Saturday, December 02, 2006

More NT Wright

This is from Simply Christian:

Nor was it the case, as some writers are fond of saying, that the idea of resurerection was found in religions all over the ancient Near East. Dying and rising "gods," yes corn kings, fertility deities, and teh like. But even supposing Jesus's very Jewish followers knew any traditions like those pagan ones nobody in those religions ever supposed it actually happened to individual humans. No. The best explanation by far for the rise of Christianity is that Jesus really did reappear, not as a battered, bleeding, survivor, not as a ghost (the stories are very clear about that), but as a living, bodily human being.

(I am skipping the next paragragh that talks about the nature of Jesus's body)

That kind of conclusion is always frustrating from a scientific point of view. Science, after all, rightly studies phenomena which can be repeated in laboratory conditions. But history doesn't. Historians study things that happened once and once only; even if there are partial paralledls, each historical event is unique. And the historical arguement is quite clear. To repeat: far and away the best explanation for why Christianity began after Jesus's violent death is that he really was bodily alive again three days later, in a transformed body.

I am not suggesting that this (or any other arguement) can force anyone to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. It is always open to anyone to say, "well, I haven't got a better explanation for the rise of Christianity; but since I know dead people never rise and never could, there must be some other explanation." That is a perfectly logical positions. The trouble is, ofcourse, that believing that Jesus was raised from the dead involves, at the very least, supending judgement on matters normally regarded as fixed and unalterable; or to put it more psitively, it requires that we exchange a worldview which says that such things can't happen for one embracing the notion of a creator God making himself known initially in the traditions of Israel and then fully and finally in Jesus, says that Jesus's resurrection makes perfect sense when seen from that point of view. Faith can't be forced, but unfaith can be challenged. That is how it has always been, from the very beginning when people have vorne witness to Jesus's resurection.

There are, in fact, partial parallels to this kind of thing precisely in the world of contemporary science. Scientists now regularly ask us to believe things which seem strange and even illogicial, not the least in the areas of astrophysics or quantum mechanics. With something as basic as light, for example, they find themselves driven to speak in terms both of waves and of particles, though these appear incompatible. Sometimes, to make sense of the actual evidence before us, we have to pull our worldview, our sense of what's possible, into a new shape. That is the kind of thing demanded by the evidence about Easter.

Pages 113 and 114

N T Wright, Simply Christian

hope you liked that



Steven Carr said...

''But even supposing Jesus's very Jewish followers knew any traditions like those pagan ones nobody in those religions ever supposed it actually happened to individual humans....'

So nobody thought that Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the grave, or that he was Elijah or Jeremiah returned.

And Moses was not resurrected when he returned from the grave to appear at the Transfiguration? Did he die again?

And many people had believed that Zalmoxis had returned from the dead.

Sceptical opponents of that belief claimed that Zalmoxis had merely hidden.

Perhaps he really had just hidden, but there was no point in explaining away a belief that nobody had, so clearly the sceptics were scoffing at a real belief that Zalmoxis had returned from the grave.

And, of course, many early Christians converted to Jesus-worship, clearly believed that, as in the case of Adam, God could breathe life into dead matter, but still scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse.

Steven Carr said...

'Dying and rising "gods," yes corn kings, fertility deities, and teh like.'

Did early Christians liken the resurrection of Jesus to the return of crops each year?

The Rev said...

I think that you are not thoroughly understanding the piece Steven. First N T Wright is saying that this was in no ones thought that a Jewish Messiah would rise from the dead bodily. Secondly, it says that though there were "myths" in the Greek pagan cultures, these would most likely not be known by the very very Jewish common folk of first century Jerusalem. And even if they did know of these they would not have expected this among their time and culture.

Zalmoxis had very quickly become myth, and "godlike" in the Greek culture. He was thought to be the holder of the gates of immortality in the heavens. And his three years in "hades" did not in any way show and actually executed body, murdered and then buried, and then risen three days later. This was a case of someone disappearing for three years and coming back. Nobody saw a dead body.

As to your other thoughts, John the baptist killed while Jesus was still alive. Reincarnation is not resurection. As to Moses, there is not recorded understanding of Moses eating and drinking, and this could well have been in the disciples eyes a spirit or ghost.

In the Jewish context and theology of resurection, all people would be raised up at the end time. Not in the middle of history, with one man. And if you do some research on first century Jerusalem, you find many "messiahs" and when executed they all are no longer considered messiahs because they died without fulfilling the task. Israel was still under Roman rule.

But Jesus, is executed, and the claims for his Messiahship not only grow, but the claims that the Kingdom of God is here continue. Can you provide another explanation as to why this happened? The disciples believed the kingdom come, because the King had returned.


Steven Carr said...

It appears that Wright simply cannot explain why early Christians had converted to Jesus-worship while still scoffing at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse.

Look at Acts 17, and this was supposed to be impossible. The scoffers of resurrection were not supposed to be the people who converted to Christianity.

Yet we know from Paul's letters that early converts scoffed at the idea of a corpse rising.

So clearly there was something about the resurrection of Jesus which made them doubt that bodies could rise.

The Corinthians believed in God, and seemed to believe the story of Adam being created from dead matter, but the resurrection of Jesus still raised doubts in their mind that God would choose to make dead matter live.

Of course, they believed Jesus had been a god, so they had no problem with Jesus living on in spirit form.

But how could ordinary mortals do that, they must have wondered?

As an analogy, people thought that Zeus could turn into a swan and back but would have scoffed at the idea of an ordinary swan turning into a god.

So the Corinthians could easily believe that a god could turn into a man and back after death, but how could ordinary beings do that? Jesus could leave his body behind, being a god, but how could they do that?

Paul resolves their doubts by telling them that Jesus was a type - the second Adam.

Just as we shared the nature of the first Adam (and so are doomed to die) , we will share the nature of the second Adam and become life-giving spirits.

So,no problem. We could do what Jesus did.

1 Corinthians 15 'If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.'

That is why the Corinthians were foolish to wonder what happened to their natural bodies. They didn't know that there was *also* a spiritual body.

'I think that you are not thoroughly understanding the piece Steven. First N T Wright is saying that this was in no ones thought that a Jewish Messiah would rise from the dead bodily.'

Yes, because the Bible does not prophesy any such thing.

So Wright concedes that certain people were believed to have risen bodily from the dead, and is simply adding enough qualifications to make the resurrection of Jesus unique.

And what is Wright's point?

Nobody expected a 7th-century Arab to receive revelation from the Angel Gabriel....

'As to Moses, there is not recorded understanding of Moses eating and drinking, and this could well have been in the disciples eyes a spirit or ghost.'

Really? They didn't see a body of Moses?

SO Wright has no objection to people seeing dead prophets return from the grave in non-bodily form, as a spirit.

Perhaps that is what Paul meant when he said 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit'. It fits , doesn't it?

And the case of Zalmoxis simply disproves Wright's claim that nobody believed that a dead person would bodily return and be deified.

The belief might have been false, but it existed, and Wright claims no such beliefs ever existed.

When looked at closer, Wright adds enough qualifications to mean that he is saying nothing.

You can always make things unique by adding qualifications.

Nobody in history had ever received revelation , so Muhammad's claim was unprecedented , and one which would not have occurred to him to make up.

(Provided you add the qualifications 'revelation in Arabic', and 'received from an angel)

I don't need to explain why early Christians thought the kingdom had come.

Can Wright explain why the author of 2 Peter didn't think the kingdom had come?

The author of 2 Peter never refutes the scoffers claim that nothing had changed. He just tells them that things will change in the future, without telling them that things actually *had* recently changed.

So Wright's whole premise is wrong....

Chris said...

I don't know about all the other comments ... but I think I liked the point he makes about history vs. science, that while science requires repeatable measurable data, historians have to rely on events that happened once. Maybe scientists would do well to consider that their experiments, while seemingly repeatable, are not ever going to be the same. One can sometimes get the lab conditions NEARLY the same, but the time at which the second experiment is done is a continuous variable, and minute differences in the experiment will eventually assert themselves. There's a good reason science has to repeat about twenty times for each experiment - variation kills exact science.

The Rev said...

Steven, with all due respect, I think you are wrong, quite wrong actually. I don't have a clue where you get the idea that early Christians scoffed at the idea of resurection, it does not come from Paul.

It appear you still do not get the point. Supposed Messiahs came and went in ancient Jerusalem, and with their death so did their movements die. However, with Jesus "revolution" the followers did not stop following the dead leader, infact they went on to continue to claim not only his Messiahship, but also his divinity. There is no conceivable reason why this would be true besides the literal resurection. As well as the fact that these "eyewitnesses" were martyred for their refusal to stop following Jesus, and calling him divine. There is no reason to follow a messiah that has failed, and at Jesus execution he failed the Messiah test, unless something different happened.

Now if you choose to disagree, that is fine, but Wrights reasoning is spot on. Like I said before, the Zalmoxis idea is not at all relevent to the conversation, as it was not a jewish story, nor was it an observed corpse buried and raised.

It would appear that you are responding to this in the same way Wright explains in the passage, you have decided that things will always be a certain way, and are forcing this history into that box.


David said...

The Rev knows that there is scant historical evidence for the existence of Christ. In fact, all existing evidence is based on hearsay written down decades after the alleged life of Jesus. The Gospels, with their contradictory accounts of Jesus' life were not even referred to by St. Paul. Paul writes as if Jesus never physically existed.

The Rev became "sucked into" Christianity during an impressionabe stage of his life. Having devoted much of his life to the Christian myths he now finds it hard to disentangle his lifestyle from these foolish myths. Deep down, the Rev realizes it's all a load of shit, which is why he gets angry so often.

The Rev said...

David, I get angry sometimes because you are an obnoxious jerk. You know sometimes that is enough to make people mad. Infact sometimes I get angry because people don't drive very well.

But in the future I would recomend you not try to tell others what I really know, as it is obvious you haven't a clue what I know. What I know is that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and not only did he resurect, but His power is still at work in the world, and infact I have seen it with my own senses many times. You see David what you can't understand is a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an arguement.

Now Steven was a very good poster, he stated his opinion, explained it, and provided evidence for his claims. You should take some lessons from him.


Steven Carr said...

'I don't have a clue where you get the idea that early Christians scoffed at the idea of resurection, it does not come from Paul.'

Read 1 Corinthians 15.

Verse 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Some of the converts to Jesus-worship scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse, while we don't actually know what the others believed.

All we know is that they took part in baptisms for the dead, so they thought the dead had some reward, but presumably did not they think had already been raised bodily.

Even in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul has to write 'Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.'

Presumably the Thessalonians *were* grieving like people who had no hope for their dead, and Paul reassures them that the dead will live again (without telling them that corpses will be reformed as in Ezekiel 37, a passage that Paul never uses despite its obvious relevance both here and in 1 Corinthians 15 *if* he had been talking about corpses being reanimated)

BTW, I agree that it is wrong for David to guess things about the lives of people he has never met (assuming he has never met you).

People shouldn't be stereotyped.

And we have no reliable records of any 'eyewitnesses' being martyred.

Paul was not an eyewitness.

Neither was Stephen, who even in Acts was killed for having a vision of Jesus that nobody else could see.

What is an 'eyewitness' anyway?

Acts says Paul saw a man from Macedonia in a trance or vision.

Did he see a real flesh and blood person , transported from Macedonia to appear in Paul's vision?

An 'eyewitness' to a vision sees nothing which is real.

Just as Paul never &really* went to the third Heaven in a trance, as in 2 Corinthians 12.

Why should we believe people who claim to have gone to Heaven in a trance?

The Rev said...

I did not suggest Paul was an eyewitness to the resurection, but rather that the whole of the twelve, w/ the exception of Judas saw the resurected Christ and all were martyred, and Luke records the first of these as James.

The first verse you share shows that Paul did believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and I would suggest that it also strongly implies that even those that did not believe in a bodily resurection for the whole of humanity did belive that Jesus was resurected.

It appears to me that Paul is merely reminding the people that their grief will turn to celebration at the end. To say this means they did not believe in the resurection of the dead is a bit of a stretch to me, as belief in the future resurection was a common belief of much of the Jewish people of that time due to the influence of the Pharisees. And it is also quite possible that the people were also being taught about how things actually coincide with Jesus. In other words, Jesus resurected in three days, but our resurection will happen at the end of days.

As a pastor who has had to do funerals, I can tell you that people grieve even though they atleast believe in the resurection with their proclamation. And I have often comforted them with similiar words that Paul uses. So it is a bit of a stretch to place your interpretation onto these verses.

I would also add that you have even in your arguements, (though I still believe they assume way too much), only suggested a question about the resurection of our bodies, not Christ's.


David said...

Rev, you're going to have to advance your debating skills beyond name calling. As you reflect on your struggle between experience and argument, try not to let reason be totally overwhelmed by your experiential approach to Christianity.

I see experience is very important for you. That and your works based approach. Many Christians are aware of the dangers of basing their faith on personal experience. What next, Rev, will you be supporting speaking in tongues and faith healing?

Or perhaps you see yourself as a latter day apostle, directly appointed by Jesus.

The Rev said...

There is no debate, you just throw insults, there is no arguementation, no rational attack upon my belief system.

Notice how I interact with Steven? It because he actually comes up with an arguement, not just a statement that I am deluded, and then backs it up. You on the other hand just sit back in your superiority and make caustic comments and cheap insults.

But for your information, I pray in tongues, I have seen healings first hand, and I believe that there are many apostles today.


David said...

The claim that all twelve (except for Judas) were matyred is mainly based on tradition. There is no evidence for most of the martyr stories.

Once again, Rev, you have let yourself be deceived. You see what happens when you give too much credence to experience?

How long do you want to live a life of deception, Rev? When will you open your eyes and see the truth?

The Rev said...

We know from the bible that James was martyred. There is historical evidence that Peter was condemned to death in Rome. There is no reasonable explanation for excluding church tradition in our efforts to understand history. It seems you are so blinded by your hatred of Christianity to even recognize proper historical study. Where there is some logic to the disputation of the resurection, as it is a miraculous, singular event, there is no rational explanation for contesting the martyrdom of the apostles, as it is a quite common phenomenom, happening in biblical time through to today.

Again, you just talking shit.


David said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris said...

Might I suggest that if scripture wasn't considered "holy", might it not be considered an "eyewitness" historical account? I mean, that's what we're debating here, right? David says that there are "no historical accounts except hearsay years after the fact" but this is not so. Paul's accounts start only a few years afterwards. Even the disputed gnostic gospels and the dead sea scrolls acknowledge the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. You can't possibly argue that he never existed, historians tried that.

The only thing we can possibly argue against is whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Fine. Some people say yes, others no. But the people cso onvinced that he DID raise from the dead were the ones who were willing to die in horrible ways, when all they had to do was say "you're right, he didn't, my bad" and their suffering would end and they'd be allowed to live.

The point is that, psychologically and historically, it makes SENSE that Jesus rose again.

Chris said...

and be nice, it's unbecoming to call another person "brain dead" ... I know rev, he's far from brain dead.

halieus said...

Hi Rev,

I haven't read much of NT Wright, just a little here and there on the web, but thanks for posting that piece, he make a couple of fair points.

I think also that Paul does claim to be a witness of the resurrected Christ in verse 8 of 1Cor15, having seen him, as if born out of time, last of all, at the end of his list of people who saw Him.

I agree with your point Rev, that at the time of Paul's writing some had doubted or no longer believed in their own and other believers resurrections. It seems to me that they evidently still believed in Christ's resurrection which Paul uses to try to convince them of their own and that of other believers.

urbanmonk said...

Forgot your meds again this week dave?

The Rev said...


I would like to understand how you think it is rational for me to let you come on my blog, and abuse me?

I am quite sick of your refusal to do anything but insult me and my friends. If you have got inteligent, thoughtful critiques or thoughts please feel free to post them. I am no longer going to allow your insults however and am deleting them.


*waits for an email saying how there is a special place in hell for horrible monsters like myself, who have abused David so horribly*

David said...

I must sincerely apologise for calling you a dribbling, brain-damaged idiot, Rev. I humbly conceded there is simply no evidence that you dribble.

If there are any other recent insults I have ommitted, please let me know and I will add them to the apology list.

As for thoughtful commentary, this can be simply summed up in the phrase "no evidence" or "not enough evidence".

Chris said...

David: "Rev, you're going to have to advance your debating skills beyond name calling."