeared’. He makes no distinction between Christ’s appearances to the 12, to Cephas and to the 500.

Actually, I would argue the opposite. Paul is using his own ministry and status as being not inferior to others.
1 Cor 9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?

This verse is a strong evidence that Paul is not aware of any other means of being an apostle. If he knew that a bodily Jesus taught and walked and ate with the 12 and he only saw a vision of Jesus, I doubt he would claim what he does.

2 Cor. 11: 5 For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #64

I don’t know if we even disagree on this. You see, there is a strong evidence that the other Apostles may have seen Jesus just as Paul has (i.e. in a vision only). The Gospelers may have written their stories as mere stories and not historical accounts. I personally believe this is correct.

On the other hand, if NT Wright is claiming that the Jesus of the Gospels, who appeared to the 11 (12-Judas) after his resurrection also came to visit Paul, then we need evidence for this claim. NT Wright may believe this to be true, but I need evidence of this.

Also, looks like this thread got a bit large. I find myself going in circles, repeating myself. I think it may be best to leave it at that for the moment. I’m ok with continuing but I feel a bit uneasy on a Christian forum with these arguments. After all, this is not an apologetics site, but a ministry trying to harmonize Evolution and the Bible (as I understand this ministry).

I hope I’ve made my views and position clear, as have all of you as well. Of course, we can all agree to disagree on some things, right? I’m off to a tavern, looking for @gbrooks9

(Mervin Bitikofer) #65

Good – now reread what I wrote to you in my last post. We agree on this.

What we don’t agree on is how you try to draw this into some sort of “let’s deny that any miraculous physical resurrection ever happened” kind of conclusion. To draw this argument into service of that agenda requires you to make a mountain out of a mole hill – and even this mole hill of yours doesn’t appear to have any firm evidential ground. I stand by my take on Paul.

Regarding the fact that we can’t give complete empirical explication of how Jesus’ (or any) final resurrection works is, for you, a fatal hang-up. We get that. For believers it’s an acceptable mystery for which we trust God. You don’t seem to get that. Yes, it has a spiritual component (even basis), but also has a physical “fish-eating, touch me” reality too – along with the mystery of mortality being clothed with immortality [my own conclusions – I don’t speak for others in this.] It won’t be completely corralled into your own narrow world view on these things. We get that.

Blessings on your day … may not be able to return here for some time; busy weekend ahead.

Additional edit:
[Sorry – should have read your thread above before writing this one; didn’t mean to keep up the said engagement just as you’re on your way out the door to the tavern! --enjoy]

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #66


Another way to look at the Resurrection, would be to ask the question, What would it mean if Jesus had not risen from the dead?

What if His story was over with His death upon the cross?

What the heinous death of a perfectly good Human, God’s Messiah, took place without a response from God?

What if the evil perpetuated by the intellectuals (Pharisees,) religious leaders (Sadducees,) and the power of the state (Romans),supported by the people was left to stand?

Indeed life would be meaningless and futile. Goodness would be a joke. Right would be determined by might.

This seems to be the direction which postmodern Trumpian alternate-fact-world is going. God save us from ourselves.

(Chris Falter) #67

Hi @SuperBigV -

I appreciate the fact that you are bringing in some of the evidence that needs to be discussed. I am also aware of the fact that you will be busy for a while and cannot reply right away. I do hope you can come back and continue the conversation in the not too distant future.

Since we have many readers, I do want to go ahead and give a reply now, rather than later. Please do not feel pressed to reply right away.

I think you are right that Christians in the nascent church were not persecuted primarily because of their belief in the resurrection, but rather because of their beliefs about the law and the temple. However, you are mistaken that Christians have generally claimed that their belief in the resurrection of Christ was the source of their persecution. Moreover, I think you have overlooked a good bit of the evidence that indicates that the persecution in the nascent church originated among Jews. Let’s take a closer look at some of the passages (italics mine):

Acts 4:1-3

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.

Acts 5: 27, 40

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. … They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Acts 6: 8-9, 12; 7: 57-58

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. … So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. … At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Acts 8: 1-3 (Note that Saul was a Pharisee/teacher of the law at this point, and not yet a follower of Jesus)

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Acts 21:27 (a passage you also cite)

some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him

These passages all indicate that the persecution of Christians came at Jewish hands, and largely because the Christians had different views of the law and the temple than the Jewish majority.

So what are we to make of Acts 23:6, where Paul claims to be persecuted because of his belief in the resurrection? To many commentators, it seems that Paul was making an incomplete statement (i.e., the truth, but not the whole truth) in order to prevent a united Jewish leadership from blocking his chance to appeal to Rome. Perhaps you would even consider this to be a bit too slippery on Paul’s part. That wouldn’t really bother me, as the apostles are nowhere in the Scriptures depicted as perfect.

Finally, let’s take a look at the controversy in Galatians: was Paul depicting persecution among Christians, or was it just an argument about doctrine? The text points strongly to the latter, in my opinion.

some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. - Galatians 1:8

A debate about doctrine, not an outburst of persecution.

you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. - Galatians 1:13

The first mention of persecution in Galatians, but it is not between Christians. Prior to his becoming a follower of Christ, Paul in his role as Saul the Pharisee had persecuted Christians.

some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves - 2:4

Another argument. Note that “slaves” is clearly metaphorical; Paul often uses the imagery of slavery to speak of a person’s relationship to the law, to sin, or to Christ. In particular, from the same epistle see the following:

  • Galatians 4:3 (“we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world”)
  • Galatians 4:8-9 (“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”)
  • Galatians 5:1 (“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”)

[B]efore certain men came from James, [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? - Galatians 2:12-14

Another disagreement, as opposed to persecution. Peter was afraid of disapproval, so he changed his behavior. “Force” is a reference to compulsion by means of religious authority, not to chains and whips.

Those people are zealous to win you over , but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. - Galatians 4:17

Again, Paul depicts the conflict as a disagreement over doctrine and not as a campaign of persecution. Paul’s opponents are trying to use persuasion (“win you over”), not persecution. They are trying to break a relationship by disrupting loyalty (“alienation”), not by throwing someone in prison.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. - Galatians 5:7-8

Persuasion, not persecution

Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! - Galatians 5:11-12

The second mention of persecution, and again it refers to persecution by Jewish leadership. Paul distinguishes between the persecution he has encountered (at the hands of Jewish leaders) from the agitation by the James crowd. They are two different cases: in Paul’s case, he is being persecuted by Jewish leaders (cf. the Acts passages); but in the other case, “as for those agitators” (i.e., a different situation), there is a misleading religious argument being propagated.

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. - Galatians 6:12

The final mention of persecution. In this argument between two camps of Christians, Paul (the leader of one camp) claims that the other camp is motivated by a fear of persecution. Clearly Paul and the churches he has founded are not persecuting anyone, so who would be the party doing the persecution? Jewish leaders, of course–the ones who have been persecuting Paul.

So there are only 3 passages in Galatians that refer to persecution (1:13; 5:11-12; 6:12), and all of them clearly refer to Jews persecuting Christians. All of the other passages that refer to the conflict between Christians speak only of rhetoric and arguments, not whips, chains and prison.

I apologize for the length of this post, @SuperBigV, but it is important to deal as carefully as possible with the texts. I hope that you will take away from our discussion the idea that perhaps you have also misinterpreted other more important passages of Scripture, such as those about the post-resurrection encounters between Jesus and his disciples. If you still choose to disbelieve the “good news” that Jesus and his followers taught, that is your prerogative, of course; but you would do well to make sure you accurately understand what it is that you are agreeing or disagreeing with.

Chris Falter

(Peaceful Science) #68

There is a distinction between Jews and Judiazers. Also Romans also were intent on prescuting the Church.

We see opposition from all levels in the early Church, not just one group.

)Other than that, good response.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #69

@Chris_Falter, thanks for your reply. I was mainly addressing the original claim

This is from Dr Joshua’s original post

  1. After Jesus’ violent death, His followers were frightened and scattered. Then, something happened that grew a strong, bold, and confident belief that resisted sustained, murderous opposition. Unlike other movements with executed leaders, once they came back together they did not replace Jesus with one of his family members. Their resistance was entirely non-violent and devoid of political power. Yet they were all suddenly willing to die for what they saw. What changed them? Why was there not evidence at the time to undermine their belief?[7] What convinced them that Jesus was inconceivably greater than his family?

Emphasis mine. So, there seems to be a connection Christian apologists make. They argue that martyrdom of the early eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection points to a probability of the resurrection being true. Why else, the argument goes, would the disciples willingly die for their teachings?

MIke Licona says something similar

Historian Michael Licona captures the key point in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach: “After Jesus’ death, the disciples endured persecution, and a number of them experienced martyrdom. The strength of their conviction indicates that they were not just claiming Jesus had appeared to them after rising from the dead. They really believed it. They willingly endangered themselves by publicly proclaiming the risen Christ.”

I was mainly addressing this point. I actually agree with you @Chris_Falter on the reasons for the persecutions.

All the best.

(Peaceful Science) #70

@SuperBigV I’m not sure if it is intentional, but you are missing the crux of the point. You do not have to disagree with it, but it would nice if actually represented it correct.

No one is claiming “because people are willing to die for something, then it must be true.” That is just a silly argument, and that is what say we are arguing…

This is just not what we are saying. We are making a different point. Rather than repeat it here, let me be 100% clear that now, we are not making the connection you think we are. We are making a different point.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #71

@Swamidass, correct I understand the connection. Christian apologists think that since the disciples died for their convictions, whatever they preached must have been true. They really believed they saw a risen Jesus and were willing to die for their conviction. I get and did not misunderstand it

(Peaceful Science) #72

Except that is not what we are saying.

You do misunderstand it.

How many people are willing to die for a lie that they themselves fabricated? Perhaps some percentage, but all the apostles? That just seems implausible. The point is that they all were willing die nonviolently for their belief, which they explain is rooted in believing that Jesus rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, and that they all saw him alive. They saw him eat fish and touched his wounds. This happened in private, in groups, out in the open, and in rooms. It happened over the course of 40 days. They are not describing dreams.

If this is all made up, and they had stolen the body from the grave, why were all independently willing to die for this lie? This just does not seem plausible.

Our point is that somehow the the apostles came to believe that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. We just do not have a good account for how this could be. Someone stealing Jesus’ body from the tomb alone would not have resulted in this outcome. Yet here we are.

In the case of Paul, he switches after seeing Jesus risen from the dead from attacking Christians to becoming one of them and eventually dying for his faith too. This was no ordinary vision (Acts 8(, because it was accompanied by physical evidence. Remember he is blinded by “scales” in his eyes, and these scales fall off in the presence of witnesses. Moreover, all of his traveling companions hear the voice of Jesus too, and they report this to people. Maybe Paul had voices in his head, but how did everyone else there hear the voice too? This is why his encounter is accepted by the apostles as more than just a hallucination or a dream.

They believed Paul encountered Resurrected Jesus in a physical way, beyond the more common experiences we often speak of, and then it is evidenced in a totally transformed life. This is why he is accepted as an apostle by the other apostles. And he is the only one accepted this way. No one else is making claims like this before or after.

So the martyrdom is not so much proving that what they say is true, as much as giving evidence that they believed what they say is true. However, an empty tomb alone does not explain this. A missing body does not lead people to believe that someone rose from the dead. If they did not see Him, what caused them to believe this?

The fact is that they are willing to die for this belief, decades later, separated from one another, without power, and not one recants. If they are liars and con-artists, there is no other case like this in history. They are so dedicated to the scam that 12 of them are willing to die for it.

(Chris Falter) #73

That’s not the strongest evidence, in my opinion.

You know, if someone were to claim he saw Elvis in the produce aisle last week, I could show him this picture:

So I wonder why the opponents of nascent Christianity were unable to point to a non-empty grave to refute the apostles’ claim. Should have been a discussion-ender, but it seems no opponents of Christianity tried it. Why not?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #74

@Chris_Falter, I’ve already pointed to the Gospels claiming the people’s claim and belief that John the Baptist was raised from the dead! In the person of Jesus. Presumably John’s tomb wasn’t empty but this didn’t matter.

(Chris Falter) #75

Have you taken notice of the fact that the followers of Jesus, the rabbi in question, did not believe those rumors?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #76

@Swamidass, you say I misunderstand and then you repeat what I understood you to be saying.

You did acknowledge the disciples had a belief. This is a key. As I’ve stated already, people believe in wrong things all the time. In Jesus’ day, people believed John the Baptist rose from the dead. If Johns disciples were dying nonviolent deaths for their convictions it would be a strong evidence john rose? [quote=“Swamidass, post:72, topic:35602”]
So the martyrdom is not so much proving that what they say is true, as much as giving evidence that they believed what they say is true. However, an empty tomb alone does not explain this. A missing body does not lead people to believe that someone rose from the dead. If they did not see Him, what caused them to believe this?
What caused people to believe John rose from the dead?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #77

Yes Sir, I have. My point is to show that people can believe the unbelievable without good evidence. Even king Herod believed John rose. If Christian apologists had a story of Herod believing Jesus rose, would have been slam dunk apologetics. I can see the questions already…“why would an educated person who killed X believe X rose?”

Also, as you noted, Christians don’t believe the claims of John the Baptist followers, which makes their witnesses stronger. It’s like finding Pharisees journaling claims of people believing Jesus rose. Not just Christian claims that Pharisees thought this or that but actual Pharisee documents

(Peaceful Science) #78

Just so you know @SuperBigV by “belief” we mean affirm a fact. You believe evolution is true. Your belief does not make evolution any less true than if you do not believe it. The question here is if there is good reason for your belief. As with Jesus, there is good reason to believe evolution.

The real question, which no informed person has an answer too: why did they have this belief? This is the crux of the question. It does not follow from what we know of the time.

And a great example of ignorance masquerading as an argument follows. John the Baptist is actually a great contrast between Jesus that shows us what we expect to see when a leader is executed.

The only one who appears to think John rose from the dead is a paranoid Herod (Matt 14). He hears about Jesus, and thinks that he is hearing about John. This is a case of mistaken identity by a person who does not know either John or Jesus, and who does not follow either one of them. Herod had killed beheaded John the Baptist. Herod is not one of John’s followers, but he is a murderous despot who hates John.

After John’s execution, none of John’s followers believe John was raised from the dead. (The only reason one would think differently is by quote mining silly arguments off the web). None of them think that Jesus is John raised from the dead. In many of them are skeptical of Jesus for much longer, and not until after the Resurrection do they follow Jesus.

John’s followers follow the standard pattern of movements when their leader dies. They eventually disband. We do not see followers of John spreading across the globe for centuries like followers of Jesus. This is very normal, and what we would have expected if Jesus had either (1) stayed in the tomb or (2) not appeared to them.

After Herod kills John, he stays dead too. No one claims he rose from the dead. There is no evidence that John’s disciples are willing to die.

People did not believe that John rose from the dead. So the answer is manyfold. They did not believe John rose from the dead because…

  1. nothing caused them to believe this.
  2. he did not rise from the dead
  3. this is an absurd claim that is demonstrably false, so no group of people would make it at that time
  4. his body did not go missing
  5. he did not appear again after his death
  6. they knew him well enough to recognize that Jesus was not John.
  7. they had even seen John and Jesus together, so they knew they were not the same person.

If you are right, by the way, all these reasons to doubt the Resurrection should have applied to Jesus’s followers too. Somehow, against all these reasons, Jesus’s followers (and even those who are not his followers) come to believe he rose from the dead.

The real question is: why didn’t the same thing happen to Jesus’s followers?

Also, remember the other John, Jesus’ brother. During Jesus’s life, he did not follow Jesus. After Jesus dies, John (the brother) some how comes to think that Jesus rose from the dead, and is the Messiah. So even people who did not follow Jesus, even his family, come to think that He rose from the dead.

How is that? Why did they come to this belief?

[edit: I incorrectly stated that Herod thought that John had been killed, but in the text, this is just a flashback. The edit gets it right.]


Wow, that’s quite a way of phrasing it! Hopefully you didn’t pray to Evolution this morning. :wink:

(Peaceful Science) #80

Of course I didn’t =). Jesus is much greater than evolution.