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5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus

Resurrection

NOTE: Christians around the world celebrated Good Friday and Easter last week, which commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus we began a six-part series on these events by Dr. Peter Kreeft in which he examines each of the plausible theories attempting to explain what happened to Jesus at the end of his life, particularly whether he rose from the dead.

Part 1 - 5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus
Part 2 - Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Faint on the Cross
Part 3 - Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie
Part 4 - Refuting the Myth Theory: 6 Reasons Why the Resurrection Accounts are True
Part 5 - Real Visions: 13 Reasons the Disciples Did Not Hallucinate
Part 6 - (Coming soon!)
 


 
Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history. To prove this, we do not need to presuppose anything controversial (e.g. that miracles happen). But the skeptic must also not presuppose anything (e.g. that they do not). We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true. We do not need to presuppose that there really was an empty tomb or post-resurrection appearances, as recorded. We need to presuppose only two things, both of which are hard data, empirical data, which no one denies: The existence of the New Testament texts as we have them, and the existence (but not necessarily the truth) of the Christian religion as we find it today.

The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data?

There are five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy, and swoon.

1 Jesus died Jesus rose Christianity
2 Jesus died Jesus didn't rise—apostles deceived Hallucination
3 Jesus died Jesus didn't rise—apostles myth-makers Myth
4 Jesus died Jesus didn't rise—apostles deceivers Conspiracy
5 Jesus didn't die Swoon

 
Theories 2 and 4 constitute a dilemma: if Jesus didn't rise, then the apostles, who taught that he did, were either deceived (if they thought he did) or deceivers (if they knew he didn't). The Modernists could not escape this dilemma until they came up with a middle category, myth. It is the most popular alternative today.

Thus either (1) the resurrection really happened, (2) the apostles were deceived by a hallucination, (3) the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally, (4) the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history, or (5) Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected. All five theories are logically possible, and therefore must be fairly investigated—even (1)! They are also the only possibilities, unless we include really far-out ideas that responsible historians have never taken seriously, such as that Jesus was really a Martian who came in a flying saucer. Or that he never even existed; that the whole story was the world's greatest fantasy novel, written by some simple fisherman; that he was a literary character whom everyone in history mistook for a real person, including all Christians and their enemies, until some scholar many centuries later got the real scoop.

If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1). The form of the argument here is similar to that of most of the arguments for the existence of God. Neither God nor the resurrection are directly observable, but from data that are directly observable we can argue that the only possible adequate explanation of this data is the Christian one.
 
 
Excerpted from “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics", copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

(Image credit: Teofana Orthodox Icons)

Dr. Peter Kreeft

Written by

Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

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  • Interesting article.

    What Kreeft says here caught my eye:

    They are also the only possibilities, unless we include really far-out ideas that responsible historians have never taken seriously, such as that (6) Jesus was really a Martian who came in a flying saucer. Or (7) that he never even existed; that the whole story was the world's greatest fantasy novel, written by some simple fisherman; that he was a literary character whom everyone in history mistook for a real person, including all Christians and their enemies, until some scholar many centuries later got the real scoop.

    That leaves 7 theories:

    (1) Resurrection by the power of God
    (2) Resurrection an hallucination
    (3) Resurrection a myth
    (4) Resurrection a conspiracy
    (5) Resurrection didn't need to happen
    (6) Resurrection by the power of Alien technology
    (7) Jesus never existed was a fictional character

    Why would (6)-(7) be less likely or more "far out" than (1)? (1) and (6) seem about equally far fetched, and (7), although maybe not respected among historians, seems far more likely than (1).

    • We could also add 8) this universe an artificial simulation. Very far fetched, but requires no supernatural element. Actually maybe not that far fetched.

      • William Davis

        It's funny that the same "math" that apologists (like William Lane Craig) use to prove the resurrection also proves we are in a computer simulation (or likely to be in one). Nick Bostrom constructs a strong argument, this is an abbreviated version:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Bostrom

    • Damon

      I think you hit the nail on the head, Paul. I'll wait and see what Dr. Kreeft has to say in his upcoming articles, but it certainly does seem that including resurrection by the power of God, while excluding resurrection by the power of aliens, is a case of privileging the hypothesis. If Dr. Kreeft is going to reject (rightly, IMO) the theory that Jesus was resurrected by the power of alien technology, he should at least be consistent and also reject the theory that Jesus was resurrected by the power of a supernatural deity.

      Furthermore, shouldn't the theory that Jesus was divinely raised from the dead be considered among the "really far-out ideas that responsible historians have never taken seriously"? Sure, many responsible ancient historians are Christians in their personal lives and do believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But they are, in my experience, generally forthright in admitting that this belief is not held on the basis of historical evidence, but on the basis of personal faith. No responsible historian that I'm aware of would ever claim, as Dr. Kreeft does in his opening, that "Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history."

      • amslages

        His whole argument is FOR the resurrection by the power of God, which means, that he has, in a way, to privilege that hypothesis based on specific arguments that he's going to lay out on subsequent posts. He cannot reject it just because he rejects another also similarly likely.

        • Damon

          My point is that if he's going to reject the theory that Jesus was raised from the dead by aliens on the basis that it is "far-out" then he should reject the theory that Jesus was raised from the dead by a deity on the same grounds. Even if in the next several posts Dr. Kreeft definitively refutes the swoon, conspiracy, myth, and hallucination theories (which is unlikely, since no event in ancient history is ever entirely certain) he still will have not justified the Resurrection hypothesis since he has not demonstrated why we should consider this explanation more probable than the other "far-out" theories.

      • Michael Murray
        • Ignatius Reilly

          For most of his arguments he uses the New Testament as a completely historical document, which is not an allowed assumption.

          • Doug Shaver

            I noticed that, too. He made an excuse when he did that for the swoon theory. It wasn't a good excuse, but at least he tried. After that, though, he didn't even try.

          • David Nickol

            You are right that it isn't a good excuse.

            Kreeft says:

            It may seem that these nine arguments have violated our initial principle about not presupposing the truth of the Gospel texts, since we have argued from data in the texts. But the swoon theory does not challenge the truths in the texts which we refer to as data; it uses them and explains them (by swoon rather than resurrection). Thus we use them too. We argue from our opponents' own premises.

            There is no single version of "the swoon theory," so in trying to refute it in general terms, it is certainly not acceptable to use details of the New Testament accounts as reliable evidence. For example, only the Gospel of John reports the request to have the legs of the three crucified men broken to hasten their deaths and the piercing of Jesus's side with a spear. One might question the historicity of these details, since they are presented as the "fulfillment" of Old Testament "prophecies" (John 19:36-37):

            For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled:

            “Not a bone of it will be broken.”

            And again another passage says:

            “They will look upon him whom they have pierced.”

            These two verses from the OT hardly amount to a foretelling of details about the crucifixion, but the account in John could easily have be written to make use of them.

          • Doug Shaver

            The swoon theory has always struck me as a product of a weird kind of skepticism, which says in effect, "We can't believe in miracles, but otherwise we should believe that everything happened just like the gospel writers said it happened. If you take that position, then you have to accept that the disciples actually saw Jesus alive and talked with him after he was crucified, and the only way to accept that is to assume that the crucifixion didn't kill him. It is more plausible than a real resurrection, but only barely.

        • Michael Murray

          John, an eyewitness, certified that he saw blood and water come from Jesus' pierced heart (Jn 19:34-35). This shows that Jesus' lungs had collapsed and he had died of asphyxiation. Any medical expert can vouch for this.

          So here Kreeft allows himself to use science in the form of medicine to rule out a miracle keeping Jesus alive even with his collapsed lungs. Why doesn't that same logic apply to rule out Jesus' supposed resurrection. There must be medical experts who can vouch that people don't rise from the dead.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Yes, there are medical experts who will say that, but they haven't met James Fulton, for one

            "Three months after James was stillborn, the results of a follow-up MRI came in. White matter was age-appropriate; there was no inflammation, extra fluid, or blocked blood flow; all regions seemed normal. In other words, there was no sign of the brain damage that was noted after James finally took his first breath. ... Science, they concluded, cannot explain the revival and complete healing of James Fulton."

            http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/the-inside-story-on-archbishop-fulton-sheens-miracle-baby-5844205251330048?page=2

            AND

            http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/a-miracle-in-peoria/284304/

          • Michael Murray

            So Jesus' apparent resurrection could have just been a miracle cure instead. That would be consistent with the other miracle cures reported in His presence and have the advantage of not needing to introduce a whole other kind of miracle.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            This would involve an examination of the structures of His Miracles, Signs and Wonders. Physical healing was paired with spiritual (or psychological) healing in the admonition that "Your sins are forgiven" and "Go and sin no more."

            Recognize, too, that Jesus claims that He is enacting the Will of God, His Father. At that time, only Jesus had yet restored life to any lifeless body. The disciples reported cures and the conquest of demons IN HIS NAME, but none had yet raised a lifeless body.

            Since the body of Jesus was dead, WHO enacted the miracle?

      • Daniel Rooke

        this is an error in your understanding of what is meant by the word God.

    • amslages

      He didn't say that they are less likely without those pre-suppositions. He simply chose not to consider them due to strong evidence that "with" pre-suppositions they are not likely to have happened. Thus, he's sort of contridicting himself, to a fair extent, since he asks us to pre-suppose only two things, and nothing more. I guess we can give him the credit, since your #6 can be well described by the first argument, as it is still a mystery to us Christians how such power (technology?) can resurrect God himself (in a manner that is completely alien to us humans, as we don't have that power, do we?), and your #7 is just a sub-alternative to #3 (if He never existed, Resurrection is a myth).

      • I guess we can give him the credit, since your #6 can be well described by the first argument, as it is still a mystery to us Christians how such power (technology?) can resurrect God himself (in a manner that is completely alien to us humans, as we don't have that power, do we?), and your #7 is just a sub-alternative to #3 (if He never existed, Resurrection is a myth).

        Make sure you let Kreeft know, since it's his distinctions (see original article, esp. the section I quoted above; the numbering is mine).

        In Kreeft's defence regarding 6, he clearly thinks it's a distinct and more fringe hypothesis than 1. As for 7, he's drawing the line, I think, between the claim that Jesus's crucifixion + resurrection is a myth made up by the Apostles and that Jesus's existence was made up by the apostles.

    • Roman

      Why would (6)-(7) be less likely or more "far out" than (1)?

      It seems to me the answer to your question is pretty straightforward. There is no evidence (that I'm aware of) that Jesus was an alien. He certainly didn't claim to be an alien. Nor did his followers. Regarding (7), this has been covered in a previous Strange Notions article written by an atheist. There is sufficient evidence (i.e., more than may other ancient historical figures) to believe that the historical Jesus lived in early 1st century Jerusalem area.

      • There's some evidence that would support the "Jesus is an advanced alien" hypothesis if part of the hypothesis is that advanced aliens can bring members of their own species back from the dead. Evidence for the resurrection, such as it is, would be just as much evidence for this kind of alien Jesus as for the divine Jesus. The alien Jesus might even be a bit more likely, given that the advanced alien hypothesis could be based solely on physical principles, without invoking the supernatural.

        I agree with you that Jesus probably existed. However, I think it exceedingly more likely that he didn't exist at all than that he came back from the dead (if those were my only two options).

        • Michael Murray

          Being an alien or a time traveller is more likely than being God. The existence of aliens requires no changes to our known physics. The existence of time travellers is not so clear. But the existence of God requires belief in a vast array of supernatural phenomena for which there is no evidence.

          • David Nickol

            But the existence of God requires belief in a vast array of supernatural phenomena for which there is no evidence.

            I think that overstates the case considerably. I don't think there is no evidence for God or no evidence for the supernatural. Inexplicable things happen all the time. The vast majority of people in the world believe in the supernatural in some form or another.

            If you say there is no evidence for the supernatural, therefore we should not believe in any particular instance where a supernatural occurrence is claimed, then of course you've set up a condition under which no evidence can be evidence!

          • Michael Murray

            I decided to give up and become an atheist apologist. If you want me to be reasonable of course I can change that to something like "for which there is very little reliable or convincing evidence in my opinion".

            It doesn't change my point that belief in the supernatural of the kind being asked for here requires substantially more changes to theories that we know reliably describe reality than belief in aliens or time-travellers.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Why? Why would scientific theories require changes, simply because there might be exceptions to them?

            I would say it would be far more injurious to science to say that the universe came from nothing than to say a man was resurrected miraculously. And one scientist - himself an atheist - HAS posited the universe came from nothing.

          • William Davis

            You can believe in God, but not believe in miracles (exceptions to God laws). This is my personal stance. These are all separate questions that get falsely intertwined. What good is a universal law giver if he is also a universal law breaker. Breaking the law is cheating, I don't believe in a God who cheats.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            This is true - one could take the position of strict deism. God exists, and created the world, and then left it to run on its own.

            However, if God created the laws of the universe, of what nature are those laws? Are they moral laws, like "thou shalt not commit adultery"? Has God told us that if we defy gravity we're doing something evil?

            From what I understand, the "laws" of nature are simply patterns we notice from scientific observation. We notice it is extremely unlikely for a person to spontaneously float in midair on planet Earth. I don't know that there's anything morally wrong with levitating. Do you?

          • William Davis

            All intelligence is based on patterns at a fundamental level, and thus all thinking (a person with no sensory inputs cannot build a model of the world), so yes science is based on pattern recognition, but so is everything else we think, including philosophy and morality.
            I'd argue that God did not directly create moral law, but moral law emerges from social interaction and circumstance. Think about divorce. In Jesus's day, divorce was basically a death sentence for the woman unless she was young enough to become a prostitute, women were not really employable, and few people wanted a "used" woman. Today, however, divorce is far from a death sentence, and sometimes it is the right course if the couple just can't work out their marriage and be happy together. I think people are too quick to give up on marriage, but the point stands, the act of divorce has very different consequences today, thus it's moral position has changed. Morality is a required human device, not a direct law from God (at least in my view, and the view of many others).

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Where do I begin? There are so many assumptions that are just... wrong here.

            First you go off on a tangent that God can't possibly break the laws of the universe, as if somehow such an idea would be unthinkable. Then you say that moral laws are not only breakable, but changeable. (And a number of other wrong things.)

            So it's not really all that untinkable that God could break the universe's laws. Because it might not be cheating. Because nothing says it has to be cheating. Right?

          • William Davis

            Then you say that moral laws are not only breakable, but changeable. (And a number of other wrong things.)

            It sad how many Christians thing morality hasn't changed (I relate it to a warped view of history). If God gives laws (I think God exists, but isn't like a man at all, he/she/it is something incomparably greater) Let's start with slavery

            However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

            Sexual slavery

            When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

            In the New Testament (at least things are starting to improve)

            Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

            Papal Bulls

            "Dum Diversas [English: 'Until different'] is a papal bull issued on 18 June 1452 by Pope Nicholas V. It authorized Afonso V of Portugal to conquer Saracens and pagans and consign them to "perpetual servitude.[1][2] Pope Calixtus III reiterated the bull in 1456 with Inter Caetera (not to be confused with Alexander VI's), renewed by Pope Sixtus IV in 1481 and Pope Leo X in 1514 with Precelse denotionis. The concept of the consignment of exclusive spheres of influence to certain nation states was extended to the Americas in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI with Inter caetera.[3][4][5][6]"

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dum_Diversas

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanus_Pontifex

            I'll let the Jews tell you what Catholics have done to them in their on words, if we bring in protestants like Martin Luther (who was originally a Catholic) it gets even worse

            http://www.zionism-israel.com/hdoc/Papal_Bulls_Jews.htm

            Do you think killing witches is immoral?

            It's right in Exodus 22:18 "You shall not allow a sorceress to live", here is a nice timeline of Christians both killing witches and agreeing they should be killed, all the way up to recent times:

            http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_burn2.htmj

            Of course the Ten Commandments say "Thou shalt not kill", but then it turns right around and lists a ton of people who should be killed, even rebellious children:

            If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18–21

            What were you saying about moral law not changing? LOL.

            Personally I'm a Spinozist, I can present what I think about God and see you try to refute it if you like ;)

          • Patrick J Loveless

            My contention is not to say "morality hasn't changed", whatever that's supposed to mean.

            But if "morality changes", then it makes perfect sense that God "cheating" by using miracles may or may not be acceptable at any given time, and your whole first objection breaks down. Don't you see that?

            These are your words:

            " What good is a universal law giver if he is also a universal law
            breaker. Breaking the law is cheating, I don't believe in a God who
            cheats."

            Then you talk about how morality can change, using divorce as an example, and conclude: " thus it's moral position has changed. Morality is a required human device, not a direct law from God "

            So, if the moral law can change, your first statement is meaningless and pointless. Whereas, if it always is wrong for God to work miracles, then the moral law doesn't always change. There is at least one constant. And if one, why not others?

          • William Davis

            Malachi 3:6

            6"For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

            Number 23: 19 God is not human, that he should lie,
            not a human being, that he should change his mind.
            Does he speak and then not act?
            Does he promise and not fulfill?

            So you agree that one has to either believe in a God that changes, or a God that gives morality. The Christian God is supposedly a God that gives morality AND never changes. This is an inherent contradiction, so we have to pick. I pick consistency and pure being, you pick morality and a God who changes his mind and thus makes mistakes (changing your mind is admitting a previous mistake). Fair enough?

            Keep in mind when I say God does not break his own rules, I'm talking about a powerful observation, not a theory. Determinism is fundamental to all science and engineering, and my worldview is fed by those things. A God that doesn't change is the God I see when I look at the universe.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Stick to the subject. We're talking about YOUR contradictory position, and how YOU intend to justify it.

            Justify YOUR position that God apparently is bound to an unchanging morality, but men are not.

            Justify YOUR position that morality can be both changing AND unchanging.

            Justify YOUR idiotic paradox.

          • William Davis

            Sorry you're upset, but are the insults and condescending tone really necessary? Regardless, I'll try to explain better (I've been doing this enough to have absurdly thick skin thankfully ;)

            I think you misunderstand "cheating" as a moral thing, it isn't. For example, no one can decide to cheat gravity, it is impossible. Sure we can fight gravity with an opposing force, but you aren't cheating you are still following natural law...it is impossible to do otherwise. You can decide to break moral rules, but not God's rules. We can violate the law of conservation of mass/energy, laws of electricity, ect. Of course, what we call a natural law may not be completely the absolute truth, but the perfect nature of the rule that has no exceptions let's us know we are on to something.

            To be clear, my understanding of God is about pure being. "He" is the only substance of the universe and everything that exists is a part of God.

            If you think about it for a second, how would you like it if I called your paradox "idiotic"? Paradoxes typically show up in any philosophy or line of thought. Yet again a Christian proves they are no different from anyone else. Notice I did not respond with insults, I follow Christ's example as much as possible when it is appropriate, unlike you obviously ;) A difference, that makes no difference, is not difference at all.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Thank you for finally answering the question I was getting at. I was wondering if you wanted to have a dialogue, or just preach about how morality changes all the time, Christians are wrong, and the rest. Only idiots preach without responding. I was trying to get you to prove me wrong.

            So -the heart of your argument - and your cosmology - is that God is everything. In other words, you are a pantheist.

            Tell me: do you think your definition of God is the same as the Christian definition?

            And thank you for showing how much you like to imitate Our Lord. The same one who asked us to eat His flesh and drink His blood, even to the alienation of His followers. The same one who told His right-hand man, Peter, that he was Satan when Peter suggested, quite rationally, that Jesus ought not to die. The same one who overturned tables and went through the Temple with a whip when he saw the merchants there. And the same who knew Judas was a traitor. Yes, you do certainly follow Him in all His aspects.

          • William Davis

            Originally I thought I had explained myself poorly, so I tried again, but I should have been more direct in answering your question, I think I didn't understand exactly where you were coming from, I wasn't trying to preach, sorry if it came off that way.

            Tell me: do you think your definition of God is the same as the Christian definition?

            I agree with Christian philosophy in a lot of ways, especially Thomas Aquinas. I just don't think God has ever directly communicated with us, and I definitely don't think he has a man-like intelligence as demonstrated by the Hebrew Bible. Could we both be looking at the same God and seeing different things? Absolutely. I always liked this parable:

            "A number of disciples went to the Buddha and said, "Sir, there are living here in Savatthi many wandering hermits and scholars who indulge in constant dispute, some saying that the world is infinite and eternal and others that it is finite and not eternal, some saying that the soul dies with the body and others that it lives on forever, and so forth. What, Sir, would you say concerning them?"

            The Buddha answered, "Once upon a time there was a certain raja who called to his servant and said, 'Come, good fellow, go and gather together in one place all the men of Savatthi who were born blind... and show them an elephant.' 'Very good, sire,' replied the servant, and he did as he was told. He said to the blind men assembled there, 'Here is an elephant,' and to one man he presented the head of the elephant, to another its ears, to another a tusk, to another the trunk, the foot, back, tail, and tuft of the tail, saying to each one that that was the elephant.

            "When the blind men had felt the elephant, the raja went to each of them and said to each, 'Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?'

            "Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, 'Sire, an elephant is like a pot.' And the men who had observed the ear replied, 'An elephant is like a winnowing basket.' Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a grainery; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush.

            "Then they began to quarrel, shouting, 'Yes it is!' 'No, it is not!' 'An elephant is not that!' 'Yes, it's like that!' and so on, till they came to blows over the matter.

            "Brethren, the raja was delighted with the scene.

            "Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing.... In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus."

            Then the Exalted One rendered this meaning by uttering this verse of uplift,

            O how they cling and wrangle, some who claimFor preacher and monk the honored name!For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.Such folk see only one side of a thing.

            Jainism and Buddhism. Udana 68-69:Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant"

          • Patrick J Loveless

            OK. I'm just interested in rooting out discrepancies. I, honestly, do not have the time or patience to read long explanations and observations. I'm just very attention deficit. If it's not put pithily, I lose interest quickly.

            Basically you're sharing Saxe's poem about six blind men. (Which he did get from the old Asian parable you've just posted.)

            That's fine, and I don't entirely disagree. There's a reason that Catholics accept both the fruitful life of marriage and the celibate life of the clergy and the religious - among other things that would, at first glance, seem contradictory.

            However, there are some things that just cannot both be true at the same time.

            Two of those things are what you believe and what I believe about the nature of God. Which I will enumerate shortly and briefly:

            1) You believe that God is equivalent to the universe and everything in it, and that nothing is distinct from God.

            2) I have been taught by the Church, and I believe, that God is not equivalent to the universe and everything in it, and that everything that is not God is distinct from God.

            It cannot be true at the same time that God both is and is not the universe and all that is in it.

            Either you, or the Church, has to be correct, since it is demonstrable God exists. Now whether the case is we're just seeing only a small part of the puzzle, or whether you are - I would propose - only seeing a small part of the puzzle, one of us has got to admit he is wrong and concede the other is correct. There's no way around that. One of us is failing to see something.

            So, in an effort to shed some light on the nature of God, may we reason a bit about our particular beliefs?

            Feel free to ask me one question, just to start. I'd like to ask you one:

            If the universe and all that's in it is God, is God good?

          • William Davis

            Either you, or the Church, has to be correct, since it is demonstrable God exists. Now whether the case is we're just seeing only a small part of the puzzle, or whether you are - I would propose - only seeing a small part of the puzzle, one of us has got to admit he is wrong and concede the other is correct. There's no way around that. One of us is failing to see something.

            I agree one of us has to be wrong, but I don't think we are in a position to tell who is, and we won't be for a long time (if ever). It becomes a matter of how the universe appears to us. We can sure talk about it though, but true understanding of God exceeds our epistemic limits. The Church has reason to believe what it does, I have reason to believe what I do, but I have no way to know for certain if I'm right, that's ok. I can show you how my view is derived if you interested, it comes from a philosopher named Baruch Spinoza. I believe in the same God as Albert Einstein if that helps.

            If the universe and all that's in it is God, is God good?

            I wouldn't say God is good in a the traditional sense, because I think God is everything (and may be more than just the universe). Being everything, God is everything we imagine, plus a whole lot we can't, he is nearly incomprehensible.
            There may be something to the Christian idea that God is Love, however. If you look at human history, Love (at least the agape kind) has had a dramatic effect in improving the world and making society possible. While hate is still contained within what I call God, love is definitely favored. Every civilization I can think of that is based on hate has died.

            A question for you. Even if God did work miracles, why would he care if I didn't believe in them? Wouldn't be enough for him to recognize the truth of love and love my neighbor as myself? I have yet to experience any miracle, and neither has anyone I know. Sure, my mom thinks everyone who she prays for that gets better is a miracle, but we have studied whether prayer helps heal the sick, tons of studies show there is no effect, I can link them if you wish.

          • Patrick J Loveless

            "I wouldn't say God is good in the traditional sense." While hate is still contained within what I call God, love is definitely favored."

            If it can desire to destroy itself or parts thereof, which is contrary to what goodness is, no matter the definition, it is not good. The universe, as we currently know it, is not good because it often does not desire its own betterment - well, the parts to which "love" and "hatred" can be attributed. Like murderers, and people who want to kill murderers.

            So, how can the universe be God, if God is love, yet the universe contains hatred (which is contrary to love) in it? And I don't mean a hatred of evil - which is sane and natural. But I mean a hatred even of good things - such as innocence. Not ignorance. Innocence. A cleanliness of conscience. A lot of people hate that idea.

            " Wouldn't be enough for him to recognize the truth of love and love my neighbor as myself?"

            If God is love - and I think we both agree He is - God wants you to be the best you can be. How can you be the best you can be if you do not know Him? In fact, how can you love yourself if you believe there is a God, and that He does love you, and yet you do not want to know the God who loves you?

            "I have yet to experience any miracle, and neither has anyone I know."

            Including me. So what? I've never been President of the United States. And no one I know ever has been, either. Doesn't mean Presidents don't exist. They're rare, but they exist. I think it's the same way with miracles. They may not happen often, but when they do, you can tell.

            Not that miracles are crucial to a belief in God. And you only need to believe in one single miracle to be a Christian.

            " but we have studied whether prayer helps heal the sick, tons of studies show there is no effect"

            It's unfortunate that many people, even otherwise relatively good Christians, believe prayer is about getting earthly stuff. This, this is not the Biblical nor the traditional understanding of the point of prayer. In fact, it's entirely opposite of the Christian reason for Jesus's Incarnation.

            Do you know the "Our Father"? Lemme post it for you for a refresher:

            "Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

            That comes from the Gospel of Matthew, when the Apostles ask Jesus how they ought to pray. Only one of the petitions is about getting things - and of those things, only "daily bread" - hardly something fantastic. Most prayer is about 1) glorifying God, 2) submission to God's will, 3) asking for our daily needs, 4) asking for God's mercy - and asking that we might also be merciful as God is to us, 5) being kept from evil - moral and spiritual evil more than physical.

            And how do I know all this, especially the fifth? Read the sections around the Lord's Prayer. Read Matthew 6. It's part of a bigger section of that Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount. Many of Jesus's exhortations are to moral living. And the sixth chapter ends this way:

            "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious
            about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about
            your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the
            body more than clothing?...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well." (Matthew 6:25, 33).

            Read the Sermon on the Mount if you want a Christian vision of life and prayer. I've heard it countless times in reference to both these things. You can believe Christianity teaches that prayer's supposed to make you happy and well-off on this Earth. But even Scripture does not - cannot - teach this, when you read it in context.

            Otherwise, Jesus, the most prayerful of men, a loving Son of His Father, God - why was He crucified?

          • Patrick J Loveless

            Agreed. Furthermore, miracles do not throw out the hard work of scientists - just as exceptions to rules on physics and maths and biology do not throw out the hard rules that have already been established.

            The largely unevolved cockroach doesn't disprove the existence of evolution in other insects.

          • Peter

            Please point to the known physics which allow a previously living creature, alien or otherwise, to be brought back from the dead after a few days.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't have to. I can say

            (a) They are aliens who developed science millions of years ago. Their technology is so advanced it looks like magic to us.

            (b) They modified memories of everyone surrounding the event so they thought Jesus had been resurrected but he wasn't.

            Etc, etc. The possibilities are endless once you allow "unknown advanced alien technology".

          • Peter

            If aliens have endless possibilities, they have unlimited knowledge and infinite power which makes them omniscient, omnipotent and immortal, very much like gods.

            If your known physics leads you to believing in such aliens, then it leads you to believing in gods, but as an atheist you shouldn't believe in gods. It appears that science after all does lead you to the notion of a god contrary to what atheism claims.

          • Michael Murray

            I never said aliens have endless possibilities. They have undetermined possibilities. We cannot say in advance what they can and cannot do. That does not mean they can do everything.

            "very much like gods" is not the same as being gods.

            I'm finishing this conversation until you give up this ridiculous argument that allowing the possibility of aliens with advanced technology means I am not an atheist. It's absurd.

          • Peter

            It was you not me who said that advanced alien technology would allow for endless possibilities and appear magical to us. Why would you accept the likelihood of alien magic and yet, at the same time, reject the feasibility of miracles?

            On the one hand, you would dismiss miracles as being impossible because they do not conform to known physics and yet, on the other, you admit the possibility of alien magic by claiming it to be as yet unknown physics. This smacks loudly of double standards.

          • Michael Murray

            I said the possibilities are endless not that aliens have endless possibilities. That was in reference (as indicated by the etc, etc) to the endless different ways one could argue for stories in the current bible relating to Jesus' resurrection being a result of alien activity. That is not the same as saying aliens have endless possibilities which I assume means that aliens can do anything like Gods can do anything.

            Aliens with advanced unknown technology are not equivalent to Gods with complete omnipotence. Nowhere near the same in terms of plausibility. So it is always going to be the case that Jesus resurrection is more likely to have been the result of alien activity than Gods. Aliens might not need to use new physics they might just use advanced technology. Who knows what you will be able to do with nanotechnology. You can't rule it out. That's my point.

            Do I think that aliens actually caused Jesus resurrection? No. I think it is probably a more mundane story.

            But my point remains that the possibility of alien activity means that Kreeft's list of explanations that he has to cross off to get God left over is not long enough. Never will be long enough.

            By the way I actually "admit the possibility" of Gods. I just don't see any evidence.

            OK now I'm done.

          • Peter

            No, I can't rule out the possibility that aliens possess the (nano)technology to raise the dead, nor can I rule out the strong likelihood that whoever possesses such technology can in theory live forever. We are probably looking at immortal beings thousands if not millions of years old and therefore virtually omniscient as well as being quasi-omnipotent. They would be almost godlike, easily capable of performing what we would consider to be miracles such as the Resurrection.

            However, the likely existence of such aliens makes the Resurrection even more probable than it would have been without them. Without your aliens, the Resurrection depends on a supernatural God and belief in that miracle relies on faith. With your aliens, however, the Resurrection suddenly becomes plausible; belief in it is bolstered by reason.

            As I see it, therefore, the alien hypothesis supports the first of Kreeft's explanations, that Jesus died and rose, and refutes the remaining four which say that Jesus didn't rise or didn't die. If you believe in aliens, you must believe in the Resurrection.

          • David Nickol

            Apparently you don't watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

        • Peter

          If Jesus were an alien, it wouldn't be Christianity to start with since Christianity is belief in the Resurrection of Jesus who is incarnate of the Virgin Mary. If Jesus were an alien, he wouldn't be incarnate of any human. Positing Jesus as an alien defeats the object from the beginning and is therefore pointless.

          • Michael Murray

            Positing Jesus as an alien defeats the object from the beginning and is therefore pointless.

            Defeats what object ? Surely in the discussion we are having the object is to list all the plausible explanations of the accounts of Jesus in the Bible. Ideally I think in order of plausibility. One of those is that Jesus was an alien visitor. Another is that he was a time-traveller from the distant future. Another a magician. Another might be that occasionally random things happen in the universe that we cannot account for such as resurrections from the dead. The universe appears to be regular in its behaviour but perhaps very occasionally it isn't.

            Of course none of these are Christianity as it has developed. That's rather the point. There are a long list of options that explain the biblical accounts of Jesus other than the preferred Christian theological one.

          • Peter

            Being an alien is not a plausible explanation of the accounts of Jesus in the bible. The bible says that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and therefore directly contradicts the idea that Jesus was an alien. Any notion of Jesus being an alien has nothing to do with the bible.

          • Michael Murray

            The Bible says that Mary conceived Jesus without having sex and gave birth but remained a virgin. Moreover we are told that Mary herself did not have the original sin that all humans have inherited from Adam and Eve.

            So the Bible record here three distinctly non-human traits in Mary. Surely the most plausible explanation for this is that Mary was herself an alien and so when she reproduced according to her native alien biology she, of course, gave birth to an alien son Jesus.

            It is all in there if you know how to read the Bible.

          • Peter

            Was her relative, St. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, also alien, making John the Baptist one too? He had a father called Zechariah.

          • Michael Murray

            Are we sure about that part of the Bible ? There is no point in arguing as if the Bible is a completely accurate historical document. That is just not correct.

            I'm not so much defending the alien hypothesis as pointing out that it is more plausible than the God hypothesis. Particularly if you are someone who believes that alien life is common in the universe.

            I would assume that aliens noticed that certain deficiencies in the human evolutionary makeup could be best be fixed by inserting the Catholic religious belief system. Some of this was no doubt explained at the time but after the aliens left the message was confused into stories about original sin.

          • Peter

            If aliens can raise the dead, they can be immortal. If aliens can live forever without dying, why promote a belief that you live forever only after death and bodily destruction? That is counter-intuitive.

            Surely, if we follow the alien hypothesis through to its logical conclusion, the message of the aliens 2000 years ago based on Jesus' example would have been that all humans can live forever in their original bodies in this world.

          • Michael Murray

            What makes you think that the message in todays Bible is the original alien message? Even if the alien's tried to tell us the truth which they might have good reasons not to.

          • Peter

            Well, apart from the bible message contradicting the likely message of immortal aliens, there is also the problem with resurrection itself.

            Death is where the brain has irreversibly lost all function including the capacity for memory. So how did Jesus remember if his brain and body were merely reanimated by aliens? He must have had an immaterial soul containing all his memories which inexplicably survived the death of the brain, only to be reinstated when the brain was restored.

            Even the reanimation by aliens hypothesis assumes that Jesus must have had a soul where his memory was parked until he was resurrected. The Resurrection is a strong argument for the existence of the soul. Your alien hypothesis supports that argument.

          • Michael Murray

            There is really no point in arguing "how could aliens do X". Once you accept aliens exist with unknown advanced technology then they might be able to do anything with that technology. How hard can it have been to copy Jesus' memory and internal settings to a storage area and dump them all back when they reanimated the body. Aliens don't use souls that would be so low tech. Or maybe Jesus was himself an alien and their biology allows them to save all their mental and physical states to some sort of internal storage area.

            Years ago I read a science fiction book set in the future where everybody's minds lived in a giant computer. Only very special people were allowed to be reanimated into biological bodies and when they did everything that happened to them was saved onto a tiny spherical memory chip in their neck. If they died and the chip was retrieved they could be loaded back into the computer and live on.

            Aliens in an argument like this are like magic. They can do anything. A bit like God. Just more plausible.

          • Peter

            So, your aliens are immortal; they can reanimate the dead, technologically store their personalities and reinsert them into revived, refurbished or even reconstructed bodies. As you say, they are like God who allows the soul to survive the body and to be eventually reunited with a renewed immortal body.

            If you believe in aliens that are a bit like God, who have power over life and death and can live forever, then they are for all intents and purposes gods in their own right. In that case, as a believer in these gods, you cannot be an atheist because atheism is a lack of belief in all gods.

          • Michael Murray

            If you believe in aliens that are a bit like God, who have power over life and death and can live forever, then they are for all intents and purposes gods in their own right. In that case, as a believer in these demiurges, you cannot be an atheist because atheism is a lack of belief in all gods.

            Oh be serious. Highly advanced aliens are not Gods.

            Is that the best you've got ?

          • Peter

            I would say that immortal beings with unlimited power over life and death is a pretty good description of gods.

          • William Davis

            In order to disguise the fact that Mary was an alien, they created a cover story that included fake relatives, they could have just written the narrative into their minds. Perhaps it is easier if Jesus was simply half-alien, Mary was the human half, the other half was alien. The aliens used an injection fertilization method to impregnate Mary.
            With superhuman regeneration Jesus survived the cross, but his alien dad decided it wasn't safe for him to stay on earth, so they let him say good bye, and then beamed him up (the ascension).

          • Michael Murray

            The bible says that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and therefore directly contradicts the idea that Jesus was an alien.

            If you think humans can't give birth to aliens what makes you think they can give birth to Gods ?

          • Peter

            We were discussing accounts of Jesus in the bible, and the bible says that Jesus is the Son of God, not of an alien.

          • Translation: It's not Christianity, therefore it's not an alternative worth considering.

            A clear argument, at least.

          • David Nickol

            lockquote>If Jesus were an alien, it wouldn't be Christianity to start with since Christianity is belief in the Resurrection of Jesus who is incarnate of the Virgin Mary.

            I personally think that it is more likely that the Christian beliefs about the resurrection are true than that Jesus was an alien. But suppose Jesus wasn't an alien himself, but he was brought back from the dead by aliens. It would not be all that difficult to keep the entire story of Christianity and simply maintain that the aliens were God's way of accomplishing the resurrection. Angels throughout the Bible are really aliens, but nevertheless God's messengers.

          • Peter

            Jesus also raised others from the dead. Did the aliens do that too?

          • David Nickol

            Jesus also raised others from the dead. Did the aliens do that too?

            I certainly don't believe Christianity was begun with the support of extraterrestrials, but if anyone is going to imagine they effected the resurrection, then there is no good reason to rule out alien technology being used for the other miracles as well.

            But your implicit point is a good one. It really doesn't make much sense to isolate the resurrection the way Kreeft has done. If you completely ignore everything in the Gospels and consider the resurrection of Jesus as an isolated incident, there's not much point to it. It is the life and the message of Jesus in the Gospels that is a preparation for the resurrection, and then it is in the light of the resurrection that one looks back on everything that happened leading up to it. If you don't have at least some minimal faith in the Gospels and their stories of the conception and life of Jesus, then the resurrection loses its point. Believers can't separate the origins, life, and death of Jesus from the resurrection.

        • Roman

          Evidence for the resurrection, such as it is, would be just as much evidence for this kind of alien Jesus as for the divine Jesus

          There are at least three problems with this statement. The first is that you have not offered any evidence for your claim. Neither Jesus nor his followers suggested he was an alien. We haven't found his spaceship or any interstellar communications tied to Jesus. And where are all his alien friends? 2000 years and one alien? Simply claiming his resurrection suggests an alien life form is not evidence. Second problem is that you are claiming that a man who by all appearances led a very moral life and preached a high standard of morality was himself a liar and a fraud, since he never claimed to be an alien and instead claimed to be man and/or God (depending on whose scriptural exegesis you prefer). That's a really tough sell. Third problem is we have no evidence of complex life outside of the planet earth. The 40 year SETI experiment was a dismal failure. For all these reasons, the alien theory is not a serious theory in my opinion.

          • The first is that you have not offered any evidence for your claim.

            If Jesus came back from the dead, that's evidence for Jesus being an alien that came back from the dead.

            If there were sorts of aliens who come back from the dead and enjoy pretending to be various religious figures, then almost all aspects of Jesus's life, if he came back from the dead, would be evidence that Jesus is this kind of alien.

            And where are all his alien friends?

            Presumably the same place Jesus is right now.

            Second problem is that you are claiming that a man who by all appearances led a very moral life and preached a high standard of morality was himself a liar and a fraud

            First, it's possible advanced aliens might have reasons that they would believe justify lying or concealing their true identities, and may be justified in this notion. Second, I'm not so convinced Jesus was such a good and moral person.

            So I'm not much persuaded by your first two objections. But you give a third objection:

            Third problem is we have no evidence of complex life outside of the planet earth.

            That's an excellent point! It's even worse, though. Even if we did have evidence of some sort of life outside Earth, we've no evidence that it is powerful enough to raise the dead or travel to different planets or pretend to be religious figures. This is a good reason to reject the alien explanation.

            There's no good evidence that God exists. This is an equally good reason to reject the divine resurrection explanation.

            Therefore I would favour other explanations to Jesus being raised from the dead. Maybe he never died, or maybe he simply died and the apostles were delusional. Or maybe he never existed in the first place. However unlikely these explanations are, for the reason you give here, these explanations are each far more likely than that Jesus was divine. I'd need some evidence for God to seriously consider that explanation.

          • Michael Murray

            Don't forget the time traveller hypothesis. It's possible that in the future we invent time travel and someone is sent back by the Church to be Jesus so they can make sure Christianity starts. Of course that's a wild, unevidenced assertion requiring physics we don't understand so obviously should be discarded.

            Some other possibilities here

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_ideas_in_science_fiction#Jesus

          • That's a fun wikipedia article.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The first is that you have not offered any evidence for your claim

            And you have no evidence that God rose him from the dead.

            We haven't found his spaceship or any interstellar communications tied to Jesus

            We haven't found what we would expect if the Universe was created by the Abrahamic God.

            And where are all his alien friends?

            Where are his angels and his saints? Where are the miracles and mountain moving? Where is God?

            Maybe the aliens were a little upset that we crucified their emissary and haven't come back.

            Simply claiming his resurrection suggests an alien life form is not evidence.

            Claiming that God did it is not evidence.

            Second problem is that you are claiming that a man who by all appearances led a very moral life and preached a high standard of morality was himself a liar and a fraud

            This assumes that what was recorded in the Gospels is accurate, which is a dubious assumption. Maybe the aliens didn't think we were ready, so they sent Jesus down in human form.

            Jesus wasn't exactly a truth teller. I don't see faith moving mountains.

            instead claimed to be man and/or God (depending on whose scriptural exegesis you prefer).

            It was a disguise.

            Third problem is we have no evidence of complex life outside of the planet earth.

            And no evidence for a God who resurrects his human son from the dead.

            The 40 year SETI experiment was a dismal failure.

            Likewise for the 2000 year search for God through Christianity.

            For all these reasons, the alien theory is not a serious theory in my opinion.

            For the same reasons, the God theory is not a serious theory.
            Nearly every reason you use to reject the alien theory is applicable to the God theory.

          • Huh?

            Yeah...except the small fact that 100% of any source of the narrative we have conforms to the God theory and 0% of them conform to the alien theory.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There are many reason to reject the God theory and go with the man-made theory.

          • Huh?

            What does that have to do with the alien theory?

    • Michael Murray

      So a heptalemma ? 3, 5, 7 Is the pattern odd numbers or prime numbers? It's hard to tell yet.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        or twin primes?

    • AineFravashi

      I don't think that we can so easily rule out resurrection by the power of God, given that there are dozens of examples of saints whose bodies, even centuries later, remain incorruptible. What could explain this phenomenon other than some kind of supernatural intervention? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorruptibility

      • I don't know what could explain it. It might involve some sort of diet or how bodies are kept. Some bodies of Buddhists have experienced the same effect. Or some sort of personal holiness or virtue. It's interesting.

        I agree, nothing should be ruled out, including divine resurrection, including aliens, including that it was all made up. All are live options.

        • Michael Murray

          Apparently also some not quite so nice people are incorruptible

          And at least one case of incorruptibility was discovered in a person who clearly hadn't exactly lived a saintly life. Cardinal Shuster, an Italian archbishop, had been a fascist and friend of dictator Benito Mussolini. His corpse was found uncorrupted 31 years after his death

          http://people.howstuffworks.com/incorruptible2.htm

          • I didn't know about that example. Thanks. Maybe the cardinal had a deathbed conversion to Buddhism?

      • Rudy R

        "What could explain...?" is an Argument from Ignorance. Why would you discount a scientific explanation, provided what you stated is true? If we don't have an explanation, the default answer is not "a god did it."

    • Rudy R

      Resurrection is less probable than (6) and (7), because we know fictional characters exist and it's probable, given the immense size of the universe, that one or more Alien life forms exist. A resurrection would be classified as a miracle and a proper application of historian methodology would result in resurrections being the least probable conclusion to any historical event.

      • David Nickol

        I don't know how helpful it is when dealing with individual moments in history (or alleged history) to go by "probabilities." Couldn't the people who believe the moon landings were faked count "probability" on their side? Highly "improbable" things happen all the time. And the argument against the "improbability" of miracles pretty much guarantees that people who don't believe in miracles will never believe in miracles, since no matter how many alleged miracles they encounter, they will always discount them as not being miraculous.

        People who don't believe in miracles insist that they never happen and they never can happen, so no matter how seemingly miraculous an event is, it can't be counted as a miracle. On the other hand, people who do believe in miracles see them everywhere!

        The problem with coming to a reasoned decision about the resurrection of Jesus is that the evidence is too limited and too old to base a decision on.

        • Rudy R

          You're confusing probable with possible. Something can be possible but not probable. A miracle is possible but out of a series of options, is usually the least probable because a miracle can't be explained by natural phenomena. Now just because something is less probable out of a series of options, doesn't necessarily mean that something is not the answer.
          Now, if the evidence is too limited and old to base a decision on the resurrection, then it should be rejected for a premise that has more evidence.

          • David Nickol

            The problem, as I see it, is that if you declare a miraculous cause the least probable explanation in any situation, you can never conclude something was a miracle. If I lose my leg in an automobile accident, pray to St. Jude to restore it, and it grows back, you can claim it was the result of intervention by advanced aliens. Since an advance race of aliens could be explained by "natural phenomena" (a life form could certainly evolve on another planet), alien intervention by your criteria would always be a more plausible "explanation" of inexplicable events than miracles.

            If the evidence is too limited to base a decision on the resurrection, then it should be rejected for a premise that has more evidence.

            It seems to me more reasonable to declare a "statute of limitations" and say the evidence that has survived from 2000 years ago is insufficient for a "trial." Working historians, as a rule, don't confirm or deny miracles no matter what the evidence. So the best an honest historian can do is report the known facts as reliably as possible and leave the answer to individuals as a matter of their faith.

    • arod69

      Wouldn't #6 really be a subset of 2, 3 or 4? The story as we know it today came from the apostles. If Jesus did die and was resurrected by means of some advanced technology then the apostles were fooled into believing He was divinely resurrected (by Jesus or the aliens, one presumes), created and promoted the story of the divine resurrection over the "fact" of the technological resurrection or created an elaborate lie of a divinely wrought resurrection for some unknown motive.

      In some ways I think you could say the same for #7 (as I've read before proponents of #7 do say that Jesus existence was created due to some version of #3 or #4) but that's a separate discussion for another time, I think.

      • I didn't see your response until now. I agree with you that the set of explanations could be vastly simplified. I used Kreeft's list to better match my response to his article. But I completely agree with you, the list of possibilities can be grouped more efficiently in other ways.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Sounds like this will be an interesting series. I look forward to Monday!

    I hesitate to comment too much, since this was just an introductory article, but I hope Dr. Kreeft is not suggesting that the 5 theories are entire exclusive to one another. I think it is possible to explain the gospel accounts with a combination of hallucination and myth making, and also a dash of story evolution: the disciples thought that they saw Jesus, assumed he rose from the dead, the stories grew as the years go by, the gospels combine this with some mythologizing. Taking each theory in isolation might be like saying that you can't bake a cake with just flour, and and you can't bake a cake with just sugar, or just eggs, so therefore cakes can't be made of flour sugar and eggs.

  • Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history.

    I'm not a historian, nor have I looked into the contemporary primary source writings from the time period of Jesus, but I thought that the contention revolves around the lack of extra-Biblical documentation. I'm not sure what a comparable story to the resurrection would be, in terms of it's sensationalism and documentation, but I'm willing to bet that I'd take that a comparable story about as seriously as I take Jesus' resurrection, which is not very seriously.

    • I wanted to add: It's not just the lack of extra-Biblical documentation of Jesus' resurrection that should questioned, but the lack of extra-Biblical documentation of the resurrection of others as well during this time:

      51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

      Matthew 27:51-53, English Standard Version (ESV)

      These verses are strange for more than one reason (e.g., Why did they wait until after Jesus' resurrection to go into Jerusalem, when they were resurrected when he died?), but had this event occurred as written, I would think that "many bodies" of the dead appearing to "many" in Jerusalem would have generated enough ancient buzz for it to be documented elsewhere.

      • Mila

        It's not talking about Jerusalem on earth. It is talking about the Jerusalem in heaven. The New Jerusalem in the eschatological role found in the Apocalypse. "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." Apoc 21:2
        Those souls of saints were asleep (biblical term for limbo) and when the doors of heaven opened they were raised.
        The Heavenly Jerusalem already exists. We refer to those in there already as the Church Triumphant. We here are the Church militant. Those purging are the Church suffering. All three form the universal (Catholic) Church.
        One of the Church fathers, St. Augustine of Hippo, writes about the The city of God drawing inspiration from John's account of the New Jerusalem found in the Apocalypse.

        • Seems to me like subjectively picking and choosing what to take literally and what not to.

          • Mila

            Neither Mathew 27:52-53 or John in the Apocalypse 21:2 or Hebrews 12 are referring to Jerusalem on earth. Both are talking about the heavenly Jerusalem.
            None of it is pick and choose. It is one of the prophecies fulfilled from Isaiah in the OT.

          • That's your subjective interpretation of unclear ancient texts.

          • Mila

            Not my own. The Catholic Church's along with all Christians. The Jews don't think the heavenly Jerusalem came already as for them the king (savior) didn't come yet. Some like the Mormons believe the heavenly Jerusalem is will come about in Missouri.
            The idea of a heavenly Jerusalem is not an interpretation but all prefigured and foretold in the OT and fulfilled in the new.
            Mount Zion in Jerusalem is the what the Jews long for and also represents the New Jerusalem.

          • I think you overestimate how many non-Catholics agree with this particular subjective interpretation of unclear ancient texts.

          • Mila

            non-Christians you mean? I don't know of a Christian that doesn't believe in that interpretation. If they believe Jesus is the King son of David then they must believe in this interpretation.
            Other non-Christians? Well.... that's to be expected and irrelevant.
            The point is that both Mathew, Apoc, Hebrews, Galatians, along with numerous other passages talk about the heavenly Jerusalem.
            Happy Easter!

          • No, I mean non-Catholic Christians, and I'm talking about the interpretation of the four verses in Matthew that I quoted above--not the resurrection of Jesus.

          • Mila

            Christians, if they believe Jesus Christ to be their savior then they must believe he opened the gates of the New Jerusalem.

          • William Davis

            As far as I can tell the link she posted doesn't say what she claims, perhaps that is why none of us are familiar with that interpretation...

          • Yeah. I admit that it's a possible interpretation, but it's one that I hadn't heard before. I initially assumed I hadn't heard it because I was raised Protestant and this was a Catholic interpretation, but David and Arthur's replies suggest otherwise.

          • David Nickol

            I don't know of a Christian that doesn't believe in that interpretation.

            I have consulted a number of commentaries, including the New American Bible and the New Jerome Biblical Commentary (both Catholic), and I have found no claim that the mention of Jerusalem in Matthew 27 is a reference to a "heavenly Jerusalem" rather than the "earthly" Jerusalem. I can't imagine you have come up with this interpretation on your own, so could you quote some Catholic sources that give this interpretation?

          • Mila

            From the bishop conference in the commentary.

            http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/27

            The saints are at the presence of God now. That is certainly not the Jerusalem here on earth but the heavenly Jerusalem John describes in the Apoc 21:2 or described in Isaiah and other passages.
            I believe Luke's personal interpretation indicated that people would have notice the saints resuscitating and so the whole point of my comment was to show that they didn't resuscitate on earth but in the New Jerusalem, i.e. heaven after being asleep (biblical term for limbo).

          • William Davis

            This is from the link you posted, as far as I can tell it does NOT say what you say it does:

            "Veil of the sanctuary…bottom: cf. Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45. Luke puts this event immediately before the death of Jesus. There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle on the model of which the temple was constructed, the outer one before the entrance of the Holy Place and the inner one before the Holy of Holies (see Ex 26:31–36). Only the high priest could pass through the latter and that only on the Day of Atonement (see Lv 16:1–18). Probably the torn veil of the gospels is the inner one. The meaning of the scene may be that now, because of Jesus’ death, all people have access to the presence of God, or that the temple, its holiest part standing exposed, is now profaned and will soon be destroyed. The earth quaked…appeared to many: peculiar to Matthew. The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saintsindicate the coming of the final age. In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake (see Ps 68:9; 77:19), and Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” that signify the beginning of the dissolution of the old world (Mt 24:7–8). For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, see Dn 12:1–3. Matthew knows that the end of the old age has not yet come (Mt 28:20), but the new age has broken in with the death (and resurrection; cf. the earthquake in Mt 28:2) of Jesus; see note on Mt 16:28. After his resurrection: this qualification seems to be due to Matthew’s wish to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection even though he has placed the resurrection of the dead saints immediately after Jesus’ death."

          • Mila

            Happy Easter! :)

          • William Davis

            Happy Easter's Eve :)

          • Arthur Jeffries

            The Catholic Church does not have an official doctrinal or dogmatic position on Mathew 27:52-53 or Apocalypse 21:2 or Hebrews 12, nor do "all Christians" agree with your interpretation.

          • Mila

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jerusalem

            The Catholic Church has the interpretation of Mathew 27 as saints who were raised from to be in the presence of God, i.e. the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem....

            http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/27 (read commentary on Mathew 27)

          • Arthur Jeffries

            The Wikipedia entry to which you linked offers no evidence that your interpretation of the verses you mentioned is a doctrine of the Catholic Church. Actually, it says nothing at all about Catholic teaching on Mathew 27 or Hebrews 12.

            Insofar as Revelation 21 is concerned, the "Catholicism" subcategory quotes the Catholic Encyclopedia. In that excerpt, the Encyclopedia restricts itself to discussion of what "theologians deem" and "generally hold." Whether the Catholic theological consensus of the early twentieth century was accurate or not, the excerpt does not identify that consensus as reflecting Catholic doctrine.

            if you read the full entry on "Heaven" in the Catholic Encyclopedia, from which Wikipedia quotes, you'll find multiple explicit references to both dogma and doctrine, but none identifying the then current consensus on the nature of the New Jerusalem as being either.

            I agree with William Davis' comment on your NAB link.

          • Rosita Tornquist Solanet

            The RCC believes that those saints who were asleep indeed were raised to heaven. Mathew 27 talks about the saints who were asleep and were raised up to heaven.
            Daniel 12 talks about them as well.

            Many of those who sleep
            in the dust of the earth shall awake;
            Some to everlasting life,
            others to reproach and everlasting disgrace.

          • David Nickol

            The RCC believes that those saints who were asleep indeed were raised to heaven.

            The question at hand is whether the "saints" referred to were "asleep" in their earthly graves and arose in Jerusalem, or whether (to put it rather crudely) they were asleep somewhere in the "next world" and awakened there. Given that the resurrection of Jesus is most definitely a bodily resurrection, it is difficult to imagine the passage goes on to describe some kind of "spiritual" resurrection of the righteous already somewhere in the next world.

            Your quote from Daniel says "who sleep in the dust of the earth." Mila's interpretation has the saints in limbo or somewhere else in the next world.

            I advise being careful about saying "what the RCC believes," especially if you cannot quote an authoritative document. Apparently there have been many interpretations about these "saints," with various accounts of what happened to them. Were they raised like Lazarus, only to die again?

            Another perfectly legitimate question for Catholics to raise about this passage is whether any "saints" rose anywhere at the time of the resurrection of Jesus, that is, to ask whether Matthew (or his sources) were speaking literally.

          • Mila

            "Given that the resurrection of Jesus is most definitely a bodily resurrection, it is difficult to imagine the passage goes on to describe some kind of "spiritual" resurrection of the righteous already somewhere in the next world."

            See the catechism above.

            And the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a bodily one, but a glorious body. The one we along with those saints from Matthew 27 will have at the second coming.

          • David Nickol

            Once again, nothing you have quoted from the Catechism in any ways supports a particular interpretation of Matthew 27:51-53. Even the very conservative=Catholic Ignatius Study Bible says:

            27:52 saints . . . were raised: Apart from Matthew's Gospel, history is silent regarding this event and the OT personalities involved. No indication is given as to who was raise, how long they remained, or what kind of body these saints possessed; yet there would be no reason for Matthew to record it, except that witnesses from Jerusalem verified the facts (27:53). Theologically, it is essential to note that these OT saints were raised after (27:53) Easter morning, since Jesus was the first to be resurrected in glory (Col 1:18).

            If you hope to make any headway on this issue, you are going to have to quote something from Catholic sources specifically about Matthew 27:52, not general information about Catholic beliefs. So far you have been supporting your interpretation only by citing very general information and then asserting your interpretation is true.

          • Mila

            St. Jerome (4th century), cited in the Catena Aurea (edited by St. Thomas Aquinas, 13th century)

            Quote
            As Lazarus rose from the dead, so also did many bodies of the Saints rise again to show forth the Lord’s resurrection; yet notwithstanding that the graves were opened, they did not rise again before the Lord rose, that He might be the first-born of the resurrection from the dead.

            “The holy city” in which they were seen after they had risen may be understood to mean either the heavenly Jerusalem, or this earthly, which once had been holy. For the city of Jerusalem was called Holy on account of the Temple and the Holy of Holies, and to distinguish it from other cities in which idols were worshipped.

            When it is said, “And appeared unto many,” it is signified that this was not a general resurrection which all should see, but special, seen only by such as were worthy to see it.

          • David Nickol

            “The holy city” in which they were seen after they had risen may be understood to mean either the heavenly Jerusalem, or this earthly, which once had been holy.

            Okay! You have provided one source which allows your interpretation as one alternative.

          • Mila

            Here is the Navarre interpretation....

            The great Church writers have suggested three possible explanations. First: that it was not a matter of resurrections in the strict sense, but of apparitions of these dead people. Second: they would have been dead people who arose in the way Lazarus did, and then died again. Third: their resurrection would have been definitive, that is glorious, in this way anticipating the final universal resurrection of the dead.

            The first explanation does not seem to be very faithful to the text, which does use the words “were raised” (surrexerunt). The third is difficult to reconcile with the clear assertion of Scripture that Christ was the first-born from the dead (cf. 1 Cor 15:20; Col 1:18). St. Augustine, St. Jerome and St. Thomas are inclined towards the second explanation because they feel it fits in best with the sacred text and does not present the theological difficulties which the third does (cf. Summa theologiae, III, q. 53, a. 3).

          • David Nickol

            Here is the interpretation from the Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary (1859) to the Douay-Rheims Bible:

            The earth quaked. How far this earthquake was extended, is uncertain. --- The rocks were rent, and the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints ... arose. St. Jerome takes notice, that these saints did not rise with their bodies till after Christ was risen; and so it follows, that going out of the graves, after the resurrection, they came into the holy city, (i.e. into Jerusalem) and appeared to many. (Witham) --- This event was a prophecy of the fatal destruction that was shortly to fall upon the temple; and also, that it should henceforth give place to things more noble and sublime. It likewise shews that greatness of Christ's power. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxxix.)

          • Mila

            Here is the one I mentioned to you earlier from the USCCB

            The earth quaked…appeared to many: peculiar to Matthew. The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saintsindicate the coming of the final age. In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake (see Ps 68:9; 77:19), and Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” that signify the beginning of the dissolution of the old world (Mt 24:7–8). For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, see Dn 12:1–3. Matthew knows that the end of the old age has not yet come (Mt 28:20), but the new age has broken in with the death (and resurrection; cf. the earthquake in Mt 28:2) of Jesus; see note on Mt 16:28. After his resurrection: this qualification seems to be due to Matthew’s wish to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection even though he has placed the resurrection of the dead saints immediately after Jesus’ death.

          • David Nickol

            Let me just note, as I withdraw from this discussion, that the passage in question is as follows:

            And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

            And let me further note that there is nothing in the NAB commentary that identifies the "holy city" as the "New Jerusalem" (heaven) or any place other than the earthly Jerusalem.

            Happy Easter!

          • Mila

            Except from two doctors of the Church, St. Jerome and St. Thomas of Aquinas.

            And as to your reference of the quake goes, well as a Hasidic Jew would say, God is an earthquake!

            Well, I'm out as well.
            Happy Easter to you too!

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on "Heaven," quoted in the wiki which you linked to earlier, correctly distinguishes between the theological consensus, the opinions of individual theologians, and authoritative church teachings in the form of doctrine and dogma.

            While the influence of Sts. Jerome and Aquinas on Catholic teaching cannot be understated, it would be wrong to assume that all of their theological opinions have been given doctrinal force. A Catholic's position, even if that Catholic is a church doctor, is not necessarily the Catholic position.

            Rather than offering an official interpretation of Mathew 27:52-53 or Apocalypse 21:2 or Hebrews 12 that binds the faithful, the magisterium has left these verses open to the interpretation of exegetes. These interpretations vary. There is no question of "the Catholic Church teaches" in regard to these verses.

          • Mila

            I haven't seen you here before and I only stumbled across this forum myself about two weeks ago. Welcome!

          • Mila

            The wiki I linked touches on the new Jerusalem and what the Catholic Church believes, i.e. the Church triumphant in heaven. The saints in heaven, i.e. the heavenly Jerusalem.
            Matthew 27:52 talks about saints who fell asleep and were raised to heaven because of the redeemer.
            Here is the Catechism that will explain exactly that passage for you:
            633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483

            483 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a5p1.htm

            PS. this whole conversation also arose because someone said that the saints mentioned on Matthew 27:52-53 would have been visible in Jerusalem and thus there would have been historical evidence of it.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            That wiki entry is lacking in sources, at least for its "Catholicism" section. Saint Augustine's City of God is mentioned but not cited. All we are given is a quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which I already discussed.

            The remainder of your comment has been covered by David Nickol.

          • Mila
          • Arthur Jeffries

            Thank you for the links, but I have read the City of God.

          • Ok, but this means the author or authors of Matthew was not just recording things observed actually happening on earth, some of the events recorded in that gospel were events in heaven and limbo, but the author does not explicitly distinguish between them, rather these are things that must be interpreted based on reading other works?

            From a historical point of view you can agree that this will lessen the credibility of text as an authority for what actually happened in earthly Jerusalem in those days?

            For example, if it turns out that Tacitus sometimes meant by "Rome" the earthly city and actual events happening there, but in other circumstances meant a place not on earth inhabited by spiritual beings, but did not expressly distinguish between them, we would be less likely to trust what he said.

          • David Nickol

            I agree with WD and AJ that there is nothing in the New American Bible commentary to support your reading. Presumably your reasoning is that the word "saints" is used, and the Catholic Church teaches that saints are in heaven, so Jerusalem refers to the "New Jerusalem" (heaven).

            Some of the Fathers of the Church (Origen and Eusebius), interpreted the verses as referring to a "Heavenly Jerusalem." St. Jerome apparently was not consistent, but in one place said:

            We must not interpret this passage straight off, as many people absurdly do, of the heavenly Jerusalem: the apparition there of the bodies of the saints could be no sign to men of the Lord's rising.

            So there is precedent for your interpretation, but there is certainly no consensus or no "official" Catholic interpretation. None of the contemporary sources I have checked found the "Heavenly Jerusalem" interpretation credible.

          • Mila

            Here is the Catechism explaining Matthew 27:52. It talks about those saints.

            633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a5p1.htm

            Here is what how the catechism describes the heavenly Jerusalem:

            1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."603

            And then again it describes the heavenly Jerusalem in:

            1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men.634 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."635

            Now if we say that saints don't go to the heavenly Jerusalem, i.e. paradise when Jesus descended into hell then we are negating the whole Catholic teaching that only saints go to heaven... especially those referred to in Matthew 27 given that they were dead. They were risen not to be here on earth but to be in heaven, i.e. the heavenly Jerusalem

            It's a matter of putting them together. One verse talks about the saints who were dead and were risen and the catechism talks about the saints going to heaven and the heavenly Jerusalem being paradise/heaven.

          • David Nickol

            It's a matter of putting them together.

            Your interpretation is not supported by these quotes from the Catechism. The passage we are discussing reads as follows:

            And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

            Here it is with some comments by me in brackets:

            And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. [Certainly this refers to the earthly, Jerusalem temple, not a temple in the "New Jerusalem."] The earth quaked [on earth!], rocks were split [on earth!], on earth [note it says "on earth"!] tombs were opened, and the bodies [not souls] of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs [the tombs being on earth!] after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

            This passage is talking about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the bodily resurrection of "saints" from their tombs on earth. Why would it then be the case that they "appeared to many" in heaven? And are you saying that in addition to Jesus (who rose bodily into heaven) and Mary (who was bodily assumed), there are now saints in heaven with physical bodies?

          • Mila

            "And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. [Certainly this refers to the earthly, Jerusalem temple, not a temple in the "New Jerusalem."] The earth quaked [on earth!], rocks were split [on earth!], on earth [note it says "on earth"!] tombs were opened, and the bodies [not souls] of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs [the tombs being on earth!] after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many."

            See my link from the USCCB about that interpretation.

          • David Nickol

            See my link from the USCCB about that interpretation.

            If you feel that the NAB commentary somehow supports your view that the "holy city" is not the earthly Jerusalem, could you point out exactly what brings you to that conclusion? I can't see anything to support your interpretation.

          • Mila

            I was referring to your interpretation about the earth quaked etc....

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It seems that a book that was meant to objectively report historical facts as accurately as possible, occasionally slips into other genres.

          • William Davis

            Perhaps the resurrection shouldn't be taken literally either, that would make this simple :)

          • Papalinton

            A physical resurrection should never been taken seriously at any time.

      • Mike

        Seems to me like the passages could be interpreted literally or figuratively but the RCC interprets both (the lit. and the fig.) in one way as symbolizing one truth or a particular theme. The RCC as far as i know doesn't tell ppl how they "must" interpret the various passages of the bible.

        I don't know ancient greek but the english translation seems that as the 3 (51-53) passages begin right after the "finale" of the death and with the words, "And behold" it seems like mathew is summarizing the point or the message of the death so like we'd say at the end of some lecture "henceforth freedom reigned and all the tears were wiped away" in a sort of grande sweeping statement. In 54 it jumps right to the centurion so that means the summing up is done. So figuratively it makes sense to me.

        Literally it also works as jc raised lazarus and the little girl and so maybe the saints came out walked around and then died again.

        Personally actually i think the tone and the placement of and the words "and behold" seem to me to indicate a figurative interpretation.

        As to why this isn't recorded by the roman officials in charge maybe it was bc they saw it all as just more mumbo jumbo sorcery - not that it didn't happen but that they had no reason to see it AS impossible as we would and so they shrugged it off? If the saints bodies were the "new" bodies then we'd have a problem but same old bodies? the romans probably just though yeah nice trick you religious weirdos.

        Anyway hope you had a nice easter weekend.

  • This should relate well to analytical problem solving. Which theory about what really
    happened can account for the data? I teach this and deal with this at work a lot.

    - Any overgeneralizations are first separated & clarified.
    - Relevant data is sorted from irrelevant data so the problem can be well defined.
    - Once the problem is well defined plausible theories are formed.
    - The theory that fits the data best is accepted (for further testing).
    Best means: The theory with the most reasonable assumptions, overall simplest assumptions and the fewest assumptions. We will spend company resources on the best theory with no absolute proof it is actually right. It is done with a kind of faith in the people & the process.
    Should be interesting…

    • Michael Murray

      I think a better analogy would be that apologists are like consultants. When you have decided what you want to do with your company (or government) and need to sell it you hire consultants whose job it is to tell you to do what you hare already decided to do. Apologists have the answer already. The arguments are purely there to shore it up.

      • Hi Michael,
        Funny you should say that since we also do something at work called "Decision Analysis". It is more about the intent of the stakeholders, their objectives and their opinions and less about facts. Problem Analysis is about finding a root cause with the given facts or in other words "finding the truth".

        • William Davis

          You think problem analysis would really come up with a miraculous resurrection as a root cause? How often has that happened? (problem solving is a major part of my job too)
          I'm pretty sure if you presented a miracle as an answer you would get fired, try it sometime ;) just make sure it's april fools day, lol

          • "You think problem analysis would really come up with a miraculous resurrection as a root cause?"
            No, but I think similar logic will show #1 above "Jesus Rose" to be the most reasonable theory given the facts we have using NO assumptions about deism or atheism.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In your experience, how often has God raised people from the dead?

            In your experience, how often have people:

            1) lied for personal gain
            2) lied for a good cause
            3) hallucinated
            4) believed something that is false
            5) exaggerated
            6) incorrectly remembered

            How often has a myth arisen as time passed?

            All of these things are in our experience, except God raising people from the dead. As such, they are all more likely, regardless of sophistical reasons to the contrary.

            Edit: Formatting

          • In my "experience" with Dr. Kreeft will answer all six of your items. Stay tuned an remain objective.
            Happy Easter!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In my extensive experience with Kreeft, the answers have never been satisfactory.
            Happy Easter!

          • Doug Shaver

            My introduction to Kreeft was when I read Lee Strobel's The Case for Faith several years ago. I was unimpressed by the logic he used in that interview.

          • Hi Doug, how goes the battle?
            Have you read "Jacobs ladder: 10 Steps to Truth”? Maybe you'll like that one better. Here is a summary in my own meager words:
            http://2catholicmen.blogspot.com/2014/06/answering-sweeping-question-with.html

          • Doug Shaver

            What I like is beside the point, but if your summary of his argument is accurate, his logic in that book is worse than it was in Strobel's book.

          • Can you share a specific example of what you found to be illogical in the 10 steps?

          • Doug Shaver

            Can you share a specific example of what you found to be illogical in the 10 steps?

            Since they're supposed to be steps to the truth, several come quickly to mind.

            1. Passion. We have no reason at all to suppose that powerful emotions enhance our ability to discern truth from falsehood, and this is regardless of whether we're talking about good emotions such as love or bad emotions such as hate. The truth can, and often does, conflict with our passions, and when that happens, our usual reaction is to deny the truth.

            2. Truth. "If you are truly passionate, it’s not a big step to get to the second rung of the ladder and accept objective truth as something real." This is begging the question. The passion with which you affirm that X is objectively true does not make it so.

            3. Meaning. Kreeft begs the question of whether life has any meaning.

            4. Love. "If we are only physical beings, then it stands to reason that only physical things are needed to keep us happy." This is a non sequitur. It does not stand to reason just because Kreeft says it does.

            I could go on, but I believe I have answered your question.

          • To equate human passion for the good, the beautiful and the true to only human emotion (happy, sad, mad, etc) would be a gross over-simplification.

            “The passion with which you affirm that X is objectively
            true does not make it so.” Agreed, but it will make you search for what will make it so, and believing that object truth actually exist is half the battle, and the search goes on from there.
            I could go on....
            Take care.

          • Doug Shaver

            To equate human passion for the good, the beautiful and the true to only human emotion (happy, sad, mad, etc) would be a gross over-simplification.

            Passion, emotion, feeling, whatever . . . . There might be some useful semantic distinctions, but they're all referring to the same thing.

            “The passion with which you affirm that X is objectively true does not make it so.” Agreed, but it will make you search for what will make it so,

            If you search with that approach, you are begging to be deceived by confirmation bias. We are all naturally prone to that bias, but that is no excuse for indulging it. If we want to know what is really true, we must at least try to pretend that we don't care what the truth turns out to be. An appropriate use for passion is to let it drive us to examine evidence that we wish didn't even exist.

          • Again Agreed! We should look at ALL the data, not just the data we like. Not only physical and scientific data, but also metaphysical and philosophical data. Catholicism accommodates all these things to form an explainable model of reality.

          • Doug Shaver

            Not only physical and scientific data, but also metaphysical and philosophical data.

            When we have agreed on what the physical and scientific data tell us, then we can talk about whether some metaphysical or philosophical data can tell us something different.

          • Doug Shaver

            Hi Doug, how goes the battle?

            I'm just one foot soldier in a pretty big army, but I think I'm defending myself OK.

          • Michael Murray
          • Michael Murray

            Best saved for covering your stuff ups I think.

            "No, I keep explaining, I didn't leave the laptop behind in that bar an angel took it from me as I was getting out of the car".

  • David Nickol

    Isn't the clear implication that if anyone reads this series and still does not believe Jesus rose from the dead, he or she will be at least intellectually deficient, if not intellectually dishonest? As Luke Cooper points out, Kreeft makes this bold assertion: "Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history." Presumably the claim could be made that if you believe, say, that Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC, if you then don't believe Jesus rose from the dead, you have some kind of double standard when it comes to ancient history.

    As noted, the series is being excerpted from Handbook of Catholic Apologetics. It seems to me that sometimes apologetics seeks not exactly to persuade, but to trap people into a false position with arguments such as the famous "trilemma." Similarly, we are presented here with a "pentalemma." We are presented with five alternatives, four of which will be "proven" to be unacceptable, and we will be forced to conclude that Jesus rose from the dead. This doesn't strike me as a historian's approach, which one would expect from someone who claims the "resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history."

    • Roman

      I think what you're overlooking is that Dr. Kreeft is a philosopher and he generally uses philosophical arguments to support his claims. Your comment that apologetics seeks to "trap people into a false position with arguments such as the famous trilemma" strikes me is strange. Apologetics is simply defending your beliefs. I know you don't like the trilemma argument. You've said it often enough. But calling it an argument that seeks to trap???? C'mon. Its a simple argument that presents 3 reasonable alternatives to who Jesus is. As I mentioned before, C.S. Lewis formulated that argument based on an assumption that the New Testament documents were credible. You could certainly challenge that assumption, and add a fourth possibility, i.e., he was a legend. So, you have the quadralemma; Liar, Lunatic, Legend, or Lord.

      • David Nickol

        But calling it an argument that seeks to trap???? C'mon. Its a simple argument that presents 3 reasonable alternatives to who Jesus is.

        Yes, lair, lunatic, lord. How many people, even non-Christians, want to say, "Jesus was a liar," or "Jesus was a lunatic"? Much as I respect C. S. Lewis, the argument is a trap.

        • William Davis

          If you read Mark, Jesus never called himself God. He was the son of God like David and Solomon. He even makes comments like "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God above." Escaping the trap then is simple, Jesus never claimed to be God, that was invented after the fact, and only found in later gospels. Just read this moving passage from Mark 14:

          32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba,[h] Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

          Poor Jesus was pleading with God to stop the crucifixion. This is clearly a man, not God.

          • Doug Shaver

            Poor Jesus was pleading with God to stop the crucifixion. This is clearly a man, not God.

            You have to remember that most Christians say he was both. So, the man part could do things that God wouldn't do, and the God part could do things that a man couldn't do.

          • William Davis

            Sure, but to think that they have to draw from other gospels, specifically John. I say that I simply prioritize the first gospel, Mark, and reject the others where they disagree with Mark. John doesn't even have a directly comparable passage to this, and Jesus seems to be perfectly fine with his crucifixion, in direct contradiction to Mark.

          • Papalinton

            In John, the crucifixion is a walk in the park for Jesus.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you're going to argue with Christians, you need to address what they say and their arguments for saying it. You're not doing that if you just pick one gospel and say it's the only believable one.

          • William Davis

            No, I'm presenting a possible theory of what happened. A possible theory is that Jesus existed, was a moral teacher/faith healer and never pretended to be God. It was later embellishment that turned him into God. It is one of an infinite number of possible theories, review the context, I was stepping out of the tri-lemma arugment (liar, lunatic or lord). That argument presupposes Jesus claimed to be God.

          • Doug Shaver

            That argument presupposes Jesus claimed to be God.

            Yes, but that presupposition is one element of a larger presupposition, which incorporates a particular interpretation of the canonical gospels.

    • Doug Shaver

      The way it has looked to me for a long time, apologetics' heavy hitters are not trying to persuade unbelievers. Or at least, that is not their primary purpose. Their primary purpose rather is to reassure those who already believe. Of course they would be glad to win a few new converts while they're at it, but they must know that their arguments, almost certainly, will not accomplish that.

    • Doug Shaver

      Isn't the clear implication that if anyone reads this series and still does not believe Jesus rose from the dead, he or she will be at least intellectually deficient, if not intellectually dishonest?

      It does seems so.

      As Luke Cooper points out, Kreeft makes this bold assertion: "Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history."

      I assume his next five posts will be an attempt to prove that statement. Let's see how well he does.

      • Michael Murray

        I assume his next five posts will be an attempt to prove that statement. Let's see how well he does.

        Except the method of proof is already flawed. He has already decided, without proof, that there are only five possible explanations.

        • Doug Shaver

          He has already decided, without proof, that there are only five possible explanations.

          That's OK. Let him think he's stacked the deck in his favor.

  • From the opening paragraph Kreeft implies that we should apply the same standard of evidence to supernatural accounts found in historical documents, like the resurrection, as we do for natural accounts, like the crucifixion. I think this is wrong. The standard of evidence should be based on the prior probability. Even if you accept that miracles occur, we need to consider how likely they are compared to the competing theories. We can all agree that they are rare, very rare compared to lying, hallucination and myth-making. Miracles involving raising from the dead simply do not occur outside the Bible.

    So for the example of Jesus being crucified, well we have lots and lots of accounts of people being executed by Romans, we probably have some physical evidence, and nothing in crucifixion requires suspending or an exception to laws of nature. So when we have an account in an ancient text we have little reason to doubt it happened.

    On the other hand, outside the New Testament we have no evidence for anyone rising from the dead. All things being equal we generally characterize this as physically impossible. So we have good reason to be very suspicious of such an account. Therefore we look at alternatives and how common they are. That ancient texts are inaccurate is very common, even for the New Testament. We have lots of examples of texts that are exaggerated or flat out lies. We also have many many examples of people hallucinating. We know that a significant percentage of temporal lobe epileptic seizures are accompanied by religious experiences. We have thousands of stories that we also accept as myth.

    This doesn't mean we presuppose that a miracle couldn't be what happened, but it does mean we need a lot more evidence than we would need for claims of natural events.

    Finally, there seems to be an assumption that there are credible accounts of a risen Christ. I am not so sure the accounts in the Bible are credible. We have a handful of texts that are anonymous and mostly written decades after the resurrection. But I think historians do generally accept that there were accounts of people who claimed to have seen him risen, and I could even go so far as to accept as a historical fact that some people saw something that they interpreted as Jesus risen. But these claims alone are insufficient for me to accept that someone survived his death. It is just far too improbable compared to these accounts being the result of lies, exaggeration, hallucination, error, or additions in copying texts. The handful of hearsay is not enough evidence.

  • Paul Rimmer touches on this below but I think it is very interesting. Dr Kreeft simply excludes an alien Jesus or that Jesus did not exist as just to silly or fringe to be considered. While not widely accepted, neither of these claims requires an exception to the laws of nature. I agree with Hume that any miracle claim will be basically by definition, the least likely. Can we atheists not similarly dismiss the god explanation?

  • And the most important that the world is in urgent need for his Teachings. LOVE.

    • Michael Murray

      Comment deleted. Put it in the wrong place. Sorry.

    • Doug Shaver

      If we cannot prove the importance of love without insisting that a certain great man said it was important, then it is not so important after all.

  • Michael Murray

    This statement is false.

    There are five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy, and swoon.

    There could be lots of other theories.

    So this conclusion doesn't follow.

    If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1).

  • Doug Shaver

    we do not need to presuppose anything controversial

    So far, so good, but what if we disagree about whether a presupposition is controversial? At this stage of the discussion, maybe we can just hope that won't happen.

    We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true. We do not need to presuppose that there really was an empty tomb or post-resurrection appearances, as recorded.

    OK: "or even true." That means we're not allowing any argument that we should believe something just because the New Testament affirms it.

    We need to presuppose only two things, both of which are hard data, empirical data, which no one denies: The existence of the New Testament texts as we have them, and the existence (but not necessarily the truth) of the Christian religion as we find it today.

    Those aren't even really presuppositions. They're just observations. But, if we must call them presuppositions, I will stipulate that they are not controversial.

    They are also the only possibilities, unless we include really far-out ideas that responsible historians have never taken seriously,

    So, we now have a presupposition that if a theory has never been taken seriously by "responsible historians" up to the present time, then it deserves no serious consideration. I do not agree that this presupposition is uncontroversial.

    But that's OK. I don't need to derail this conversation into a historicity debate. Kreeft is presupposing Jesus' existence; so be it. I believe it is reasonable to doubt the resurrection even while assuming that (a) Jesus really lived and was executed by Pontius Pilate and (b) certain of his disciples were responsible for the founding of Christianity. And, for the sake of discussion, I will stipulate that Kreeft's five theories exhaust the possibilities. But I don't agree that they are mutually exclusive. I will await his elaboration before commenting further.

  • Michael Murray

    6. Jesus was a wizard.

    Witches and wizards are living amongst us and they are planning to announce themselves. To make us more comfortable with their existence they planted a series of childrens stories in J.K. Rowling's mind. How else do you explain the extraordinary success of a book series by a person who had published nothing before. Clearly it was magic. Why do we not notice them ? Memory altering charms.

  • Michael Murray

    Notice that the link above

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm

    contains the whole argument so you don't have to wait to see the whole thing unfold day by day.

  • Papalinton

    There are so many accounts, stories, narratives of dead and rising gods, warriors etc throughout history. It simply beggars belief to think any one of them is more true than the others, when we are mindful that each and every recorded account had its ardent followers who utterly believed in the veracity of their particular 'dead and rising god' narrative. In fact history is littered with dead and rising gods. Why should the Jesus of the NT be afforded any form of special pleading above any other dead and rising god mythos?

    The case for resurrection has always been flawed simply because of the highly tendentious and profoundly problematic nature of the argument. To punt to resurrection as the most plausible scenario is philosophically fanciful and a very unclever piece of supernatural wishlisting.

  • Peter

    At the end of the day, belief in the Resurrection is a question of faith. However, what is evident is that its consequences have saved the world. Of course, Jesus' Death and Resurrection bought the salvation of mankind from eternal damnation, which is its central theme. But what I'm talking about here are the material implications of the Resurrection in that it has literally saved mankind from extinction.

    The consequence of the Resurrection is Christianity and Christianity played its greatest role in saving mankind during the 20th century where wholesale butchery coincided with weapons of great destruction and extreme ideologies. Without Christian values prevailing in most parts of the belligerent world, curtailing the worst excesses of death and destruction and preventing further escalation towards total annihilation, the human race could be extinct by now, or at best, a shattered chaotic remnant. Without the Resurrection the world we know would not be here.

    • Well let us look at this in a little more detail. Are you talking a out the Nazis? Then surely you must admit that a formidable foe of the Nazis was the Soviet Union, without whom, victory for the Allies would have been really rather unlikely. It would seem that at minimum both the Christian west and atheist Soviets were instrumental defeating the genocidal Nazis. But of course it is not at all clear that the Nazis were turning away from this idea that good will overcome evil. They believed this explicitly. They just believed different things were evil such as communism and Judaism. They also believed homosexuality was intrinsically disordered which I think is pretty consistent with Catholic views. Now the nazis thought it best to exterminate homosexuals, Catholics currently do not share that view, but they have been very oppressive in the past, for example with the Cathars.

      Now I am not one to say that Hitler was a catholic, but the nazis were not terribly anti catholic or religious. You can certainly find Christmas scenes with swastikas and crosses together. Both hitler and the pope were willing to work together.

      Now you are probably talking about soviet, Chinese and other communist crimes against humanity in the 20 the century. Certainly these were abominable and unjustified. But they were not premised on turning away from Christian values. They were consolidations of power and done in the name of necessary evils, as were the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the massive firebombing of Japan, the intentional targeting of civilians in Dresden.

      And what Christian values exactly require the fighting of massive wars, proxy wars, and enormous build ups of nuclear weapons that could destroy the world? Turning the other cheek? Loving thy neighbour? Disposing of all one's possessions and following Christ?

      • cminca

        I am so surprised that this post survives.

      • Peter

        If Hitler loved Christians so much, why did he imprison, torture and execute thousands of Christians, including Christian ministers, in Dachau and other camps? And if the Soviets loved Christians so much, why did they burn down all the churches and nail the clergy to the doors? Both Hitler and Stalin, albeit of Christian origin themselves, hated Christianity and no amount of disinformation disseminated by atheists will change that.

        • I didn't say Hitler or the Soviets loved Christians. Clearly, though what Hitler hated the most was the Jews and the Communists. He was not so hateful of the Christian west, he made alliances with both communist and Christian nations. The Soviets also fought valiantly against the Nazis and were instrumental in their defeat. You can find many examples of Nazis and Soviets oppressing just about every group, including other Nazis and Soviets. Hitlers attacks on his own Brown shirts and Stalin's purges of people like Trotsky.

          The point being that these organizations and and ideologies are much more complicated than being anti-Christian groups that favoured death and evil as is portrayed, or that Christian values defeated them. Certainly they were abhorrent, but it is nt at all clear that Christianity was anything like a focus of their hate or that Chirstianity played a central role in their defeat.

          We see this again with Chinese communists who also fought against the Japanese and arguably outdid the massacres of both the Nazis and Soviets combined. Certainly they were not driven by Christian values.

          What we find in these regimes is a psychopathic totalitarianism, bent on destroying any group that is at all independent from the regime, or could pose a threat. What is in conflict wit these regimes is humanist values of equality and freedom and protection of marginalized minorities right to exist and express themselves. These can be adopted by atheists and Christians. But what is also clear is that the Catholic Church has not always embraced these values, to say the least.

          • Peter

            So what you are suggesting is that the 26 million Christian martyrs of the 20th century- some estimates reach 45 million - killed themselves? Of course they didn't; somebody killed them for being Christian. Without these martyrs giving up their lives for what is right but instead acquiescing to the evil around them, the world today would be very different and far worse.

          • As for these 26 to 45 million, I've never heard of them before, so you would have to help me out with that. Who is this somebody who killed them for being Christian? That sounds really terrible.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history.

    Like the destruction of Pompeii?
    Sacking of Jerusalem?

  • I think the "Legend" explanation was forgotten. Perhaps omitted on purpose?

    • Doug Shaver

      I think the "Legend" explanation was forgotten. Perhaps omitted on purpose?

      Yes, and the writer stated his purpose. He wants to the reader to suppose that it is too absurd to merit further discussion.

  • That we might come here today and wish some a Happy Easter and others a great Sunday is at least weakly truth-indicative THAT something meaningful happened to our community, two thousand years ago!

    Happy Easter, fellow followers!

    Have a great Sunday, friends all!

    • Papalinton

      No. It has all to do with cultural conditioning rather than any defining incident two millennia ago.

      • False dichotomy.

        • Papalinton

          I don't think so. The evidence for social/cultural conditioning far outweighs the evidence for any magical/fantastical/miracle event around which religions are fabricated. L Ron Hubbard, E-metres and Xenu of the Scientologists, the dead and rising Jesus and the epileptic Paul of the christians, Joseph Smith, the Angel Moroni and the golden tablets from Upstate New York for the Mormons, the Dead and Rising God Osiris and Isis of the Egyptians/

          I cannot help but smile AT THIS article on Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe:

          "Our long-awaited messiah and redeemer arrived! Most Jews failed to recognize that he was the messiah, but we, his disciples, did."

          How strange? Déjà-vue. I'm sure I heard of this happening before? Of Course! Now the Jews have mussed it up a second time.

          JohnBoy, I don't think one should read too much or too closely into the peculiar events our ancient and primitive forefathers might have thought relevant at the time.

          Cheers

          • I need to understand this in baby steps. First, explain how the fact that a set of propositions might be culturally conditioned could, in and of itself, ever be sufficient to diminish in any degree, much less wholly disestablish, its truth value. Cheerio!

          • Papalinton

            What set of culturally conditioned propositions and its concomitant truth value do you have in mind gleaned from my comments?

          • So, you're telling me there's a chance!

          • Please tell me this is a Dumb and Dumber reference. If so, you'll get an upvote, haha.

          • Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

          • Rightfully earned! Can't say I'm a Lebowski fan, though. I don't know why, but it never resonated with me.

            Edit: Okay--I promise to stop talking about movies. Sorry, moderators!

          • Problem is that there's a bunch of slackers out there who mistakenly thought the lifestyle was presented as something to emulate. The world has enough practical nihilists from those of us who inadvertently behaving that way and certainly doesn't need anyone perfecting it as artform. What's a moderator?

          • Excellent point!

            A moderator is someone who has the ability to delete and edit comments, and ban commenters (usually done when things get off topic or nasty). In Disqus, a moderator is often signified with "Mod" by someone's name. I know that Brandon Vogt and Matthew Becklo are moderators on SN. Not sure if there are others.

          • Dude, I knew what a moderator is and I shoulda used an emoticon ;)

          • Ugh. I feel like a fool, haha. I was surprised you asked that, but I like to take people seriously when I'm in doubt. I've made enough interpretation mistakes that led me to saying something I regret that I now assume people are being genuine by default. I know--it's irrational idealism, but it makes me feel better about people :)

          • My first thought was, indeed, what a genuinely nice guy! So, thanks. Good to lighten things up, though.

          • Papalinton

            I don't know until you tell me what set of culturally conditioned proposals of which you were thinking.

          • We already discussed my interpretation of humankind's faith traditions, in general:
            https://strangenotions.com/exorcising-epistemology/#comment-1868386435

            Those interested can also track the comments that precede and follow the one cited above in that particular thread.

            In a nutshell, a great deal of religious asceticisms, disciplines and practices are nonpropositional. Those aspects that are propositional are highly nuanced, often requiring the inhabiting of enculturated symbol systems, rigorous comparative theology and deep interreligious dialogue. Thus properly considered, a richly textured religious pluralism is revealed, including a polydoxic variety of ways of being-in-love with distinct aspects of ultimate reality.

            This is all to say that facile comparisons of belief systems as if they were necessarily merely mutually exclusive propositional accounts entails a seeking of easy answers to all the wrong questions.

          • Papalinton

            "In a nutshell, a great deal of religious asceticisms, disciplines and practices are nonpropositional." Devotion [for want of a better word], self-discipline or abstention is not unlike martyrdom. They say little about the veracity of the pursuit but say volumes about the emotive intensity.

            "Those aspects that are propositional are highly nuanced, often requiring the inhabiting of enculturated symbol systems, rigorous comparative theology and deep interreligious dialogue."

            As I had previously noted, wholly predicated on social/cultural conditioning rather than the veracity of any particular 2,000 year-old event . Your 'highly nuanced' is a euphemism for reading a religious proposition from a particular perspective and mindframe. Those that cannot converse in the requisite religio-speak might miss the nuancing, as it seems you are implying of me, particularly the little personal snippet, 'facile comparisons'. Sorry Johnboy, your reasoning is little more than fanciful sophistry. I simply don't buy your frame of reference.

          • For any who may have an interest in that reasoning known as the philosophia perennis, see: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perennial_philosophy

            For any who may have an interest in polydoxy, see:http://www.drew.edu/library/2010/05/new-faculty-publication-polydoxy

            For a catholic perspective that resonates with the perennial philosophy, see:
            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rohr

            As I had previously noted, wholly predicated on social/cultural conditioning rather than the veracity of any particular 2,000 year-old event

            You did note that but you failed to demonstrate why anyone should consider sociocultural conditioning and historical veracity as necessarily mutually exclusive. If one wants to characterize plausibilistic interpretations in terms of veracity, one might think in terms of conforming to facts, but not in more robustly probabilistic terms.

          • Papalinton

            I'm intrigued. Where did I remark sociocultural conditioning and historical veracity as mutually exclusive?

            "If one wants to characterize plausibilistic interpretations in terms of veracity, one might think in terms of conforming to facts, but not in more robustly probabilistic terms."

            Why not? I would suggest that 'robust probabilistic" terms are the bread and butter of plausibilistic interpretations of veracity. Anything less is speculative and vulnerable to presuppositional bias. Religion has yet to make the case that a belief in supernaturalism is anything other than our predilection to imagine [a] grand cosmological agent[s] with teleological intent everywhere as a function of a suite of genetic evolutionary mechanisms to improve survival rates. I think the neurosciences and science generally are extricating the mythos of religious belief from the reality of the human condition.

          • Where did I remark sociocultural conditioning and historical veracity as mutually exclusive?

            When you wrote It has all to do with cultural conditioning rather than any defining incident two millennia ago, I apparently misinterpreted that, thinking you had suggested that it couldn't be both. I did find it curious that you would think that and considered you must have meant that only in the particular case at hand. However, when I charged false dichotomy, you responded with I don't think so. And neither did it seem that you applied it only in that particular case, for you elaborated with The evidence for social/cultural conditioning far outweighs the evidence for any magical/fantastical/miracle event around which religions are fabricated.. So, now, I think I'm properly gathering that you don't generally conceive of it as a false dichotomy but certainly think the dichotomy applies to any religious truth-values? Or maybe you can better help clarify this for me now that we've had this exchange. Thanks.

          • Why not? I would suggest that 'robust probabilistic" terms are the bread and butter of plausibilistic interpretations of veracity.

            Plausibility, in my view, traffics only in abductive and deductive inference, often including such as intuition and common sense. Probabilistic probes also include inductive inference, often including falsifiability, predictability, measurability, provability. Plausibility can be informatively suggestive but not decisive.

            So, plausibility is too weakly probabilistic. Arguments that trade intuitions and counterintuitions, plausibilities and implausibilities, are very compelling and, to me, not very interesting.

            Now, we absolutely want to avail ourselves of probabilistic methods, so would never eschew those in principle. It's a practical determination, rather, that we make when we observe that a given reality lies beyond our present methodological reach (e.g. the initial, boundary and limit conditions of the cosmos or some of the historical events recounted in the New Testament).

          • re:'facile comparisons'

            You're right. I don't want that to imply an ad hominem. Also, I don't want to cursorily dismiss what I might better have called surface analyses because many ideological stances don't really lend themselves to much more. What I do want to emphasize is that, often enough, we will discover the need to go beyond our surface analyses, digging deeper with literary-historical criticism, engaging inhabited symbol systems and sorting through different religious enculturations.

          • Papalinton

            And I can appreciate your perspective. For me, scientific literacy and informed analysis is a necessary inclusion into the literary-historical paradigm.
            Having become aware of your stance I apologise for the times I might have been less than gracious in earlier dialogue.

          • I apologize for getting testy at times myself. I've made some great new friends, at least cyberacquaintences, here and among the EN cohort. I'd be delighted if our relationship has evolved into mutual respect and understanding, really pleased to have found yet another friend. I'm an autodidact not an academic and have an idiosyncratic writing style because, I suspect, I lacked classroom feedback from teachers and peers. Hence, I lapse into impenetrably dense prose that some have told me is very off-putting. But I keep dusting myself off and trying to translate my intuitions into something accessible. Folks asking questions or seeking clarification helps me improve but it's difficult. So, I share responsibility is what I'm saying. Thanks, Papalinton.

          • In response to: "In a nutshell, a great deal of religious asceticisms, disciplines and practices are nonpropositional."

            You wrote: Devotion [for want of a better word], self-discipline or abstention is not unlike martyrdom. They say little about the veracity of the pursuit but say volumes about the emotive intensity.

            Those nonpropositional practices I refer to involve what Lonergan called secular conversions, which include intellectual, affective, moral and social dispositions that are horizon-oriented, which basically means openness to new info in those aspects of our experience. That openness is distinct from (prerequisite to, in fact) the actual growth and development that occurs in those areas, as was fleshed out by Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Maslow and other developmental social scientists. Collectively, they might be thought of as authenticity, an essential humility, a self-transcendence that's prerequisite to any self-actualization. That's an essential soteriological (nurturing & healing) trajectory, a path we're all on, independent of any religious or ideological stance, but certainly fostered by any stance, well conceived, well intentioned and well executed. This is to recognize that human value-realizations of beauty, goodness, unity, freedom, love and so on can be enjoyed in abundance by anyone and everyone, whatever their existential orientation to ultimate and primal realities, whether theological, atheological or nontheological. To me, this isn't an idle philosophic abstraction but a concrete, lived experience, which I claim to have experienced in my life and which many others would affirm.

            This is all distinct, however, from the devotional aspect, which does have attendant practices and rituals. This is what I refer to as the polydoxic, sophiological trajectories, the different ways of being in love with emphases on different aspects of primal and/or ultimate realities. For simplicity's sake, just think of the time-honored image of different folks grasping different parts of an elephant. This is where the essence of any leap of faith occurs. It entails sustained authenticity for thinkers like Abraham Maslow, Viktor Frankl and Bernard Lonergan have observed that authenticity can only be sustained by being-in-love.

            This being-in-love is broadly conceived to include others and cosmos and God and such. One thus aspires through devotional aspirations to superabundant value-realizations and whether or not their given approach thus delivers is a sociologic metric we all can observe and measure to an extent (by their fruits). No too few of us apologists end up being rather poor exemplars.

          • That several Christian celebrations piggybacked on other time-honored festivals doesn't have anything to do with what I said in response to the OP regarding the resurrection event.

          • Papalinton

            Johnboy, are you a Christian?

          • Papalinton, yes. I am a Christian and I most resonate with catholic sensibilities, including the anglican, orthodox and roman.

          • Papalinton

            Thanks for clearing that up. As you might have concluded I am atheist. We probably will not agree on many issues but I do appreciate understanding something about the interlocutor I am engaging.

          • You are welcome. As I mentioned elsewhere in the thread, while I defend certain religious interpretations as reasonable, suggestive, invitatory, etc, I don't consider them conclusive, decisive, coercive, etc While no religious interpretations are informatively decisive, this is not to suggest that all such approaches are equally suggestive (as epistemic virtue presents in degrees). Beyond an essential modicum of epistemic virtue, which can, in principle, per my view, be attained (or frustrated) by various theological, atheological and nontheological interpretations, a normatively justified leap seems eminently defensible vis a vis one's stance toward ultimate and/or primal realities. Beyond the weakly informative, performative criteria come to bear, which are essentially pragmatic, relational and often tie-broken by evaluative dispositions. Moral reasoning, contrastingly, requires us all to sit down and scratch our heads and plumb the depths of our hearts based on probabilistic, proximate realities without the benefit of putative special revelations. This is all just to say why I don't expect you or anyone else to adopt my religious frames when I share or defend them. They aren't strict arguments in a philosophical sense. Epistemology and morality differ in the sense that I would urge my views, argue them. Hope this helps. The written medium is difficult and terribly impoverished vs face to face, so, thanks for your patience.

    • Doug Shaver

      something meaningful happened to our community, two thousand years ago!

      Of course it did. Some people started a new religion that, over the next few centuries, became the dominant religion of the Western world.

  • Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history.

    Stipulating to Kreeft's epistemic parity argument, informatively speaking, there's a burden of proof dynamism in play, performatively, based on what one expects to do with such evidence, based on how much normative impetus one imagines that evidence should exert on others' actions. How many events in ancient history share the same existential import, invite such a thorough-going, whole-hearted surrender of will? As it is, such matters of faith traffic in the weakly plausibilistic and not the robustly probabilistic. Properly approached and dutifully considered, faith responses can still be (aren't always) eminently reasonable and normatively justifiable, but they aren't probabilistically demonstrable or rationally coercive. And that applies to all such existential orientations.

  • Michael Murray

    There is another possibility, believed by a quarter of the world's population which is that Jesus was taken directly into heaven by God without dying.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_Islam

    Is there some logical reason this one hasn't been considered ?

    Thanks for Michael Newsham for this idea which he would have posted himself had he not been banned.

    http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/estranged-notions-rejecting-swoon.html#comment-1950191469

    • Papalinton

      What is interesting from an historical angle is that Muslims came to this profound conclusion 600 years after the purported Christian event, more than sufficient time for Christians to bed down the epistemological and ontological truths, facts and evidence. Indeed, one could not have had a more fortuitous or serendipitous period to work and iron out the wrinkles on the Christian narrative so that to deny it would have been simply madness and a travesty of reality. But not so. Just as there was no compelling historical evidence for Jesus as crucified God within Judaism from the outset, neither could 600 years of Christian proselytising and scholarship convince Muslims of the 'truth' of the Christian story. On the contrary, their 'evidence' trumped that of Christian 'evidence',
      Ironically, exactly the same God partakes in all three belief systems, three totally different narratives [well, fables really] to tell.

      With as many Muslims in the world as there are Christians, I would suggest the two competing stories cancel each other out of the 'fact claim' stakes.

      How do Christians reconcile to these facts other than through the proclivity for personal denial?

      • Michael Murray

        How do Christians reconcile to these facts other than through the proclivity for personal denial?

        Apparently Christians have a sensus divinitatis and Muslim's don't. Not sure about Jews

        http://www.jesusandmo.net/tag/sensus-divinitatis/

        • Papalinton

          "Sensus divinitatis ("sense of divinity"), also referred to as sensus deitatis ("sense of deity") or semen religionis ("seed of religion"), is a term first used by French Protestant reformer John Calvin to describe a hypothetical human sense." Wiki got it spot on.

    • Luke C.

      Thanks to both Michaels for bringing to my attention the common Islamic interpretation of the event in question, specifically the substitution interpretation (footnotes deleted and bold added for clarity):

      While most western scholars, Jews, and Christians believe Jesus died, most Muslims believe he ascended to Heaven without being put on the cross and God transformed another person, Simon of Cyrene, to appear exactly like Jesus who was crucified instead of Jesus (cf. Irenaeuus' description of the heresy of Basilides, Book I, ch. XXIV, 4) Matthew 27:32 Mark 15:21 Luke 23:26. Jesus ascended bodily to Heaven, there to remain until his Second Coming in the End Days.

      I think an even simpler and less cruel substitution interpretation could be that God substituted a p-zombie doppelganger of Jesus sometime before the crucifixion (no need for Simon of Cyrene to suffer and die) and that Jesus' ascension was hidden from the onlookers.

      Edit: There's also a whole Wiki article devoted to Jesus' death in Islam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_view_of_Jesus%27_death

  • Luc Regis

    Late to the gate here....all this talk of alien activity in the time of Jesus and the so called resurrection is very entertaining of course...but it seems that the credibillity of the testimony of the New Testament authors is what is actually at stake....and given the fact that most of it was written 70 or more years after the fact, and that it was penned by those that were not even there at the time of the event, and the authors were depending upon oral tradition and legend for the accuracy of their version of what can only very loosely be referred to as history in any sense of the word.

  • You say, "if Jesus didn't rise, then the apostles, who taught that he did...." - here, we already have a problem, as we have no idea what, if anything, the apostles taught. The authors of the gospels were NOT Mark, Matthew, Luke and John (son of Zebedee), but rather anonymous authors, writing from four to seven decades after the alleged event, who were not there and witnessed nothing.