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“Risen” and the Reality of the Resurrection

RisenSN

When I saw the coming attractions for the new film Risen—which deals with a Roman tribune searching for the body of Jesus after reports of the resurrection—I thought that it would leave the audience in suspense, intrigued but unsure whether these reports were justified or not. I was surprised and delighted to discover that the movie is, in fact, robustly Christian and substantially faithful to the Biblical account of what transpired after the death of Jesus.

My favorite scene shows tribune Clavius (played by the always convincing Joseph Fiennes) bursting into the Upper Room, intent upon arresting Jesus’ most intimate followers. As he takes in the people in the room, he spies Jesus, at whose crucifixion he had presided and whose face in death he had closely examined. But was he seeing straight? Was this even possible? He slinks down to the ground, fascinated, incredulous, wondering, anguished. As I watched the scene unfold, the camera sweeping across the various faces, I was as puzzled as Clavius: was that really Jesus? It must indeed have been like that for the first witnesses of the Risen One, their confusion and disorientation hinted at in the Scriptures themselves: “They worshipped, but some doubted.” Once Thomas enters the room, embraces his Lord and probes Jesus’ wounds, all doubt, both for Clavius and for the viewer, appropriately enough, is removed.

I specially appreciated this scene, not only because of its clever composition, but because it reminded me of debates that were fashionable in theological circles when I was doing my studies in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Scholars who were skeptical of the bodily facticity of Jesus’ resurrection would pose the question, “What would someone outside of the circle of Jesus’ disciples have seen had he been present at the tomb on Easter morning or in the Upper Room on Easter evening?” The implied answer to the query was “well, nothing.” The academics posing the question were suggesting that what the Bible calls resurrection designated nothing that took place in the real world, nothing that an objective observer would notice or dispassionate historian recount, but rather an event within the subjectivity of those who remembered the Lord and loved him.

For example, the extremely influential and widely-read Belgian theologian Edward Schillebeeckx opined that, after the death of Jesus, his disciples, reeling in guilt from their cowardice and betrayal of their master, nevertheless felt forgiven by the Lord. This convinced them that, in some sense, he was still alive, and to express this intuition they told evocative stories about the empty tomb and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Roger Haight, a Jesuit theologian of considerable influence, speculated in a similar vein that the resurrection is but a symbolic expression of the disciples’ conviction that Jesus continues to live in the sphere of God. Therefore, Haight taught, belief in the empty tomb or the appearances of the risen Lord is inessential to true resurrection faith. At a more popular level, James Carroll explained the resurrection as follows: after their master’s death, the disciples sat in a kind of “memory circle” and realized how much Jesus meant to them and how powerful his teaching was and decided that his spirit lives on in them.

The great English Biblical scholar N.T. Wright is particularly good at exposing and de-bunking such nonsense. His principal objection to this sort of speculation is that it is profoundly non-Jewish. When a first century Jew spoke of resurrection, he could not have meant some non-bodily state of affairs. Jews simply didn’t think in the dualist categories dear to Greeks and later to Gnostics. The second problem is that this post-conciliar theologizing is dramatically unhistorical. Wright argues that, simply on historical grounds, it is practically impossible to explain the rise of the early Christian movement apart from a very objective construal of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. For a first-century Jew, the clearest possible indication that someone was not the promised Messiah would be his death at the hands of Israel’s enemies, for the unambiguously clear expectation was that the Messiah would conquer and finally deal with the enemies of the nation. Peter, Paul, James, Andrew, and the rest could have coherently proclaimed—and gone to their deaths defending—a crucified Messiah if and only if he had risen from the dead. Can we really imagine Paul tearing into Athens or Corinth or Ephesus with the breathless message that he found a dead man deeply inspiring or that he and the other Apostles had felt forgiven by a crucified criminal? In the context of that time and place, no one would have taken him seriously.

Risen’s far more reasonable and theologically compelling answer is that, yes indeed, if an outsider and unbeliever burst into the Upper Room when the disciples were experiencing the resurrected Jesus, he would have seen something along with them. Would he have fully grasped what he was seeing? Obviously not. But would the experience have had no objective referent?  Just as obviously not. There is just something tidy, bland, and unthreatening about the subjectivizing interpretations I rehearsed above. What you sense on every page of the New Testament is that something happened to the first Christians, something so strange and unexpected and compelling that they wanted to tell the whole world about it. Frankly, Risen conveys the edgy novelty, the unnerving reality of the resurrection, better than much contemporary theologizing.

Bishop Robert Barron

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Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I agree that completely subjectivized accounts of the Resurrection are both personally uncompelling and difficult to honestly reconcile with the texts (unless by assuming that the authors were delusional or fraudulent).

    However, it seems equally clear to me that Paul's experience on the road to Damascus was also not subjective. If we again leave aside the possibilities that he was fraudulent or delusional, then it seems clear that something outside of him changed his life and gave it new direction. And yet, one doesn't get the sense that that which was external to Paul and gave him a new calling was empirically measurable.

    This is to say: I am not sure that "has an objective referent" and "could be objectively measured" mean the same thing. I therefore think there is a middle ground between the view that the Resurrection was merely subjective and the view that "one could have detected it on a video camera". Is it not possible that there are some objective referents that we can only apprehend through subjective participation?

    • Will

      Certainly no one can be sure of this explanation of Paul's visions, but I thought this was interesting, though pretty old.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1032067/

      This is a known phenomena, so it's certainly possible

      http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/the-link-between-temporal-lobe-epilepsy-and-mysticism/5956982

      It's quite clear that Paul believed his visions were real (what else would motivate the man to travel like he did), but that's almost always the case with mystics who have visions. One more link, but I'm sure you can research it yourself if you are interested.

      In the book of the Acts in the bible, there are two separate descriptions of Paul's conversion: one is a third person narrativem, and one is a speech he gave when he was arrested in Jerusalem. Both are brief, they do not present a lot of evidence with which to diagnose him. However, the elements they do contain do support a TLE interpretation.
      Both passages describe Paul falling to the ground and experiencing a blinding light. Then he hears a voice claiming to be "Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting" (Acts of the Apostles 22:6-21 ). Afterwards he was unable to see, and he did not eat or drink for three days on his way to Damascus. Following this experience Paul became a devout follower and missionary of Christianity, exhibiting religious fervor and driving purpose.
      Auditory hallucinations of divine voices, visions of divine figures, and physical collapse are all common elements of TLE, and they are especially common in documented cases of sudden religious conversion in people with temporal lobe epilepsy. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul described another experience, in which he was "caught up to paradise and heard sacred secrets which no human lips can repeat." He also claimed that he was "given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to rack me" to prevent him from becoming too prideful about his "wealth of visions." This story gives two important indications that Paul might have suffered from TLE: there is confirmation that he had recurring, if not frequent visions, and he had an awareness or perception of some illness in himself.

      Obviously such speculation on important historical figures is fraught with implications. There is a danger of demeaning individual experience without producing anything of value in the process. That being said, the human experience is a shared experience, and the goal of neuroscience is to help us better understand each other and ourselves.

      http://www.macalester.edu/academics/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/tle09/Religiosity.html

      I think it is possible to argue that Christianity may have not become what it did without Paul's travels and influence. Could one man with temporal lobe epilepsy change history? I think so, the butterfly effect can be powerful.

      • Mike

        hope is infectious that's certainly true.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        That abc article was very interesting, thanks.

        As you say, it is very difficult only too easy to speculate about what physiological states may have been in play with Paul's experiences, but in principle I am perfectly open to the possibility that Paul's experience was mediated by TLE or some other state of disease or stress. As far as I'm concerned, that is neither here nor there in terms of whether it was truly Christ speaking to him. I believe that impaired states, though not desirable in themselves, can sometimes lead to the suppression of the ego, and hence to a greater awareness and apprehension of mystical realities that are always with us. I think there is a good reason why some of our oldest religious texts like the Vedas are very centered on things like drinking soma. I am not advocating doing drugs or inducing disease states, but I do think these things have the potential to be (physically expensive, hence not necessarily advisable) short-cuts to states of heightened spiritual awareness. God works in mysterious ways, as well as in ways that are, perhaps, not all that mysterious.

        The measure of Paul's experience, for me, is what wrote when he "came back down". He is literally stumbling over himself to get it out, but his theology is (to me) breathtakingly profound and insightful. That's a conversation for another day though.

        • Will

          Paul was brilliant, no doubt, though sometimes quite hard to comprehend. On of my favorite parts of his writing is this, from 1 Cor 13

          8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

        • Will

          I thought this was funny considering our past conversation that included mosquitos...serious work to take them down.

          http://phys.org/news/2016-03-fda-significant-impact-field-gm.html

          In other news, AI takes down world Go champion for the first time.

          http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21694540-win-or-lose-best-five-battle-contest-another-milestone

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I must have wiped that part of my memory banks ... I can't remember discussing mosquitoes with you? Interesting genetic modification program though.

            Re: AI, you will most likely be interested in this conversation about the implications of Wittgenstein's thinking for computational theories of mind:

            http://meaningoflife.tv/videos/33692?in=49:36&out=61:09

            It is too short of a conversation to really do justice to the issues, but it does at least raise some interesting and fundamental issues.

          • Will

            The context was the intrinsic values of beetles, who I don't have a problem with, unlike mosquitos. With them carrying Zika around, the case for the intrinsic value of mosquitos hasn't gotten a lot worse :)
            Thanks for the link!

    • I wonder how many people understand 'objective' to necessarily involve dysteleology. The idea would be that what is 'most real' has no purpose, no telos. Once you believe that, then values, aesthetics, and ethics all become free-floating, aside from their pragmatic uses. From here, anything 'empirically measurable' is measured as having no telos. That means that any "new calling" Paul may have gotten is not the kind of thing one could scientifically examine.

      This matter is confusing to me, because people can still act as if teleology is real, but ultimately believe that it isn't. It isn't necessarily duplicitous, but one does wonder if the thing (or person) you believe is most real tends to 'win out', over time (maybe generations).

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        That's an interesting and very related point. The more I think about the word "objective", the more I struggle to articulate what I mean when I say the word. I sometimes try to talk around the "empirically verifiable" aspect of it by instead speaking of realities that exist "independently of me", but that doesn't really capture it either. For example, I believe that I have a telos that is ultimately real, that originates outside of me and envelops me. But of course, it would make no sense to say that my telos exists independently of me, since it is defined in relation to me. So, can I fairly say that my telos is objective? Probably not. What is most real seems to be neither objective nor subjective, but relational.

        • Are there no examples in science of some state which is spread over an individual and something external to that individual? Entanglement pops into mind, but I'm not sure if it or its relatives (e.g. quantum discord) qualifies. There are non-quantum examples of this, such as provided by Ilya Prigogine[1].

          It seems to me that the problem is more that science doesn't have any... 'data types' which sufficiently capture what a telos is. I can think of two possible reasons for this. First, science is construed as being free of norms and values[2]. Second, science is generally construed as revealing information which anyone could access with the proper training. This presupposes that I can, in principle, understand your telos as well as you can.

          Riffing on Toulmin's Cosmopolis, we can motivate the above choices by considering that the birth of the Enlightenment took place in the wake of interminable, bloody struggles of Protestants and Catholics over metaphysics and morality. In search for a solid foundation upon which to unify warring factions, it was simply presumed that one cannot obtain unity in matters of metaphysics or morality. One could, however, gain accord in matters which were neutral to these contentious matters. One could also devise political systems which presupposed interminable conflict over such matters, and thus required a sort of surface-level stalemate. In such an environment, science represents that which all can agree on as 'knowledge'.

          [1] A non-quantum example of non-reductionist state:

              Is this difficulty merely a practical one? Yes, if we consider that trajectories have now become uncomputable. But there is more: Probability distribution permits us to incorporate within the framework of the dynamical description the complex microstructure of the phase space. It therefore contains additional information that is lacking at the level of individual trajectories. As we shall see in Chapter 4, this has fundamental consequences. At the level of distribution functions ρ, we obtain a new dynamical description that permits us to predict the future evolution of the ensemble, including characteristic time scales. (The End of Certainty, 37)

          [2] Except in an instrumental way. For example: one must be sufficiently honest for science as a social endeavor to succeed.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        In a sense this is the same concern I have when my co-religionists want to put excessive emphasis on the objective reality of the Resurrection. I want to say: "No, don't give in to those terms of debate, in which only the objective is real. Be more Trinitarian!" The Real is {subject, object, action}, or {0, 1, +}, or {all-nourishing abyss, nourishment from the abyss, act of nourishing}, or {Father, Son, Holy Spirit}, or something like that. Objectivism is an over-simplification that reduces the relationality of reality to something flatter and less dynamic.

        • Mike

          fascinating. i've never come across this take on the objective.

        • But didn't you know that everything 'real' is an information structure which we can discuss dispassionately? All the rest is epiphenomena which we will progressively eliminate as we do more and more science.

          Given what you say here, you may like Emil Brunner's Truth as Encounter. To motivate the title, think about the difference between knowing about someone and knowing that person. Or between knowing doctrine and knowing Jesus.

        • Lucretius

          I wish to point out that the Apostles also emphasize the role of the witness (just read St. John's Gospel or St. Paul's letters or St. Peter's speech in Acts), which has an irreducible subjective aspect.

          Also, and this is important: ancient people didn't base the foundation of their thought and beliefs in the distinction between object and subject. The distinction is foundational to us because (short answer) Descartes. If we want to understand their perspective, we shouldn't try to reduce their writings to our perspective (although a new perspective also can shine new light). But I'm sure everyone all ready knows all this!

          Christi pax,

          Lucretius

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    From today's article:

    For a first-century Jew, the clearest possible indication that someone
    was not the promised Messiah would be his death at the hands of Israel’s
    enemies, for the unambiguously clear expectation was that the Messiah
    would conquer and finally deal with the enemies of the nation.

    From the previous article by Dr. Brant Pitre:

    ...this prophecy in Daniel 9 not only proclaims that the messiah will one day come and be killed, it actually foretells when this will take place...After reading [my book], I don't think you’ll walk away thinking that “the Jews” had “one idea of the Messiah” and that Jesus had another.

    I'm getting mixed messages... was the messiah's death completely expected, or was it not?

    • Rob Abney

      Seems like a (not-uncommon) conflict of intellect and will. Jesus' contemporaries could refer to scripture to know the prophecy but could they appeal to themselves to actually believe it. It seems like they could only accept the truth after the fact.

    • Let's examine:

      Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. (Dan 9:25–27)

      So:

      0 wks: word goes out to restore and build Jerusalem
      7 wks: the coming of an anointed one (messiah)
      69 wks: the messiah will die and city + sanctuary destroyed

      What is key is that the city and sanctuary are restored for some significant amount of time. Jesus didn't do this. He didn't survive Israel's enemies and in fact rebuff them to provide security for Israel—not unless he was resurrected and a different understanding is taken of what a 'rescue' would look like.

      That the messiah would die is not the issue. That the messiah could not fail to actually do messiah-type things is the issue. And at the point of Jesus' crucifixion, he hadn't done messiah-type things. Israel was very much still under Rome's thumb.

  • Tpr1976

    Christianity falls apart if there is no resurrection so it is not surprising that people who are against Christianity are quick to suggest that it did not occur or to point out that some Christians over the years didn't believe in a full, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    I still have not seen the film and I look forward to seeing it.
    I do believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and not simply because if I do not believe then my "faith is empty" (thank you, Paul).

  • Tpr1976

    The Gospels most definitely emphasize the "bodiliness" of Jesus after the resurrection. He touches and is touched. He invites people to touch Him. He talks to people. He eats food. He prepares food. He exhales onto people. The epistles also stress the bodily resurrection and not some psychological explanation of
    "the cause" living on
    or
    "His memory" lives on.
    That is not what the Scriptures said and it's not what the original Christians believed. So many people started to become Christian based on the testimony of the witnesses to the Risen Jesus. If they were full of it, why did so many believe them?
    Why did the witnesses die on behalf of some guy who got himself killed?

    Of course there is no other evidence than believing what others say
    or
    one's own experience (like Paul on the Damascus road).

    There's no video of the events in question.

    We ask ourselves.......
    WHY did so many believe it? Why did so many believe, not only that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but also that He rose bodily from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father????
    Are we that gullible?
    Could an empire be fooled by these Galilean charlatans?
    Or does the idea of God becoming one of us in order to die (for our sins), pass through death, and come back to a new glorified resurrected life in order for us to one day do the same just ring true within our heart of hearts?

    • "So many people started to become Christian based on the testimony of the witnesses to the Risen Jesus. If they were full of it, why did so many believe them? Why did the witnesses die on behalf of some guy who got himself killed?"

      Christianity remained small in the era when the witnesses were said to live. It only took hold long after they were all dead. Who were the ones that died for what they had seen? This claim is often made, but I'm not aware of any. As for why so many believed it, you could really ask that question about any religion (and many other things). Most of the people who became Christian never saw any miracles, nor spoke with those who said they had. It only seems to take the idea's appeal-as you put it, ringing true for them. Of course, what rings true to one will not for others.

      • Tpr1976

        During the 40s and 50s it spread to not only Samaria, but Antioch, Cyprus, Crete, Asia Minor, Greece, Galatia etc....
        That's not really "in the small era (area)" in which the witnesses lived.
        By the 60s it was in Rome itself.
        It is fair enough that most later Christians were not witnesses, but were people who trusted in the witnesses and their successors.
        I suppose the right question to ask is WHY does it not ring true? Is it purely an assertion that the resurrection is scientifically impossible? I agree that the resurrection is scientifically impossible. I still believe it took place.

        • Not area-era, as in period of time. I'm saying that it's spread was not so extraordinary within the period the witnesses lived. Now as to why it doesn't ring true for some, yes, natural skepticism toward miracles can be a factor. However, it's just one of many.

          • Tpr1976

            Travelling to the center of the Roman Empire and possibly even out to Spain is not extraordinary within 3-4 decades? A new religion? An offshoot of Judaism and within 30 years over half the empire knows of it?

          • No, it's not. People traveled within the Roman Empire frequently (not just for missionary activities of course). They could surely get to Rome and Spain from Judea within a year or two, not just decades. I'm not sure that "half the empire" knew of the religion within 30 years. However, it does appear the religion was better known due to Christians being in Rome, the center as you said.

          • Tpr1976

            Do you believe it was either an intentional conspiracy to get believers or was it a mass-misunderstanding that just grew legs and became a thing?

          • How should I know? A conspiracy seems unlikely, perhaps a misunderstanding would be less so.

  • David Nickol

    The great English Biblical scholar N.T. Wright is particularly good at exposing and de-bunking such nonsense. His principal objection to this sort of speculation is that it is profoundly non-Jewish. When a first century Jew spoke of resurrection, he could not have meant some non-bodily state of affairs. Jews simply didn’t think in the dualist categories dear to Greeks and later to Gnostics.

    I think it is important to note that first-century Judaism was by no means monolithic. For example, we know from the Gospels themselves that the Sadducees did not even believe in the resurrection of the dead (e.g., Mark 12:18). So when a first-century Sadducee spoke of resurrection, he didn't mean either something bodily or non-bodily. He meant something impossible and imaginary.

    I think this also applies to Brant Pitre's discussions of Jewish expectations of a messiah. I don't think there was a single, clear idea of what the messiah would be. I am not even sure all first-century Jews anticipated a messiah.

    I don't think we can speak of what a first-century Jew believed any more than we can say what a 21st century Jew, or Christian, or Muslim believes.

    • Will

      According to Josephus, they believed in reincarnation:

      Unlike the Sadducees, who are generally held to have rejected any existence after death, the sources vary on the beliefs of the Pharisees on the afterlife. According to the New Testament the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, but it does not specify whether this resurrection included the flesh or not.[38] According to Josephus, who himself was a Pharisee, the Pharisees held that only the soul was immortal and the souls of good people would be reincarnated and "pass into other bodies," while "the souls of the wicked will suffer eternal punishment."[39] Paul, who declared himself to be a Pharisee,[40] may have believed in the resurrection of only a spiritualized body, denying that the resurrection included flesh and blood,[41] however the relationship of Paul the Apostle and Judaism is still debated.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees

      It's hard to know what to think, since Josephus was a pharisee himself, and very close to the time, born only a few years after Jesus's death. To me, this fits into Ehrman and other scholars view that Christianity was a smaller apocalyptic subset of Judaism and not mainstream in many ways (assuming there really was a mainstream at the time).

    • Ignatius Reilly

      I think this also applies to Brant Pitre's discussions of Jewish
      expectations of a messiah. I don't think there was a single, clear idea
      of what the messiah would be. I am not even sure all first-century Jews
      anticipated a messiah.

      There is an interesting discussion in Jesus the Jew about Jewish expectations of the Messiah. Starts on page 129.

      https://books.google.com/books?id=RvSEK2HALnwC&pg=PA129&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • David Nickol

    There are all kinds of questions one might pose about the resurrected Jesus. The first question that comes to my mind is why he is described as still bearing the wounds from his crucifixion. From what we are told about "glorified bodies" today, the risen Jesus should not have had a pierced side and holes in his hands. He should have been completely whole.

    Presumably it is impossible to breathe with a pierced side. Lungs require an intact chest cavity to work. So did the risen Jesus breathe? If not, how did he speak?

    I once read a quite serious extended consideration of the question of what happened to the fish the resurrected Jesus ate. The author concluded that it could not have been metabolized, but that it must have supernaturally gone out of existence when it entered Jesus's digestive system. I thought it was going overboard in taking the Gospels literally, but of course it does raise the question of whether the resurrected Jesus ate or merely put on a show of eating. What does it mean to "eat" if the food isn't digested and waste isn't excreted?

    Yes, on the one hand it is a bit silly to speculate on these things, but of course it is the Gospel authors who seem to insist that the risen Jesus was a living, breathing, eating, flesh-and-blood human being. Could it have been that what they were really trying to convey was that Jesus was really and truly "alive" in some concrete way, and that the physical details are somehow symbolic. As I pointed out elsewhere, Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth says quite emphatically that in the account of the resurrection where Jesus ascends into a cloud, the cloud is "theological." He doesn't get too specific about what really happened, but I don't believe he is implying that Jesus rose into the air and disappeared from sight but there were no clouds in the sky.

    • "From what we are told about "glorified bodies" today, the risen Jesus should not have had a pierced side and holes in his hands. He should have been completely whole."

      Who do you mean by "we"? And what are we told? And by whom?

      • Mike

        i remember a talk by peter kreeft in which he said that some of the scars would be like badges of honor in heaven for those martyred.

      • David Nickol

        Who do you mean by "we"? And what are we told? And by whom?

        Did you not know the seven properties of a glorified body are identity, integrity, quality, impassibility, agility, brightness, and subtlety? These are all from Aquinas, although they are not all conveniently located in one spot in the Summa. As I understand it, "integrity" would imply any damage done during life would be repaired.

        However, in fairness, Aquinas argues that it was fitting for the risen body of Jesus to bear the scars of his wounds. I take the suffering of Jesus very seriously, so I don't want to be irreverent here, but I can't help asking what if Jesus had been beheaded?

        • Rob Abney

          Beheading would violate John 19:36
          For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN."

          • David Nickol

            There is no prediction in the Old Testament that none of Jesus's bones would be broken. Read Ex 12:46; Nm 9:12; Ps 34:21 and explain how they refer to Jesus. "Fulfillment" of scripture is a difficult concept, but it does not mean "made an Old Testament prediction come true."

          • Rob Abney

            I know you don't like to hear of any OT fulfillment but it is The Gospel of John makes the claim that it fulfills scripture not me.

          • David Nickol

            I am fine with Old Testament "fulfillments." The problem is that you think when a Gospel author says scripture is fulfilled, it means that an Old Testament prediction has come true. This is not what it means. Prophets didn't predict the future, and fulfillment does not mean a prophecy has come true.

          • Rob Abney

            You will have to enlighten me then, I presume that a prophecy is a public proclamation of what is righteousness not that it is a prediction.

          • David Nickol

            You will have to enlighten me then, I presume that a prophecy is a public proclamation of what is righteousness not that it is a prediction.

            Old Testament prophecy is a huge topic. Let's concentrate on "fulfillment" in the New Testament, which often has nothing to do with prophecy.

            John L. McKenzie says in the entry on Prophecy in Dictionary of the Bible:

            It is a common misconception of OT prophecy that it means "prediction" . . . . This misconception cannot be based upon the NT conception nor on the formula "that it might be fulfilled." Often there is obviously no prediction (Mt 2:15); there is reference to an OT character or event which illustrates the reality of the process of salvation, the reality which is "fulfilled" in Jesus Christ. He and the Church are the new Israel, and their experience appears in the experience of the old Israel, much as the OT ancestor shows in his life and character the life and character of his descendants. Many of these predictions are intended to illustrate the place of the redemptive suffering in the process of salvation; the Jews were not receptive to the idea of a Messiah who saved through suffering and death and it was necessary to show that the scandal of the cross appears in the messianism of the OT . . . . In these passages the NT writers take a specialized and apologetic view of the OT which is not intended to be a general exhaustive interpretation. "Fulfillment" is more than the fulfillment of a prediction; it is the fulfillment of a hope, a destiny, a plan, a reality.

            Granted that is not crystal clear. But let's look at the three OT passages (in context) that John is considered to be referring to. First is Exodus 12:43-47:

            The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: This is the Passover statute. No foreigner may eat of it. However, every slave bought for money you will circumcise; then he may eat of it. But no tenant or hired worker may eat of it. It must be eaten in one house; you may not take any of its meat outside the house. You shall not break any of its bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate this feast.

            The second is Numbers 9:9-12:

            The LORD then said to Moses: Speak to the Israelites: “If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean because of a human corpse, or is absent on a journey, you may still celebrate the LORD’s Passover. But you shall celebrate it in the second month, on the fourteenth day of that month during the evening twilight, eating it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and not leaving any of it over till morning, nor breaking any of its bones, but observing all the statutes of the Passover.

            The third is Psalm 34:20-21:

            Many are the troubles of the righteous,
            but the LORD delivers him from them all.
            He watches over all his bones;
            not one of them shall be broken.

            Where do we find in any of those passages a prediction that Jesus will be crucified without any of his bones being broken? Clearly John is depicting Jesus as the Passover Lamb, but Exodus and Numbers are not making any predictions at all. They are describing how the Passover lamb is to be prepared. The third is talking about God protecting the righteous. It is a mystery to me how we can see a reference to Jesus there. What good is God's protection if you are scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to a crucifix, but God makes sure none of your bones are broken?

            This is a clear case of a claim of "fulfillment" in which there is no prediction or prophecy at all in the Old Testament. In attempting to research the topic of fulfillment, I have come across very little that is helpful. A Google search brings up all kinds of nonsense. In any case, it seems clear to me that "fulfillment" is not about prophecies come true. Perhaps it is difficult or impossible for us to fully grasp what was going on in the heads of the Gospel authors.

          • Rob Abney

            Why was it important for the Passover lambs to be unbroken? It seems to be a commitment to keeping those who are with God together, in communion.
            That is righteousness, that is a sign of doing God's will.
            Jesus on the cross is doing God's will, unbroken bones is a sign of that, so that all may know.

    • "Could it have been that what they were really trying to convey was that Jesus was really and truly "alive" in some concrete way, and that the physical details are somehow symbolic."

      That certainly could have been the case, but we have no good reasons to think it is. For one thing, this fails to explain the empty tomb, a historical fact which virtually all New Testament scholars agree upon. Second, it stretches the plain, clear testimony of the people who encountered the risen Jesus to a form that's nearly unrecognizable. They described meeting a physically alive person--not someone alive in a "symbolic" way.

      • David Nickol

        Second, it stretches the plain, clear testimony of the people who encountered the risen Jesus to a form that's nearly unrecognizable. They described meeting a physically alive person--not someone alive in a "symbolic" way.

        You seem to be forgetting that there is a major disagreement over whether the Gospels contain "the plain, clear testimony of the people who encountered the risen Jesus." You believe they are historically accurate records, but many people (including devout Catholics, some of whom are even highly respected biblical scholars) believe that the Gospels are true, but that some accounts are theological truths "historicized." Even Pope Benedict in the Jesus of Nazareth volumes concludes that occasionally.

        By the way, I think it was unfortunate of Bishop Barron to characterize the work of Edward Schillebeeckx as "nonsense."

      • Ignatius Reilly

        For one thing, this fails to explain the empty tomb, a historical fact which virtually all New Testament scholars agree upon

        Are you aware of a survey on this? This is not the impression that I get from reading scholarship.

        Sanders in a review of Vermes and Fredriksen lists ten mainstream opinions in scholarship. He writes:

        He was crucified on the orders of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea, shortly after Passover (though John, who puts the crucifixion one day earlier, has some support from scholars).

        He mentions nothing about an empty tomb.

        http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/11/15/in-quest-of-the-historical-jesus/

    • Michael

      John J. Pilch has written a lot about the post-resurrection appearances and ascension. Here he talks about Jesus eating fish and the ascension.

    • neil_pogi

      quote; 'why he is described as still bearing the wounds from his crucifixion' - so that His followers would know that He really is the Risen Lord. read the account of Thomas who doubted Him.

      then you should question too how He gradually disappear on thin air while translating Him into the heavens.

      the answer is quite simple: because he is a miracle-maker. if the universe was created by Him, let alone the miracles of feeding the 5,000 people, turning a tap water into wine, and healing the sick, and walking on the surface of the water, calm the storm, etc?

    • Doug Shaver

      Presumably it is impossible to breathe with a pierced side. Lungs require an intact chest cavity to work. So did the risen Jesus breathe? If not, how did he speak?

      That's the neat things about miracles. If you can violate one law of nature, you can violate as many others as you need to.

  • Galorgan

    Woah! SPOILER warning please!?

    I haven't had a movie ruined like this for me since people told me the end of The Titanic.

    • neil_pogi

      can you advise an atheist director to make movies like: 'the Aliens who seeded life on earth' or 'The frankencell"

  • Ignatius Reilly

    When I saw the coming attractions for the new film Risen—which
    deals with a Roman tribune searching for the body of Jesus after reports of the resurrection—I thought that it would leave the audience in suspense, intrigued but unsure whether these reports were justified or not. I was surprised and delighted to discover that the movie is, in fact, robustly Christian and substantially faithful to the Biblical account of what transpired after the death of Jesus.

    My favorite scene shows tribune Clavius (played by the always convincing Joseph Fiennes) bursting into the Upper Room, intent upon arresting Jesus’ most intimate followers. As he takes in the people in the room, he spies Jesus, at whose crucifixion he had presided and whose face in death he had closely examined.

    ....

    Risen’s far more reasonable and theologically compelling answer
    is that, yes indeed, if an outsider and unbeliever burst into the Upper
    Room when the disciples were experiencing the resurrected Jesus, he
    would have seen something along with them. Would he have fully grasped
    what he was seeing? Obviously not. But would the experience have had no
    objective referent? Just as obviously not. There is just something
    tidy, bland, and unthreatening about the subjectivizing interpretations I
    rehearsed above.

    A complaint I had as a young Catholic was that the first disciples and the ones who first followed the apostles had living proof that Jesus was God. They watched him die. They watched him rise from the dead, and they spent time with him afterwards. Those who first followed the apostles were witnesses to all sorts of miracles that are recorded in Acts.

    The rest of us have a much more difficult epistemological journey. We are separated from these events by thousands of years. We have first hand experience that calls into question the existence of a benevolent personal God. Many also ambiguously and subjectively experience what they would call God.

    A movie that wraps up the Resurrection story in a nice conventional bow is fundamentally interesting to me, because it fails to map well with how human beings interact with supernatural beliefs. There is nothing wrong with a movie that is largely an apologetic, but I think a better movie would leave matters ambiguous.

  • "For a first-century Jew, the clearest possible indication that someone was not the promised Messiah would be his death at the hands of Israel’s enemies, for the unambiguously clear expectation was that the Messiah would conquer and finally deal with the enemies of the nation."

    Except, of course, that even assuming you believe Jesus resurrected, he never did conquer Israel's enemies, nor fulfill other prophecies of the Messiah. This is, naturally, why most Jews never believed Jesus was in fact the Messiah (regardless of whether the resurrection occurred).

    • neil_pogi

      Jesus conquered death

      • How does that relate to what I said?

        • neil_pogi

          if you really want to know why Jesus' has risen, read the gospel account. jews looked for Him as the messiah from the rulership of rome, but they were wrong

          • Yes, that was kind of my point-he didn't match what the Messiah is supposed to be in Judaism.

  • I think it is more reasonable that a handful of ancient stories of a zombie god are fictional than a god's best and most glorious choice in saving humanity from the atrocious damnable sin of minor misbehaviour is have himself tortured to death.

    I also disagree that the proper historical conclusion of theses accounts is that they are true. Do people believe that Matthew 27:52 is literally true? That hundreds or actual other tombs opened up and the dead rose and walked around? I've been told by Catholics on this very site that this happened in a spiritual or immaterial realm or that this was metaphorical.

    This is unconvincing to me.

    • Mike

      that passage is clearly metaphorical based on the text i've read and based on what ppl thought would happen etc.

      you folks think it can only be wish fulfillment but don't you want ultimate justice and all wrongs to be put right?

    • neil_pogi

      quote; 'Do people believe that Matthew 27:52 is literally true?' - that is why it is called a miracle.

      the writers of that event were there to observed it happened, and you, who are not there, never witness that! i'd rather believe it happened because these were their testimonies.

      do you know that it is a miracle for a 'non-living matter to become living matter'?

      • Doug Shaver

        the writers of that event were there to observed it happened

        You say so. The writers themselves do not say so.

        • neil_pogi

          if the writers didn't believe what they wrote, then they are pious liars!

          but they're not!

          they were first-hand eyewitnesses!

          • Doug Shaver

            I said nothing about what they believed. My comment was about what they wrote.

          • neil_pogi

            they only 'believed' the events after they occurred

          • Doug Shaver

            The writers didn't say that.

          • neil_pogi

            oh.. that's why they recorded the events they observed and heard. isn't that hard for you to understand?

          • Doug Shaver

            The writers did not say they were recording anything that they had observed or heard. That is what I easily understand.

          • neil_pogi

            of course not every seconds or minutes are to be recorded, only important events are recorded. for example, the bible is so silent about the early childhood or teen years of Jesus' life during his brief stay on this planet. we wonder what happened during those years.

            it's like this: evolutionists are telling the public that the single celled organism evolved and eventually, into a human. they didn't care explain what happened during the first day of its life, what they eat, how it survived. evolutionists are so silent about those hundreds of millions of years of the cell's 'evolution'.. and we just hear or read Voila! a cell evolved into a human organism. why they can't explain that? it's because they can't..

            evolutionists are also telling us that an eye just evolved from a primitive 'light sensitive' entity (they don't know its origin), and after millions of years, a complex eye evolved. i wonder how an organism with still undeveloped eye can survive in the woods.

          • Doug Shaver

            of course not every seconds or minutes are to be recorded, only important events are recorded.

            That does not address the point I was making.

          • neil_pogi

            so what is your point?

          • Doug Shaver

            My point is that we have no eyewitness testimony, even though you keep saying we do. You point to documents, but the authors themselves made no claim to be offering eyewitness testimony.

          • neil_pogi

            the writers themselves were first-hold eyewitnesses.

            do you have any eyewitnesses when the 'big bang' happened? when the LUCA 'evolved'?

          • Doug Shaver

            the writers themselves were first-hold eyewitnesses.

            You dogma says so. They don't.

          • neil_pogi

            who were your eyewitness accounts for the big bang and a non-living matter evolved into living. will you tell me?

          • Doug Shaver

            who were your eyewitness

            I'm not the one claiming to have any.

          • Lazarus

            Chess. Pigeons. Run.

          • Doug Shaver

            Any day now.

          • neil_pogi

            i'm only asking where are your eyewitnesses for the big bang and non-living things evolve to living?

          • Doug Shaver

            i'm only asking where are your eyewitnesses

            Why are you asking that?

          • neil_pogi

            because you said that there were no eyewitnesses for Jesus' existence on this planet, and the Bible writers were themselves eyewitnesses..

          • Doug Shaver

            the Bible writers were themselves eyewitnesses..

            Your dogma says so. The writers themselves don't say so.

          • neil_pogi

            it's not my dogma.. i repeat it again.. the writers were themselves eyewitnesses.. is that not easy to understand? i use simple english

          • Doug Shaver

            is that not easy to understand?

            Of course. It's trivially easy to understand, but being understandable doesn't make it true. And your say-so doesn't make it true, either.

          • neil_pogi

            i made no claim for the eyewitness for Jesus' accounts. but the writers themselves

    • David Nickol

      zombie god

      Uncalled for and inapt on several grounds. As a devoted fan of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, I can say that the risen Jesus of the New Testament bears no resemblance to zombies in those shows (which count as definitive, in my opinion) or any other zombies I have ever heard of (e.g., the Haitian Voodoo kind or the philosophical concept of a zombie). Almost universally, reanimated corpses who become zombies are not their former selves. In general, they are mindless automatons. They are most definitely physical and do not appear and disappear at will.

      It just sounds like you are lashing out and trying to offend people.

      Do people believe that Matthew 27:52 is literally true?

      Attempts at explaining this away produce some of the most ludicrous nonsense I have ever encountered.

      • Will

        Rick Grimes: You're a man of God. Have some faith.

        Hershel Greene: I can't profess to understand God's plan, Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.

        I'm not much into TV Shows, but that one can be interesting, and I thought that quote was pretty funny.

        • David Nickol

          Those of us who watch The Walking Dead do not do it for fun or entertainment. We do it to suffer! I try to avoid spoilers, but apparently the season finale is going to be devastating.

          • Will

            They do like to kill off your favorite people, and having them rise from the dead isn't a positive thing. Game of Thrones is good for keeping those surprises alive too, it get's boring if everyone is immortal...we won't go into realism, my wife get's mad at me over that. I'm a natural critic, have a hard time helping myself.

      • But what about I zombie?

  • neil_pogi

    Risen - it only shows that the christian faith is the true one. Christ was ressurrected biblically and historically. no other faiths come close to that!

  • Doug Shaver

    it reminded me of debates that were fashionable in theological circles when I was doing my studies in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

    I've never moved in theological circles, but Barron's account of the skeptics' arguments sounds like they are coming from a position of quasi-inerrantism. Skeptics of this sort presume that the gospels are reliable in every detail except one: The authors erred when they attributed certain of the events they reported to supernatural forces. But until I have good reason to believe that what the authors say happened actually did happen, I don't need any naturalistic explanation for how it could have happened.

  • Darren

    So, now the comments about the deletion of comments appear to have been deleted...
    Nice.