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Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 4

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May 9, 2013 Tags: Christ & New Creation
Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 4
Piero della Francesca, The Resurrection (1467-68), Museo Civico, Sansepolcro, Italy

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: This is the final excerpt from the chapter, “Motivated Belief,” from Theology in the Context of Science, by John Polkinghorne. The topic is the plausibility of the Resurrection narratives in the Bible: do we have sufficient reasons to believe that God raised the crucified, dead Jesus bodily from the grave? He also explores the significance of the Resurrection for theodicy and Christology. The chapter concludes with a short section about religious pluralism that takes us far afield from the main topic and is left for readers to explore on their own. Thus, our presentation of this chapter may seem to end abruptly.

My editorial policy for these excerpts is explained at the bottom of this post.

Motivated Belief (part 4)

So what evidence [for the bodily resurrection] could there be? I have already argued that something must have happened to continue the story of Jesus, and it seems to me that after that devastating arrest and execution, it must have been something much more than simply a return of nerve on the part of the disciples, coupled with a resolve to try to continue to recall the life and words of their Master. The New Testament sets out two lines of evidence in support of its much stronger claim. One of these is the sequence of stories relating to encounters with the risen Christ taking place after his death. The earliest such account available to us is the list of witnesses, most of them then still living, given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11. The letter itself was probably written some twenty to twenty-five years after the crucifixion, but its reference to what Paul himself “had received” (v. 3) seems naturally to imply that he is repeating what he had been taught following his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, which would take the quoted testimony back to within two or three years of the events themselves.

To get some feel of what these encounters with the risen Christ might have been like, one has to turn to the gospels. The appearance stories there related vary in their detail and location, but there is a common theme, differently expressed in the different stories but persistently present, namely that initially it was difficult to recognize who it was who had been encountered. Mary Magdalene at first supposes the risen Jesus to be the gardener (John 20:15); the couple on the road to Emmaus are unaware who their companion is until the final moment of parting (Luke 24:16); Matthew (28:17) even frankly admits that on a Galilean hillside some of the crowd doubted it was him; and so on. Most of the stories focus on a disclosure moment when it suddenly becomes apparent, against all expectation, that it is Jesus who is there. This seems a most unlikely feature to recur if the stories were just a bunch of tales, variously made up by various people in various places and for various purposes.

I believe that this difficulty of recognition is a genuine historical reminiscence of what those encounters were actually like, and I take their evidence correspondingly seriously. Because the context of science lays emphasis on human embodiment, I believe that the true humanity of the risen Christ implies that these appearances would not have been some form of shared visionary experience, but they involved a corporeal presence, though necessarily of a transformed kind, as Christ’s power of sudden appearance and disappearance makes clear.

Giambattista Cima da Conegliano, The Incredulity of St Thomas (c. 1505),
detail, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

The second line of evidence presented relates to the discovery of the empty tomb. Here there is a good deal of similarity between the accounts in all the four gospels, even if there are minor discrepancies about such details as the exact time of early morning when the discovery was made and what were the exact names of the women involved. Such variations are not surprising in an account which had an oral history before attaining its various written forms. It is striking that the first reaction reported of the women is fear. The empty tomb is not treated as being self-explanatory, an instant knockdown proof of resurrection. It needs interpretation. Here, as in the appearance stories, there is a notable absence of any facile triumphalism. Rather, there is a sense of awe and mystery at an unanticipated great act of God.

But was there actually a tomb? We know that the bodies of executed felons were frequently cast by the Romans into a common and anonymous grave, or even left to be eaten by wild animals. Yet it is also known from archaeological evidence that this was not an invariable practice, and the first-century Jewish historian Josephus tells us that his religion’s burial customs required proper interment on the day of death even for executed malefactors. The association of Jesus’s burial with the action of the otherwise unknown Joseph of Arimathea strengthens the case for belief in an identifiable tomb, since there seems to be no obvious reason to assign Joseph this honorable role unless he actually performed it. In subsequent controversies between Jews and Christians, which can be traced back into the first century, there is a common acceptance that there was a tomb, with the disagreement being whether it was empty because Jesus had risen or because the disciples had stolen the body in an act of deceit. Even more strongly one can say that there would have seemed to be no reason at all to associate the story of this astonishing discovery with women, considered unreliable witnesses in the ancient world, unless in fact they were the ones who were actually involved in making it.

These matters demand much more detailed discussion than it has been appropriate to lay out here. [Polkinghorne says more himself elsewhere, but perhaps the best treatment of the details is found in N. T. Wright’s book, cited below.] The New Testament testimony is certainly complex in its character. As is often the case with important historical issues, the available evidence is not such as must inevitably lead to a single conclusion with which all can be expected to concur without any question of dissent. In the particular case of the resurrection, all I have tried to do is briefly to indicate that there is important evidence to which the Christian believer can point in giving a positive answer to the question “What makes you think that the resurrection of Jesus is, in fact, the case?” I believe that all truth-seeking people should be willing to consider this evidence seriously.

I do not pretend that in the end all will turn out to weigh that evidence in the same way that I do. There are many less focused considerations that will influence judgment about so significant and counterintuitive a matter. Those with an unrevisable commitment to the sufficiency of a reductionist naturalism [i.e., the view that nothing ever happens apart from “natural” causes] will follow David Hume and simply refuse to countenance the possibility of the miraculous, whatever the alleged evidence. Those of us who are Christians will be influenced in our conclusions by what we affirm to be our contemporary experience of the hidden but real presence of the risen Christ, encountered in sacramental worship.

​Biblical scholar and theologian N. T. Wright (Source)

What I do claim is that Christian theology can be open and willing to accept the challenge to offer motivations for its beliefs, in the spirit that is so natural when that theology is being done in the context of science. In that context, detailed historical analysis of the kind that N. T. Wright gives in The Resurrection of the Son of God is much to be welcomed. [This is indeed a superb scholarly treatment for which no single chapter or blog post can possibly substitute. Readers with limited time to devote to this lengthy book might wish to begin with the chapter on “Easter and History,” pp. 685-718, but by all means delve into other parts of the book as time permits. Wright summarized some of his ideas here. He and Polkinghorne have very similar views on both resurrection and eschatology.] Some theologians seem more concerned with the conceptual motifs that they detect in the stories than with questions of historicity. In fact, both types of consideration are surely necessary. There has to be a metanarrative, a myth expressing theological significance, but if the doctrine of the incarnation truly fuses the power of a symbolic story with the power of a historically true story, then both these dimensions of significance have to be treated with integrity and respect. The Christian myth is claimed to be an enacted myth, and there is evidence to motivate that claim.

I believe that when the truth of Christianity is under consideration in the context of science, it is with these issues relating to the resurrection that the discussion needs to begin. Only when a case has been made for the belief that God was present in Jesus of Nazareth in a unique way does it then become possible adequately to attempt to enquire into the significance of his crucifixion. The doctrine of the incarnation implies that in the spectacle of that deserted figure hanging on the cross, God is seen to be more than just a compassionate spectator of the travail of creation, looking down upon it in pity from the invulnerability of heaven. If the incarnation is true, then God in Christ has truly been a fellow-participant in the suffering of the world, knowing it from the inside. The Christian God is the crucified God. [For more on this, see here and here.] In this profound insight, Christian faith meets the challenge of theodicy at the deep level that it demands.

Rogier van der Weyden, The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning (ca. 1460), Philadelphia Museum of Art

A second Christian insight into the significance of Christ’s crucifixion has focused [on] the conviction that “he died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” (1Corinthans 15:3). The reconciliation of estranged humanity to God across the bridge of the incarnation joining the created to the divine, which brought about that experience of new life to which the New Testament writers testify, was a costly transaction involving the death of the Son of God. This has been the Church’s conviction from the earliest times, but no single and universally agreed upon theological theory, accounting for the full significance of what was going on in that great act of atonement, has come to be accepted in the Christian community. In a situation not without its parallels in science (for example in parts of nuclear physics and condensed matter physics), there have been many models of atonement (as various as the propitiation of an affronted God, a mythic victory over the Powers of darkness, and the exemplary force of sacrificial love, to mention only a few), but no comprehensive theory. Neither in science nor theology is failure to attain a fully articulated explanatory understanding a reason for denying the truth of the experience itself.

The approach that we have been following in seeking an evidence-motivated understanding of the significance of Jesus Christ is what the theologians call “Christology from below.” Not only is it the natural route to follow in the context of science, but it is also one that can be seen a posteriori to be theologically appropriate in the light of the doctrine of the incarnation. If God indeed acted to make known the divine nature most clearly and accessibly through the human life of the incarnate Son of God, then the historical study of that life must be a matter of the greatest importance. Of course, there has been endless argument concerning how accessible the historical Jesus can actually be to modern study. Some think that the New Testament records are so shaped and influenced by the ideas and experiences of the earliest Christians that one can hardly penetrate beyond them to gain access to the one of whom they claim to speak. According to this view, it is only the “Christ of faith,” preached in the initial Christian communities, who can be known to us today. I resist so sharp a separation between the life of Jesus and the preached faith that life inspired.

Of course there has been continual and developing reflection upon Jesus from the first generation of his followers until today, and knowledge of the resurrection must have shed new and clearer light on matters that had been obscure before. The believer can see this process as having been guided by the Holy Spirit, poured out at Pentecost. Yet nothing comes of nothing, and the origin of the astonishing character of the writings of the New Testament and the testimonies of the early Church must surely lie, where the witnesses allege it to lie, in the unique character of Jesus of Nazareth himself. The idea that he was but a shadowy figure and that all the vibrant quality of the New Testament writings originates in his followers seems to me frankly unbelievable. I think that careful and scrupulous study of the New Testament enables one to discern the shape of a striking and original character, in whose words and deeds lie the origin of the Christian phenomenon, and who eludes classification in simply conventional religious categories, such as prophet, teacher, or healer. There has undoubtedly been development of Christological doctrine, but I do not think that there has been free invention of doctrine. This is not the place to attempt to go into a detailed defense of that judgment, but I believe that it can be done. [Polkinghorne cites this, this, and this.]

In addition to a Christology from below, theologians can pursue also a Christology from above. Its method is not abduction from the deposits of history, but conceptual exploration of what it might mean to believe that “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). Recourse to this kind of thinking grew over the centuries as the Church struggled to find the most philosophically satisfactory understanding and exposition of its core beliefs. In the process, the technical vocabulary of Greek thought was called upon, and partly transformed to make it as fit as possible for the purpose in hand. Terms such as hypostasis (individual reality) and ousia (generic substance) were pressed into theological service. In fact the distinction in meaning between these two Greek words was a fruit of these theological struggles, for they had previously been treated as synonyms. Some of this sometimes precarious discourse may have been overbold in its estimate of the extent to which finite human thought can articulate infinite mystery, but it seemed that the attempt had to be made. If theological argument from above is to find a cousinly parallel in the context of science, it lies in those creative leaps of intellectual imagination of the kind that enabled Newton to conceive of universal gravity or Einstein to write down the equations of general relativity. Even the most bold of theological speculations scarcely exceed in daring the conjectures of the string theorists.

Looking Ahead

When I return in a couple of weeks, we will launch into excerpts from the title chapter in Polkinghorne’s book, Belief in God in an Age of Science. In the meantime we have plenty to discuss. Those acquainted with N. T. Wright’s book are especially encouraged to bring his ideas more fully into this conversation about motivated belief.

References and Credits

Excerpts from John Polkinghorne, Theology in the Context of Science (2009), copyright Yale University Press, are reproduced by permission of Yale University Press. We gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in bringing this material to our readers.

Editorial Policy

Most of the editing for these excerpts involves breaking longer paragraphs into multiple parts, altering the spelling and punctuation from British to American, removing the odd sentence or two—which I indicate by putting [SNIP] at the appropriate point(s)—and sometimes inserting annotations where warranted [also enclosed in square brackets] to provide background information. Polkinghorne uses footnotes a bit sparingly, and I usually find another way to include that information if it’s important for our readers.


Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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GJDS - #80015

May 13th 2013

continued ...

Tradition claims that St. John wrote his Gospel at the request of the Ephesian Christians. They brought him the first three Gospels and asked him to review them and supplement with the Lord’s speeches which he had heard. St. John verified the truth of all that was written in the first three Gospels but found that it was necessary to supplement their narratives and to especially expound and clarify the teachings regarding the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that with time people would not think of Him as just the Son of Man. This was particularly necessary since by this time, heretics - Ebionites, Gnostics, and the heretic Cerinthus - had emerged and denounced the Divinity of Christ. St. Irenaeus of Lyon wrote about these circumstances around the middle of the 3rd century.

It is clear that the objective of the fourth Gospel was to supplement the narratives of the other three Gospels. Distinct from the first three Gospels, it was named the Spiritual Gospel.

The Gospel of St. John begins with the exposition of Jesus’ Divinity and further contains an entire series of the most spiritually elevating speeches of the Lord, in which are revealed His Divinity and the deepest mysteries of faith. For example, the conversation with Nicodemus about the birth from above with water and Spirit and the mystery of salvation; the discussion with the Samaritan woman regarding living water and of worship of God in spirit and in truth.

The discussion on bread descended from heaven and on the mystery of the Eucharist; the discussion about the good shepherd, and especially touching the farewell conversation with the disciples during the Last Supper, and its wonderful conclusion with the so called High-priestly prayer of our Lord. Here we find a whole series of references by the Lord Himself as the true Son of God. For unveiling these most profound truths and mysteries of the Christian faith, St. John received the respected name of Theologian.

The primary purpose of John in writing the Gospel is stated in chapter 20:31: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, you may have life in His name.” This statement is partly in answer to the teachings of the Gnostics, a heretical group of John’s time who posed as Christians, but who included in their teachings some elements of Greek philosophy, some of the teachings of the Jewish philosopher Philo, and elements of those pagan religions known as the mystery cults, as well as some teachings based on the Old Testament…. continued

Lou Jost - #80085

May 14th 2013

GJDS, these are just nice tradiational stories copy-pasted from an un-footnoted religious site. You complain about my lack of scholarly seriousness, but this is not scholarship either.

Most scholars don’t think John the Apostle wrote this gospel.

GJDS - #80016

May 13th 2013

continued…. The Gnostics held generally that the God of the universe was so high and holy that it was impossible for Him to create a material world or to have any dealings with persons possessed of material bodies, that there were innumerable intermediary beings or aeons (some superior spiritual beings, similar to angels), one of whom created the world; and another called the Logos or Word of God, was the only channel through whom God could reveal Himself to the world.

Some of them said Jesus was the Logos and therefore of an order of life somewhere between God and man. Obviously such teaching would do great harm to true Christianity. John answered these and other wild claims of that sect by affirming: that the Word (Logos) who reveals God is as eternal as God, that He has fellowship with God, that indeed He is of the same essence as God.

John affirmed also that He was made flesh (that is took the nature of mankind including a material body) and lived on the earth as Jesus the only begotten Son of God; that life was in Him; and that He was the light which overcame the darkness (just as He overcame death in His resurrection) and that salvation is to be had in consequence of faith in Him rather than by acquiring a system of hidden knowledge. In setting out the purpose of his work, John declared: “These things are written that people might have faith in Him as the anointed Savior and the true Son of God and that in consequence of this faith they might have life through His name.”

Pure of heart, having devoted himself to the Lord, and loved by Him in return with a special love, St. John penetrated deeply into the mystery of Christian love. No other Apostle unveiled so profoundly and convincingly as he in his Gospel and three Epistles the Christian teaching of the two fundamental commandments of God - of love for God and of love for neighbor; that is why he is also referred to as the Apostle of Love.

Another unique quality of John’s Gospel is that, while the first three Evangelists narrate the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ primarily in Galilee, St. John describes events and preaching in Judea. Through this, one can determine the length of the Lord’s public ministry and the duration of His earthly life. Preaching primarily in Galilee, the Lord journeyed to Jerusalem for all major feast days. As evidenced in the Gospel of John, there were three such trips to Jerusalem before Passover.

Lou Jost - #80049

May 14th 2013

Paul, our earliest source, says nothing about an empty tomb. Maybe there wasn’t one. If there had been an empty tomb, why did it not become a venerated site, like some of the other sites in the Holy Land?

Maybe, as many of Paul’s passages and others suggest, the resurrection was only experienced as a vision.

Next in time we have a bare gospel of Mark, with no original post-resurrection account at all. Mark did not claim to write history in his gospel. What if his gospel were primarily a teaching tool, to emphasize and elaborate on the teaching of Jesus? What if it was the same kind of parable that Jesus himself used? As one of the main themes of Jesus’ teaching is that “the last shall be first”, maybe this is the reason Mark had women in such prominent roles in his story (not just in finding the empty tomb). Wright and others put a lot of emphasis on the women, as something no one would make up, but it is at least conceivable that Mark wanted to send a message here, one that was central to Jesus’ teachings.

Later in time, the rest of the gospels add more and more elaborations and supernatural additions, but they may have had to keep using the women because of the currency of Mark’s earlier gospel. They maintain the ambiguity about what kind of body rose. Wright thinks they were trying to explain stories they had heard that were beyond their comprehension. However, another explanation could be that the stories these writers were hearing were themselves contradictory and confused, because nothing real happened. By that time, some of the vision stories could have grown into real appearances, causing confusion.

Merv - #80066

May 14th 2013

Paul cuts through all this in I Corinthians 15, starting v. 12:  “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, no even Christ has been raised; ...”   ...and our faith is futile.

Earlier, you spoke of visions, Lou, which for you translates into “something not real” or at least not real outside of the recipient’s head at any rate—if real even there.  It seems obvious from Paul’s writing that he would have none of this.  It’s “real resurrection” or bust.  We can quibble over exactly what kind of body it is since we obviously have no good grasp from Scriptures or otherwise how such a things works mechanically.  I agree with you that such a thing is not clear.  What is clear is that the final body has a greater claim on reality even than our present mortal ones which are waiting to “put on the immortal”.  So it seems the Bible (Paul, no less) insists on at least a couple things.

1.  The resurrection is real (not merely a vision), and in some way has continuity with our present selves even though we will be changed.

2.  Christianity stands or falls on this. 

With these assertions in place it would seem odd for Paul to have to add ...“Oh—and by the way, the tomb was empty.”  By this point, the empty tomb would be something of a given.  Peter and the others were still alive to consult about those details so it doesn’t seem odd to me that Paul sticks with what his own experiences were:  a very real vision of the living Jesus.

Lou Jost - #80069

May 14th 2013

Merv, if Paul thought the resurrected Jesus was purely spiritual, he could still have said “ “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised”. I don’t see the contradiction. A contradiction is only visible through eyes that are already convinced that the resurrection was a bodily one.

I of course agree with you that Paul obviously believes his visions were real.  But this does not require a supernatural explanation. Visions that seem real are a dime a dozen. I even had one once, when I was a kid in a scary situation. If I had lived in a different culture I might have believed it was real.

The obvious point for the empty tomb in Paul’s narrative was when he was describing the resurrected body. His failure to make use of any historical evidence about Jesus’ physically resurrected body, when it really would have served his purpose to do so, suggests that there wasn’t any, at this point in time. And since he had contact with the apostles, this suggests there wasn’t any, period. The resurrected Jesus, on this view, was not physical (and the skeptic would then say it was all imaginary).

Merv - #80078

May 14th 2013

I agree—there are those visions which are probably a dime a dozen.  And then there are those visions that take a “Richard Dawkins” style agitator and transform them into a great traveling Christian apologist.

Regarding nature of a resurrected body, I think most of us have already agreed that we don’t completely know the nature of the *transformed* body—even Scripture doesn’t give us details other than to specify that it is real—just as real as any physical body.  So certainly such a body must be spiritual, especially since our ordinary bodies now are already spiritual.  But when “spiritual” becomes code lingo for “not real” as it does in most secularist circles, then I think it fair to observe from I Corinthians 15 that Paul would have none of that. 

Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4:14:  “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”  Paul goes on to describe those still alive being caught up together with those who had died.  Obviously these won’t be ordinary bodies anymore but it is also obvious that Paul has a very real (and physical!) event in mind here.  I don’t pretend to understand it all, but our Christian hope is to be with Christ for  eternity.  

Our pastor just this last Sunday challenged us with a two part question:  In what setting does the Bible begin?  (the expected answer:  in a garden)  Then the next part:  in what setting does it end?  (Ans:  —not in Heaven as most would assume, but on earth).  The city of God descends *to earth*—it is a new heaven and a new earth.  Most people have the trajectory all wrong, thinking we start here and then fly away as spirits to some spiritual dimension.  I won’t say there is no truth in that latter assertion (and passages can be found to give that impression).  But our pastor insisted that the real trajectory of the Bible is God coming to us.  In history He comes to a nation of Israel.  Then as a saviour.  And sometime again to redeem and fit us for a new creation.  All of creation is to be transformed, not just humans.  So while most of us are busy envisioning Heaven as a kind of quiet garden paradise in some spiritual dimension, we should probably be urbanizing our visions.  It’s a city on earth in the end.  Granted there is some pretty hefty sybolism going on:  a 1500 mile cube isn’t like any literal city we would come up with.  But then again  that is probably because we fail to  understand temple (and the ‘cubical’ holy of holies) imagery.  A fellow worshipper explained that to me after the service.  All this is a long way of saying, there is significant room for humility on how all this plays out including on my own speculations above.  But our hope must always be for something real, ushered in by a very real and living—-source of Life himself: Jesus.

Lou Jost - #80079

May 14th 2013

Today in the news, apropos of this discussion:


Apparently Jesus appeared to a family and told them to take their clothes off and walk down a busy city street. Ended up in jail. Must have been a powerful vision to make them do something they knew would get them into trouble (and the mother may lose custody of her child). And this was FOUR people! How could that be a mere vision?

Lou Jost - #80080

May 14th 2013

Stuff like this really does happen every day.

Merv - #80106

May 15th 2013

Paul radically turns his life around, and faithfully gives the rest of his life to his newfound cause (Person, rather!)—living, sharing, enduring multiple persecutions  —comparing that to a family who takes a naked jaunt down the street and into a local jail?   Really, Lou!  With that kind of mental gymnastics going on, believing an omnipotent God has the power over life and death should be child’s play for you.  I think you don’t give yourself anything close to enough credit in the faith department. 

Lou Jost - #80107

May 15th 2013

Merv, of course it is not like Paul’s vision, relax.

Lou Jost - #80108

May 15th 2013

...though I think the difference is a difference in degree, not in kind.

beaglelady - #80110

May 15th 2013

Yes, people sometimes claim that God tells them to do strange things,  and sometimes horrible things.  And sometimes they gain a following.  They usually end up in a mental hospital or prison, or at least on the fringes of society.  But we know them by their fruits. 




Lou Jost - #80115

May 15th 2013

People have visions, sometimes powerful ones. These can lead to good or bad things, or silly things, it doesn’t matter. Just because a vision changes someone for the better doesn’t mean it came from god rather from the person himself.

beaglelady - #80159

May 16th 2013

Doesn’t prove it, of course, but there is always the possibility that a vision came from God.

Lou Jost - #80165

May 16th 2013

If god exists.

GJDS - #80266

May 18th 2013

Me thinks Beagleperson, that endless possibilities can be derived from your outlook - but then again some of us prefer reason and faith, rather than your endless commentary on this and that.

beaglelady - #80274

May 18th 2013

GJDS, I simply meant that some visions come from God and some don’t. No big deal.  

GJDS - #80286

May 18th 2013

How do you tell one from the other? And which is a big deal to you?

beaglelady - #80294

May 19th 2013

Mainly by their fruit.  Joseph Smith invented his vision and it couldn’t possibly be true.  

Ted Davis - #80116

May 15th 2013


Paul begins this chapter with an almost explicit reference to the empty tomb—his recitation in verse 4 of the “formulaic” (Wright’s term) phrase, “that he was buried [tomb], that he was raised on the third day [empty]...” There is just no mistaking this. You can’t have “the third day” and the empty tomb without an already existing tradition, explained to Paul after his conversion (“what I received”), that the women found the body on Sunday morning. The women aren’t explicitly in that formula, but the event they started is. He presents himself as a witness to the risen Christ, partly to put himself in the apostolic category and partly to add one final appearance to the others. Yes, you can infer from this passage alone that those other appearances might have been just like the one he experienced, and I agree that his can be seen purely as a vision. (We are leaving out what the gospels say, and they come from other sources, not Paul.) But he does not interpret the event that way himself. What I mean is that he then jumps to a re-embodiment in the last days—a physical event, albeit (as Paul himself points out) a physical event of a kind that we have not yet experienced, except for the risen Christ himself. This puts it into a third category that is neither physical or non-physical, but rather like something from one of those other worlds, very differing from our world, that Boyle and others have speculated about on other grounds.

I have to go now, but I’ll throw out a couple of brief points from P before I go, taken from http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Physicist-Theology-Sciences-Series/dp/0800629701, chap 6. Readers are invited to explore this further on their own.

P describes the world of the risen Christ as “a strange, almost dream-like world, in which Jesus appears in rooms with locked doors and suddently disappears again.” This sounds just like your “visions,” Lou, but P at the same time emphasizes the physicality in these scenes—and also in 1 Cor 15. “The corporeality claimed for the risen Jesus is emphasized in Luke ...”; “the actual appearance stories in the gospels conform to neither of the contemporary models for post-mortem phenomena, which are a dazzling heavenly figure or a rususcitated corpse.” Here’s a longer passage, with which I must close and leave:

“What such continuity and discontinuity might mean is tentatively explored by Paul ... in terms of our own eventual destiny beyond death. He warns his readers against a resuscitatory reductionism (‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable’). Yet the tone of the passage is also against a spiritual reductionism, for it is the resurrection body which is being discussed.” He then turns to the empty tomb—which (I note) Paul already knew about—to support physicality. And, he connects this again with Paul’s formulaic reference already mentioned: “It seems very hard to believe that a Jew like Paul, whose background of thought would have been one emphasizing the psychosomatic unity of the hman being, could have believed that Jesus was alive but that his tomb still contained his mouldering body. James Dunn concludes a survey of first-century Pharisaic thought and practice by saying, ‘the ideas of resurrection and of empty tomb would naturally go together for many people. But this also means that any assertation that Jesus had been raised would be unlikely to cut much ice unless his tomb was empty’.”

Gotta go.

Lou Jost - #80120

May 15th 2013

Thanks Ted, I also have to go but will try to digest this and answer later.

Lou Jost - #80223

May 17th 2013

Ted, I have to disagree with your assuming so much from the later gospels in interpreting Paul’s first lines, especially since the empty tomb accounts of the gospels are precisely the thing we are debating.

First, as you say, Paul’s experience of the risen Christ was explicitly non-physical. This falsifies the conclusion of James Dunn you quote.

If Paul can imagine a non-physical resurrected Christ, as he clearly can and does, then there need be no empty tomb lurking behind his first lines about Jesus rising on the third day. This could be a non-physical Jesus, the very kind of non-physical Jesus that Paul himself says he experienced.

And then there are no implied women discoverers of the empty tomb either.

By the way, as I commented below, I heard a good theory for why Mark would want women to discover the tomb. If Mark and the other gospel writers had male disciples discovering the tomb, everyone would just assume those disciples were lying and had actually stolen the body. Sounds like a good theory to me, and it deflates one of P’s and Wright’s key claims.

GJDS - #80267

May 18th 2013

Now you are getting desperate - perhaps the term theory has a strangely ‘out of this world meaning’ to you - I wonder if this meaning permeates your evolutionary belief system? People should consider this possibility.

Lou Jost - #80272

May 18th 2013

P claimed “Even more strongly one can say that there would have seemed to be no reason at all to associate the story of this astonishing discovery with women, considered unreliable witnesses in the ancient world, unless in fact they were the ones who were actually involved in making it.” I am answering P’s claim, by presenting a very good reason for a writer of a gospel to associate the story of the discovery of the empty tomb with women. This falsifies P’s claim that there is no reason for having women discover the empty tomb unless the discovery really happened that way.

GJDS - #80287

May 18th 2013

Here is an out of this world thought Lou (as you project yourself as one theorising on the Gospels) - what if (how can I say this without insulting you) these women were grief stricken and decided to visit the tomb - believe it or not, this sort of thing happens even today (unless you can parrot another ‘theory’ that you claim is part of your experience!)

But why think like this when a scholar like you can see through the intent of Mark and the rest?

Lou Jost - #80299

May 19th 2013

I am just addressing P’s claim that the women are such an improbable detail that the account must be true. In fact the writer had strong motives to make the first visitors women. Whether or not he made it up, this refutes P’s argument that the writer would have had no reason to have women discover the empty tomb..

GJDS - #80307

May 19th 2013

I give up!!!

Lou Jost - #80311

May 19th 2013


GJDS - #80321

May 19th 2013

You have to be one of the most self-deluded chaps on this planet - the phrase ‘I give up’ is used in this part of the world to indicate there is no point in discussing things with you - you just do not get it because you are blinded by some personal/subjective prejudice.

Do you at least get this point!

Lou Jost - #80328

May 19th 2013

What makes you think I didn’t get it the first time? Did you not stop to think that maybe I was glad that you had decided it wasn’t worth your time to toss more insults? But I guess I celebrated too soon, here comes more invective.

GJDS - #80335

May 19th 2013

Perhaps you have a thin hide Lou - in this neck of the woods, we have a saying re sports and other such activities - if you cannot take it, don’t dish it out. Relax, if I wanted to insult you we would both know it.

Eddie - #80334

May 19th 2013


We all get irritated from time to time at other posters that we perceive to be unreasonable.  Sometimes we show that irritation in aggressive ways.  I’m guilty of that from time to time myself (and have yellow lights to show for it), even though I try to guard against it.  So we have to monitor our own reactions, and try to be calmer.  

I think that here, and elsewhere (in another comment you speak of his “silly posts”), you are being too personal in your approach to Lou.  Instead of saying that Lou is blinded by prejudice, it would be better to show what his prejudice is.

I have as many disagreements with Lou as you do, and sometimes I think his concerns occupy too much of these discussions—considering that not atheism but science and theology is the theme of BioLogos—but I have to admit that Lou goes out of his way to be polite, compared to most of the atheists on the internet, who tend to be a combative and sarcastic lot.  He also has spent more time than many of the atheists who post here actually studying the Bible and some of the scholarship around it, and for that I salute him.  He certainly has more scholarly detachment about the Bible than Dawkins or Coyne or Myers or Dennett or Hitchens.  

This is not to say that Lou is unbiased or neutral, or to say that his theological conclusions are all well-founded.  I think he often looks at theological questions from too narrow a perspective, as if Christian theology is primarily a series of factual historical claims read straight out of the Bible.  But within his perspective, I think he tries to make theological points in a rational way, and the best way to meet those points is to reply in the same tone.

I’m not saying I’m always the best example of what I’m advising here, but I do think it’s good advice.  I wouldn’t like to see you hit with a yellow or red light; and in any case, I think Lou deserves encouragement for rising above the usual enfant terrible behavior that is so common among atheists with science Ph.D.s on the internet.


GJDS - #80337

May 19th 2013


Many of us have our ‘cultural perceptions’ of what is aggressive, what is abrasive, and what is within a ‘debate’ environment. My own culture more or less says that it is wiser to avoid confrontation, but if it cannot be avoided, try to play on rules that appear approriate to the occasion. This is a wise saying that is very difficult to apply perfectly - but both sides must accept it as a general outlook.

The yellow and red lights, imo, must rest with the modertor’s understanding of what is appropriate to the occasion. In my world, claiming the Gospels are false and the Apostles have, with some sort of bias’ made things up as they went along (not to mention zombies and the occult), is a ‘gloves off’ debate. I have not seen the modertor step and and indicate this was innapropriate, so I have acted accordingly. Soon I will be tired of this repetition and do something more productive with my time.

Lou Jost - #80357

May 20th 2013

Sorry, it was not my intent to offend. But if you get mad at anyone who argues that the gospels are not what they seem to be, you’ll be mad at 2/3 of the world. How can someone judge the veracity of the gospels if they forbid themselves to even consider that they might not be what they seem?

Lou Jost - #80356

May 20th 2013

Thanks Eddie. I"m not always polite either, but I am trying to be. I may be commenting too much on non-science posts here, but since this post discusses a scientist’s view on the evidence for the central claim of Christianity, it is important to probe the arguments and see how good they are. I stay out of more theologically oriented posts. I really should stay out of here completely—- my work is suffering because I find these to be very interesting and important questions.

Anyway thanks again for the encouragement.

Ted Davis - #80114

May 15th 2013

Lou asks a good question here: “Paul, our earliest source, says nothing about an empty tomb. Maybe there wasn’t one. If there had been an empty tomb, why did it not become a venerated site, like some of the other sites in the Holy Land?”

I’ll let P respond, from http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Physicist-Theology-Sciences-Series/dp/0800629701, p. 117:

“Whatever difficulties twentieth-century scholars may feel about the empty tomb stories, they do not seem to have been shared by critics of Christianity in the ancient world. As a bitter polemical argument sprang up between Judaism and the Church, it was always accepted that there was a tomb and that it was empty. <SNIP>There is clear evidence, then, that in the first century those hostile to Christianity nevertheless accepted that the tomb had been found empty. A confirmatory consideration is the complete lack of any evidence of a cult associated with the burial place of Jesus. Ancient Jewish piety was much given to respectful veneration of the tombs of prophets and patriarchs (cf. Matt. 23.29). The total absence of this in the case of Jesus strongly suggests that from the first it was realized that for him the tomb was an irrelevancy. Christian interest in the possible burial place only dates from later centuries, when an increasing engagement of Christian thought with history led to giving attention to sites associated with Jesus’ death.”

Lou Jost - #80118

May 15th 2013

Thanks Ted for your answer. The first part of P’s reasoning may be right; I’ll have to see how skeptical scholars responded to such arguments. The second part is a “heads I win, tails you lose” kind of argument, though. The complete lack of a venerated site is at least equally consistent with the claim that there was no empty tomb; it is bizarre that P would count it as confirmatory. And you can bet that if there had been a venerated tomb site documented as far back as the first century, this would also have been counted as evidence for the veracity of the gospel story.

Lou Jost - #80260

May 18th 2013

Ah, I see P’s argument more clearly now. He argues that if Jesus was buried in a known tomb, and if he had not risen, and if  his followers would act like traditional first century Jews, and if the Romans would not persecute tomb-visitors, then his followers probably would have venerated the site, since that is what Jews did with tombs of highly regarded people back then. So the absence of a venerated site, under those premises, really is evidence for a risen Christ. It is not an incorrect argument, just one that depends on all the premises being true, while others here gave some reasons why they may not be true. I don’t know enough to say more about this argument, except to note that if the tomb had turned into a well-known venerated site, Chrisians would also claim it as evidence for a resurrection. Heads I win, tails you lose.

GJDS - #80268

May 18th 2013

And if anyone can follow the ifs of Lou, than we can all have a conversation with the flying spaggetti monster each morning and look for new theoris each evening. Ah, I think I see it all now - how about another few hundred silly posts first!

GJDS - #80134

May 15th 2013

How is this a good question Ted? Can you or this atheist bring any data or historical information to show that in Paul’s time any site was ‘venerated’? These comments are weird and show a disregard for (ironically what Darwinsts constantly claim as sacred) - the evidence. Why don’t you provide evidence of the early church acting in the way so called modern, self-appointed critics of the Chrisitian faith proclaim. It seems that the real talent(s) shown in these numerous comments is to say anything that enters someone’s head, and claim such ‘rantings’ are geneuine scholarship.

Lou Jost - #80141

May 15th 2013

Both Ted and I agreed that no site was venerated. That was one of the main points of my comment. So why would you now demand that we bring data showing that a site was venerated in Paul’s time?

GJDS - #80143

May 15th 2013

Lou, I am addresing your statment, and Ted’s response that this is a good question (”if there was an empty tomb, why was it not venerated .... “ surely you both must at least imply that the early Chrisitians venerated sites - , thus show us that the early church (which was virtually all Jews who lived by faith in Christ) venerated any burial sites - you base you argument on the belief (erroneous) that such a site would have been venerated. I am asking you to provide evidence for your belief (that any burial sites would be venerated by Jews or early Christians and the site preserved for ages to come).

If Ted comments than I will discuss that with him.

Lou Jost - #80161

May 16th 2013

Actually that elaboration makes your request understandable.

Lou Jost - #80220

May 17th 2013

Note Ted’s quote from P: “Ancient Jewish piety was much given to respectful veneration of the tombs of prophets and patriarchs (cf. Matt. 23.29).”

GJDS - #80230

May 17th 2013

So you (and it seems Ted does also) equate Math 23:28-30 with veneration? Heck Lou, what mental gymnastics do you practice? Building something to commemorate (as a national monument perhaps) is common practice. Veneration is considered an act of piety - and the passage in Mathew can hardly be understood to mean the Jews were performing acts of piety!

Lou Jost - #80264

May 18th 2013

I see that some orthodox Christian sects do currently venerate a site they believe to be the tomb site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

GJDS - #80265

May 18th 2013

Wow, now that Lou has said this all Christians can avoid this crisis (but wait, what mind boggling scholarly stuff will Lou come up with next? - tune in same time and same place for ........?)

Lou this also is meant to indicate laughter etc….. do not feel so insulted man!

Ted Davis - #80315

May 19th 2013


I have nothing to add that would illuminate this point any further. I am not sufficiently well versed in the relevant history, unfortunately. P knows a lot more about this than me (for sure), and (probably) more than Lou does as well. Given the little I know about this myself, I accepted Lou’s question as a seemingly good one, and I simply replied by quoting a passage in which P addresses that very point.

Lou Jost - #80221

May 17th 2013

Another theory for why Mark used women is that if male disciples had discovered the empty tomb, skeptical readers at the time would assume they were probably lying and had simply stolen the body.

GJDS - #80269

May 18th 2013

Or perhaps (hang on to your hats people, Mark is saying it as it is ...... but than he too was a Chrstian who valued his capacity for honestry and truth ...... I think I would value my atheist friends for the same attributes, and ‘poke’ a few holes at (and derive some entertainment from) the opinions of those who do not display these attributes.

Lou Jost - #80070

May 14th 2013

I have to bow out for a few days to finish a paper….

GJDS - #80071

May 14th 2013

These discussions have an unexpected benefit for me, in that it highlighted the need to add the dimension of opposition to Christianity since the time of Christ. When one views Christianity over the past 2000 years in this way, it becomes obvious that opposition existed during the time of Christ, and this intensified after his death and resurrection. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, the opposition often took a deadly turn with mass killings as the authorities tried to stamp it out.  Opposition to Christianity also took many other forms, including attempts at re-writing it and from ‘the enemy within’ as non-Christians tried to take over congregations and taught various heresies.


Christian historians have provided a great deal of authentic data to support the Orthodox views. I would add this; opposition to the written accounts (that finally formed the NT) would have been just as fierce as that of killing Christians, and any suggestion, or chance, of erroneous claims in the Gospels and Epistles, would have been used with great force during these times. Yet history does not show this, and instead Christianity prospered and grew. I also believe that atheists as well as other anti-Christians would have searched every corner of the Empire and seek all sources to support their opposition. The resources available to them during the early centuries would have included that of the Roman Empire, and in more recent times, virtually uninhibited use of the sciences, archaeology and history.


It is instructive therefore, to note that the best atheists and anti-Christians can come up with over 2000 years of opposition, amounts to, “Well, what if it is not true ....?”, or “What if this, or what if that – and after all, isn’t it obvious that people cannot walk out of their graves? And more recently, “Paul should have spoken and writen in this manner rather than that ....?” It is one thing to wish the material we have should be other than what it is; it is another matter to come up with something solid that would support claims that Gosples are ‘made up stories for the gullible amongst us’. 

Perhaps these aggressive atheists should now turn to videos of zombies and various perverse movies depicting the occult for support of their position?

I again make the point I presented very early during these interesting discussions, which is, “What motivates anti-theists and anti-Christians into such irrational opposition?” A clear understanding of the Christian faith provided by the NT shows that it all comes down to a personal choice and an act of grace from God. I for one cannot see anything beyond that, including the choice by good willed atheists who conclude they would not believe.

It is also important to understand that throughout history there have been people who have tried to destroy Christianity from without and from within. In any case, those who have opposed God’s will have inevitably failed

GJDS - #80084

May 14th 2013

Christianity has opposed the occult and the use of this by atheists as an argument against, or relevance to the discussion on, the resurrection, is bizarre.

D. E. Aune in an article in Murphy, E. F. 1997, c1996. Handbook for spiritual warfare. Thomas Nelson: Nashville,  says that the magic of the New Testament Greco-Roman world was divided into four major categories according to purpose: protective or apotropaic magic, particularly against dreaded diseases; aggressive and malevolent magic; love magic and magic aimed at acquisition of power over others; and magical divination and revelation. Erotic magic, magic revelation, and magic to gain control over others were the most popular.

Aune says that Jesus and the early Christians were persistently charged by both Jews and pagans with practicing the magical art.

The controversy centred on the performance of miracles of healings and exorcism. Jesus and the early Christians claimed that they were agents of God, while their opponents charged that they were rather agents of evil spiritual forces. These charges were serious enough to require refutation. Consequently, a vigorous anti-magical polemic permeates the four Gospels and Acts, and traces of it can be found in the remainder of the New Testament as well.

The Jews accused Christ of this, and under Biblical law, if they could prove it, they would have been able to stone him (or put him to death) without suffering any backlash from the Roman occupiers – yet they did not – obviously because the people surrounding Christ were convinced by real physical evidence the miracles performed because of Christ were indeed real.

Since the rise of secular and anti-religious sentiment, and a belief in science, spiritualism and interest in the occult has followed the pattern shown in the Roman Empire – this has been exacerbated by the impact of drugs and the use of weird occult movies, and popularisation of these through music/culture.

Christianity has not only opposed these harmful practices, but probably has been the greatest single force in showing people the harm that such practices and delusions bring to people. Some scientists have also, to their credit, shown how trickery, hallucinations, and deceit are involved in such events.

It is ironic that anti-theists would turn to these types of deceit and illusions to argue for their position.   

GJDS - #80086

May 14th 2013

An excellent summary and harmonisation of accounts of the resurrection is given in the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12789a.htm) and a visit to this site is well worth the time and effort. I quote, “....we cannot deny the Evangelists’ agreement as to the fact that the risen Christ appeared to one or more persons.” And to again refer to Paul, “St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) enumerates another series of apparitions of Jesus after His Resurrection; he was seen by Cephas, by the Eleven, by more than 500 brethren, many of whom were still alive at the time of the Apostle’s writing, by James, by all the Apostles, and lastly by Paul himself.”

Lou Jost - #80088

May 14th 2013

Again, this inclusion of Paul in the list shows that visions are being counted here. There was no physical body in Paul’s encounter.

GJDS - #80092

May 14th 2013

The quote inlcudes many many who did see Christ risen, and lastly Paul is included - do not add to what is posted - Paul himself has described his encounter with Christ, so what do you hope to achieve by your constant repeatition?

GJDS - #80087

May 14th 2013

I gave a summary of the Orthodox view regarding the Gospels. Scholarly studies are so numerous that it is impractical to give even a summary of such material. It is easier, however, to visit a web site (if one does not have the resources available) such as the Catholic Encyclopaedia, to get a good deal of information on the books that were circulated, which were selected, when these were discussed, why they are named as they are, and so on.

GJDS - #80091

May 14th 2013

Another useful source of information on the Gospels, and how and when the NT was determined, is the Librox Digital Library digital package (mine is an old version, and I think the current version is labelled Logos or something like that). I provide a short paragraph from the introduction:

Six main developments forced the church to formulate a canon of the New Testament. First, by the end of the first century contemporary witnesses to the message of Jesus and the apostles were mostly gone. The oral traditions became corrupt and conflicting, and believers wanted a body of Scripture that would spell out the authoritative message of the apostles. Second, from the beginning of the church it was customary to read Scripture in the worship services for the edification of believers. Church leaders became increasingly concerned that the readings be truly the message of God for the people. Third, such heretics as Marcion were formulating canons to promote their own special viewpoints. About a.d. 140 Marcion composed a canon of a mutilated Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles. He rejected the Old Testament. In self-defense the church had to decide what books belonged in the canon.

Fourth, about the same time that Marcion and the Gnostics were making great inroads into the established churches, the Montanists began to promulgate ideas of continuing revelation. As noted in the last chapter, the church in retaliation declared that revelation had ceased. Fifth, apocryphal works began to appear in increasing numbers. These gospels, acts, and epistles attempted to fill in gaps in the narrative of the life of Christ and the apostles and to round out the theological message of the church. Some of these books were obviously not on a par with the books we now recognize as canonical, but others were very close to the New Testament message. An effort needed to be made to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Last, the persecutions called for a decision on the contents of the New Testament canon. For instance, the Diocletian persecution in 303 called for the burning of all sacred books and the punishment of those who possessed them. Preservation of Scripture in the face of such determined imperial opposition required great effort and endangered the lives of those who hid or copied it.

Ref. Vos, H. F., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1996. Exploring church history. Originally published in 1994 under title: Introduction to church history; and in series: Nelson’s Quick reference. Nelson’s Christian cornerstone series. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville  

Roger A. Sawtelle - #80112

May 15th 2013


Lou wrote:

if Paul thought the resurrected Jesus was purely spiritual, he could still have said

The problem is that Lou keeps trying to make Paul a Gnostic, when Paul makes it clear that he is not. Gnostics believed in the myth of Greek dualism in that they thought that the Mind/Spirit was good and the Body/World was evil.

Paul knew that God the Father could not love “the world” if the world was evil. He also saw then what we see now that “Knowledge (Gnosis) puffs up, while Love builds up.“1 Cor 8:1. Gnosticism was based on speculative truth, rather than proven fact. Paul insisted that speculative truth be tested by proven fact as found in the Bible and good morality.

For Paul and I hope for Christians in general, sound faith results in sound morality which is Love. For the Gnostics a good life is based on what you take to be good knowledge, even if it leads to terrible morality, which it did for the Gnostics and it did for Nazism.

For instance if Marxism were true and with the concentration of wealth in the world today in the hands of a small number of people, maybe it is, is the totalitarian morality of the end justifies the means adopted by Lenin valid?

Just because you believe in Greek dualism as does most people does not mean that Paul did. Paul (and Jesus) was first and foremost a Jew, which means he rejected dualism in all its forms and also rejected a worldview based on speculation. As I said before, the Greek world was the gullible world of myths and wild ideas, not the Jewish world.

It is a myth that Greek thought produced modern science in the West. The evidence against this myth is that Greek thought was very much present in other parts of the world, which did not produce modern science.

It is well known in the Muslim world and might have produced modern science if a Greek mystical movement, akin to Gnosticism called Sufism, had not rejected the concept of natural law. I think that it was more complicated than that, but that is what happened.

Greek thought was very strong in the Byzantine world, but modern science did not develop there either. Only in the West did a particular understanding of Christianity and Greek thought come together to produce modern science.

As I said Gnostics believed that the spiritual/intellectual was superior to the physical. So basically does traditional Philosophy. Science was opposed primary by the Truth of Aristotle who thought that the earth was the center of the universe, rather than Church. Of course it was true that the leaders of the Church accepted the Truth as understood by Aristotle because they were educated persons.

The new atheists want to understand Greek dualism as Religion against Science with Science being true and Religion being false. Their world view is a mirror image of Gnosticism, so they want Christianity to be Gnostic.

However Jesus and Paul were not Gnostic or dualistic. They knew that God and Life are one, even if diverse, like the Body that Paul used as the model for the Church. Christianity made possible modern science by rejecting Gnosticism and affirming that both mind and body, the physical and the spiritual, are good and important.

Modern science is based not on simply the Mind, that is speculation and ideas, but ideas tested by experimentation and observation or the Body. They must be based in the “real” world which for the Church is the ethics of Love. Sadly Scientism by accepting the views of Monod is working against the idea that knowledge must be based on experience.

The problems with Western dualism that affirms both Mind and Body are 1) The fact that fundamentalists on both sides are unhappy with the sharing of authority, and 2) The collapse of philosophy which is unable to sustain the validity of dualism. The tendency is to move to monism of either the physical, the intellectual, or the spiritual, but this does not workaqnd compounds the problems. The best answer is a new philosophical intellectual framework which affirms all three basic aspects of Reality.

Lou Jost - #80119

May 15th 2013

Roger, I am just pointing out that Paul did not see a physical Jesus, but he still counted himself among the “witnesses” of the resurrected Jesus. This means that for Paul, encounters with the resurrected Jesus did not have to be physical.

melanogaster - #80202

May 17th 2013

It seems like a very basic point you’re making there, Lou.

Lou Jost - #80219

May 17th 2013

Yes, I can’t see how it would be controversial.

GJDS - #80234

May 18th 2013

Pointless yes - so how can something so banal be anything, let alone controversial? A ‘basic’ point - that Paul states that he had a vision on the road to Damascus - becomes something else in the hands of this oddball because Paul has stated this as the case. Wow - the theologians amongst this group of TEs. 

Lou Jost - #80244

May 18th 2013

Don’t blame TEs or anyone else if you have some beef with me.

GJDS - #80245

May 18th 2013

You now are becoming entertaining - Lou the centre of the Universe and I there with him!!!

beaglelady - #80254

May 18th 2013


GJDS - #80273

May 18th 2013

Wow, the shortest post on record——now, hmmmm ....

Roger A. Sawtelle - #80124

May 15th 2013


Paul saw Jesus.  It was the same Jesus that the others haas seen, which was the basis of his claim to be an Apostle like the others.

He did not make the distinction between the physical Jesus, the mental Jesus, and the spiritual Jesus.  That is what the Gnostics did.

Paul saw the Living Crucified Lord.  It was not a vision as you want to describe it.  It was a face to face encounter with the Messiah that brought him to the realization that his faith was totally wrong headed.  

Reality is one, not two.  The physical is more than flesh and blood.  It is form and the ability to act.  The resurrected Jesus is the same Jesus Who walked the earth.      

Lou Jost - #80137

May 15th 2013

Roger, the others who were present with Paul did not see Jesus. Therefore there was no physical body there. Do you think there was?

GJDS - #80130

May 15th 2013

Once again, I have to state, the rantings of a strange atheist who now claims to have ‘read scholars ....’

“Later in time, the rest of the gospels add more and more elaborations and supernatural additions,...”


I would have considered discussions of scholars regarding the three Gospels and the way the Gospel according to John may be viewed, but these type of comments are so blatent, dishonest and unsupported by any genuine scholarly work, that I simply register my dissaproval that BioLogos would tolerate such rantings and ravings. I now think the site has been set up to bolster a Darwinian outlook by changing any and every tenent of the Christian faitj when and how it would suit.

GJDS - #80136

May 15th 2013

After I posted this comment, it occured to me that some ‘self-inflated’ person would complain about shouting and the overall tone of this discussion - I have assumed that people had sufficient intelligence to understand the meaning of words, but in case I am proven wrong again, I point out the following:

Superstition and the occult have ALWAYS been associated and derived from the demonic and similar to Satan worship - the MEANING stated by this atheist is thus - the Gospels are books that are, or contain, teachings derived from the demonic. The term ‘weird’ also carries the connotation associated with the occult. Just why is this weird atheist obsessed with such terms when discussing the Gospels?

If these people feel that the tone and content of such remarks are consistent with the policy of BioLogos and Ted’s self-proclaimed ‘gentle’ discussion, than please state this so that I (and I suspect others) may understand and act accordingly (by denying that such weird rantings are true regarding the Gospel).

Why not act like Christians and also deny such rantings? After all Christ was accused in this way and He denied this, and stated clearly that such rantings are derived from the father of all lies. Christ is a good example to follow.

Lou Jost - #80138

May 15th 2013

GJDS, you said “the MEANING stated by this atheist is thus - the Gospels are books that are, or contain, teachings derived from the demonic.” How could an atheist, who does not believe either in gods or in demons, possibly be making a case that the gospels are demonic teachings?  I am exploring natural explanations for them. No gods, no demons.

GJDS - #80142

May 15th 2013

Lou, I have referred to the words and statements that you have made, and have shown what they mean - I have initially tried (what I consider) a more civilised approach to your statements, by discussing my experiences with other atheists - but your actions (statements as an atheist), have been weird. Natural explanations do not include the occult, zombies walking, mental breakdowns and other terms you have used.

My comments are brutally frank because your comments mean just what I have said - either directly or indirectly referring to the demonic. Agian I state, that I know many professional people who are atheists, and I have not heard any of them use the language you have employed, for the simple fact that they are real atheists - ones who do not believe in any non-material entity or entities - thus their conversations deal with the material, natural, scientific and so on. Most (at least all those that I know) are very ethical people who show the respect for theistic outlooks in a similar fashion to the respect I show to their ethical outlooks. Since their position is non-belief atheistic, I have not had the occasion to say anything on their atheistic outlook.

GJDS - #80151

May 16th 2013

This is by no means an exhaustive treatment - I have extensive scholastic textual analysis of the Gospels, which support the general traditional Orthodox traditional views (details may fill in the traditional view but these add and do not detract from tradition)

I have looked at views that aim to contradict the Gospels and have used one particular site for these comments. This material may be found on : http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ and http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/peter_kirby/tomb/.

From what I have read so far (the empty tomb, the earlier writings), the detractors also use various textual analysis and then claim this is ‘evidence’ – which appears to me to be a vague, “The Gospels are not so… because I say so .....”. Oddly enough, portions of the Gospels are used as some ‘evidence’, to argue that the Gospels are erroneous or ‘made up’.

I have not read everything on this site (it contains an enormous amount of material), but from what I have read, I cannot find:

  • Independent records from the period of Christ, and after the crucifixion and resurrection, that would be used to challenge the Gospels.
  • I find it incredulous that matters that excited the established Jewish hierarchy, especially to the point of involving the Roman Governor in their religious affairs, would not have been recorded by the Jews and kept as a version they would use if needed – we need to remember that this group included scribes whose job was mainly to keep records important to Judaism.
  • Regarding the empty tomb and the lack of veneration; the argument seems of the ‘moonshine’ variety – they quote the Gospel accounts, and then go on to argue that ‘the Christian writings do not mention the empty tomb on sufficient occasions, therefore we would conclude ....?”
  • The lack of veneration (or even identification of the tomb site) becomes a major topic for these critics – yet I cannot find anything like historical evidence to show it was possible to visit places in Jerusalem after the Romans destroyed it (and dispersed the Jews and renamed the land as Palestine). Indeed if we believe the accounts of Josephus, the people in that land had many, many other problems to contend with.
  • No-one (at least I cannot find anyone) seems to consider the fact that Christians were persecuted from ‘virtually day one”’ (e.g. Paul seeking them out). It beggars belief that Christians would publicly congregated to ‘venerate’ the tomb of Christ.
  • The Gospels give a brief account of how Jews acted when one of their own was buried (e.g. women visiting the tomb) – I have yet to find historically sound information that would support ‘veneration’, especially under the circumstances of crucifixion and so on.
  • The Jews obeyed the Law of Moses; to honour their parents – this is not the same as venerating – I am not sure if it was so after Jews were Hellenised, but it is possible that ‘veneration’ would have been equated with idolatry.
Lou Jost - #80167

May 16th 2013

“No-one (at least I cannot find anyone) seems to consider the fact that Christians were persecuted from ‘virtually day one”’ (e.g. Paul seeking them out). It beggars belief that Christians would publicly congregated to ‘venerate’ the tomb of Christ.”

The women who are supposed to have visited this tomb seemed to have absolutely no fear of persecution. Maybe that was too close to “Day 1”, though, and heavy persecution had not started. But even if later Christians could not publicly congregate there, one would think that they would still have noted the site of the central event of their faith. Not that this would prove anything; the Muslims know and venerate the site of Mohammed’s take-off on his mythical night flight. But the absence of a site is peculiar, and P’s explanation of the absence, given in Ted’s  80114 above, seems strained, to say the least.

Lou Jost - #80170

May 16th 2013

By the way, reading more about Mohammed’s Night Flight, it is interesting to note the richness of improbable detail in it. I can easily imagine a devout Muslim making arguments much like people here are making: The story contains details that no one would make up, and that are not always particularly flattering to the characters involved, and that people of the time would be unlikely to make up.

For example, when Mohammed visits Allah in heaven that night, Allah tells him to tell everyone they must pray 50 times a day. Mohammed and Moses complain and negotiate this down to 5 times a day. This negotiation of a divine order from a supposedly all-knowing and all-powerful god is not very flattering to Allah, yet there it is in the Hadiths. What person in the ancient Middle East would have thought that an all-powerful god could be negotiated down in this way? I bet nobody; it seems practically sacrilegious. I can almost hear an Islamic version of Wright, or of P,  saying “why would such an unflattering, improbable, contra-cultural detail be included in the story if it were not true?”

beaglelady - #80171

May 16th 2013

What person in the ancient Middle East would have thought that an all-powerful god could be negotiated down in this way? I bet nobody; it seems practically sacrilegious.

But this kind of thing happens all the time in the Bible. See, for example,  

beaglelady - #80175

May 16th 2013


What person in the ancient Middle East would have thought that an all-powerful god could be negotiated down in this way? I bet nobody; it seems practically sacrilegious.

But this kind of thing happens all the time in the Bible. See, for example,  Genesis 18, where Abraham pleads with God to spare the city of Sodom. 

Lou Jost - #80187

May 16th 2013

The Muslim account is really amusing though….At the urging of Moses, Mohammed has to go back to Allah  nine times, each time getting Allah to lower the number of prayers per day by five, arguing that so many prayers  would be too much of a burden on his people, until finally Mohammed is too embarrassed to go back and ask for a further reduction.

beaglelady - #80259

May 18th 2013

Sounds like union negotiations!

GJDS - #80270

May 18th 2013

Abraham was concerned for his relative ....... why do you miss that point ???????

GJDS - #80173

May 16th 2013

From what I understand of these traditions way back then, grieving at a tomb was understood and practiced - venerating is something else. I have (many years ago) visited many sites in Israel (Christian and Jewish), and many sacred sites were easily identified and rendered suitable for visits many centuries after Christ and the Apostles. I will have to check out more details, but I am certain many sites associated with the crucifixion, death and resurrection were identified. However, parroting anti-Christian rhetoric does not amount to evidence for your point (whatever that may be?). And you should discuss Islam with Muslims.

beaglelady - #80262

May 18th 2013

There are 2 suggested sites for the tomb/resurrection of Jesus.  The most popular site is Church of the Holy Sepulchre,  a very popular site for pilgrimage.   I’ve been there myself.   You wouldn’t believe the shenanigans (e.g. priestly brawls) that have gone on there!

GJDS - #80271

May 18th 2013

You save your non-priestry brawls for your evolutionary nonsense isntead - talk of the pot calling the kettle .......

beaglelady - #80276

May 18th 2013

Well, if you knew about what goes on there, and what used to go on there, you just might be surprised.  

Lou Jost - #80275

May 18th 2013

Now that you mention it, I have seen videos of those fights in that church between priests of different sects. Hilarious. They have carefully negotiated protocols for whoich sect cleans what part of the church, and sometimes these break out into wild violent broom-fights when somebody’s broom crossed an imaginary line.

beaglelady - #80277

May 18th 2013

It’s true, and now that I think about it, it sounds more like Quidditch!  That church is shared by four or so denominations, but there used to be even more contenders.  Since they don’t get along at all, an Arab family holds the keys to the place.  I remember visiting that church on a trip to Israel.     

GJDS - #80280

May 18th 2013

And from all of this, Lou and Beagleperson have now provided more scholarly insights that prove the Gospel is made up stuff and they have ........ what?

beaglelady - #80281

May 18th 2013

Don’t get excited. What goes on in this place is no secret.

GJDS - #80285

May 18th 2013

Yet you, not so excited, feel it is a useful contribution to a discussion that starts with an atheist proposing the Gospels are lies or made up stuff, and now we have this pointless comment from you - and it is us who are admonished by you!

Lou Jost - #80298

May 19th 2013

The broom fight I was thinking of took place in the Bethlehem church. Here are god’s priests in action. Somehow I suspect GJDS would be in the front lines if he had been there:


GJDS - #80306

May 19th 2013

A few years ago I think I may have made ‘a go’ of the broom fighting thing, but would not have been so good on the broom sweeping - now I think I would not be up to either, so I am confined to this type of action. What can I say - is this lucky for you or for me? How are you at swinging the old broom - if you are good at it, I do not want to hear any more!

Lou Jost - #80308

May 19th 2013

Probably lucky for me!!! I don’t even have a broom. You’d be able to whip my atheist hide.

Lou Jost - #80168

May 16th 2013

I had been reading Kirby as well. His claim was that the details of the empty tomb story originated with Mark, and did not exist when Paul was converted.

GJDS - #80235

May 18th 2013

And this claim is based on what? Another something someone concocts and somehow it becomes ‘evidence’ - is this the way evolutionists atheist use the term evidence?

Lou Jost - #80243

May 18th 2013

You said you read it.

GJDS - #80248

May 18th 2013

That is your idea of evidence - Kirby? Good ‘ol infidels; as long as someone else does your thinking for you - but what is hearsay?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #80157

May 16th 2013


You still don’t get it.  You are making artificial distinctions between the physical, mental, and spiritual.  If you have a truly monist world view that everything is physical, so there is no mental or spiritual, then whatever Paul saw was physical.

Paul reports that he saw Jesus Christ.  You might question why Paul was able to see Jesus when the others did not, but that is Whom he saw, no more, no less.  Since Paul had never met Jesus, he did not know Who He was until Jesus told him Who He was.    

Paul had a complex/one world view which does not make artificial reductionistic distinctions.  He saw a Person, not just an image, nor just an idea, not just a thing, nor just a spirit.    

Lou Jost - #80160

May 16th 2013

No, Roger, I think you are not seeing what I am getting at. If there was no physical body there during Paul’s experience (and we have testimony that there was not), then there need be no miraculous explanation for the experience. You can still add your supernatural element; I can’t disprove that a god actually talked to Paul. But if we are looking for naturalistic explanations (and I realize you are not, you already completely buy the explanation in terms of gods), then the absence of a body is very important to note here. This makes natural explanations much more plausible.

Chip - #80163

May 16th 2013

Apologies for being late to the party—and for (for some reason…) not being able to reply in-line.  Lou says (in 79874):

No inconsistencies??? One account of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:3) states that his companions did not see a blinding light, while another (Acts 22:6) by the same author (!) states that they did see this light. Acts 9:3 says the companions heard something, while Acts 22:6 says they did not.

Hmmm. Here’s 9:3:

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

And 22:6ff: 

But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, 7 and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice** of the One who was speaking to me… 

**Note:  some other translations (ie, RSV) translate this as “did not hear the voice…”  Vine’s Expository Dictionary explains: 

<A-1,Verb,191,akouo> the usual word denoting “to hear,” is used (a) intransitively, e.g., Matt. 11:15; Mark 4;23; (b) transitively when the object is expressed, sometimes in the accusative case, sometimes in the genitive. Thus in Acts 9:7, “hearing the voice,” the noun “voice” is in the partitive genitive case [i.e., hearing (something) of], whereas in Acts 22:9, “they heard not the voice,” the construction is with the accusative. This removes the idea of any contradiction. The former indicates a “hearing” of the sound, the latter indicates the meaning or message of the voice (this they did not hear).

Bottom line:  hearing/not hearing is easily resolved; the claim that “(Acts 9:3) states that his companions did not see a blinding light” is simply not in the text, making the “more contradictions” claim unsupported at best. 

Lou Jost - #80164

May 16th 2013

Yes, if you read the thread you’ll see that I agreed that these can be read consistently.  Though no light is mentioned in the second quote, that could just be left out by the storyteller for some reason.

You have left out the relevant part of the first quote;

Acts 9:3-7 “..The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.”

You can see where it might seem contradictory since there are translations that say “did not hear a voice” in the second quote.

As I have been looking at the different translations conveniently available for biblical quotes in the Bible Gateway website, I am struck by their substantive differences in some cases. I wonder just how much the translators themselves brought to the story. A Christian translator who “knew” that there should not be contradictions with other parts of the Bible might very well make translating decisions based on that knowledge. A skeptical translator might make the opposite decisions due to his own bias. This is a tricky business!

beaglelady - #80172

May 16th 2013

 A skeptical translator might make the opposite decisions due to his own bias. This is a tricky business!

True, very tricky,  but translations are usually done by groups, not individuals.   And good study Bibles will have translation notes with alternate translations, or might say “the meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain.”   Robert Alters’  translation of Genesis has more notes than text!

GJDS - #80288

May 18th 2013

Here is something that could give you material Lou (and Beagleperson I suspect). For years I have been at a loss to understand why the English translators would use the phrase ‘Holy Ghost’ - and even now, although some use the term ‘Holy Spirit’, the former term keeps coming up. Tell me, is this evidence of a bias by these translators? Did they “know” what to do to avoid these contradictions that you are so keen to imagine? And what would a skeptical translator do, with your tricky business - remember this is so central to the Christian faith - perhaps once you display your understanding on translations and languages we may have a ‘substantive’ discussion with you - or would I be hoping against hope once again? 

beaglelady - #80295

May 19th 2013

“Ghost” is another word for “Spirit.” “Spirit” is used in newer translations and litergies.  

GJDS - #80296

May 19th 2013

I learnt English at a young age in a very short time, and one thing that I remember to this day is that the common use of ghost was an non-physical entities, things that make noises in the night etc., Since this discussion is meant to deal with translations, would this translation into Holy Ghost show a bias or intent on the part of the translators? It is a way of illustrating the point.

It is ludicrous to use variations in meaning and cultural aspects that are found in every language as a way of theorising that translators are biased and cannot be trusted.

My response was to simply add this ‘stange’ aspect to the untidy English language and study more to get a deeper understanding - if a nine yr boy can see the sense in this, I would have thought a fully educated USA chap would also have that capability.

Eddie - #80300

May 19th 2013


The Greek word that is sometimes rendered “Ghost” and sometimes “Spirit” is pneuma.

The Bible translation and liturgy I grew up with always had “Holy Ghost” rather than “Holy Spirit.”  “Holy Ghost” was the traditional translation in older English.  However, over my lifetime virtually every church has substituted “Holy Spirit.”

The reason for this is practical.  The word “ghost” in modern English has a much narrower meaning than it had in older English.  Now it means the non-physical remnant of a dead person; then the word had a wider significance, like its German cognate Geist (“spirit”).  Because of the change in English, the word “ghost” now calls up many associations which are very misleading—floating white sheets, walking through walls, haunted houses, etc.—and so most liturgies and Bible translations have substituted “Spirit” for “Ghost.”

So “Holy Ghost” isn’t a novel, trendy translation, but one with a very long history.  And it was a perfectly good translation, 400 years ago.  But it’s not a good translation now for most people.

This, however, concerns the rendering of Greek into current English.  It doesn’t have anything to do with the question Lou is raising, which is whether Paul had the same understanding of the Resurrection as the Gospel writers did.  Lou’s question isn’t based on any particular translation.  It’s based on the fact that Paul doesn’t mention seeing any bodily form of Jesus in the story of his conversion, and doesn’t appeal to the testimony of eyewitnesses (as the Gospels do) regarding the empty tomb and the raising of Jesus’ physical body.  Lou is trying to draw an inference from these facts.  And that’s not a translation question, but a larger interpretive question—how do we put together the different accounts of Jesus given in the New Testament writers?  It’s a legitimate question, however much we might disagree with Lou’s particular answer to the question.

Lou Jost - #80303

May 19th 2013

Thank you Eddie for that accurate and well-stated summary of my argument, even though you disagree with it.

GJDS - #80305

May 19th 2013

Eddie, I am aware of the distinction since my background includes modern and ancient Greek. The point I have been trying to make (using the Holy Gohst as an example) is directed at Lou’s ascertain that (1) the Gospel writers made stuff up as time went by, and (2) translators who believed than added more stuff - thus implying some type of conspiracy motivated by belief.

On the question of Paul’s accounts, the points I have seen in some posts border on sillyness imo - we can speculate and ascert almost anything if we decide that we should and could know why one writer (e.g. Paul) decided to write what he did, and what others may have. Orthodox tradition has addressed both the preservation of the Bible and also why the various writings have the particular approaches and perhaps also reflect the personality and background of each writer, and perhaps the impact of multiple sources. A great deal of work has been added to tradition to give us a very good account of these matters. Critics have had a free rein in all of thus - suggesting a conspiracy theory of whatever sort is just plain silly.

Putting things together, interpretation, and so on, have been ongoing activities for Christians for perhaps 2000 years. It is untidy to conflate matters on seeking understanding, scholarly studies, with wild speculation on what any tom dick and harry may concoct - this is particularly so for those who seem to be irrationally anti-Christian. There is sufficient critical work on the Gospels for anyone of any persuasion to obtain a great deal of information on the Gospels - I do not see how imputing ‘made up stuff’ is a constructive approach to these matters. (spelling/typing errors have not been removed)

Lou Jost - #80309

May 19th 2013

Have you never asked yourself how much of the gospel is true? Obviously some of it is not. Where does the line get drawn? Is it more plausible that someone like Mark, inspired by a great teacher, exaggerated and mythified him (this has happened often in the course of history) or, alternatively, that the creator of the universe came down to earth to be killed to atone for something that a nonexistent Adam and Eve did, and then rose from the dead after all kinds of wild miracles, and then flew up into the sky never to be heard from again? To claim that my version is implausible and your version makes perfect sense betrays an amazing amount of bias.

Joriss - #80312

May 19th 2013

Isn’t it clarifying to say: yes, we christians have a bias and we received this bias from God? It’s name is faith; things have been revealed to us, so that we KNOW that Christ is risen. We can not prove it to those who resist the Holy Spirit and don’t want to be convinced.
How much of the gospel is true? I believe God has provided a hundred percent true gospel. I thank God for being biassed by the Holy Spirit. Biassed by Truth.

Lou Jost - #80316

May 19th 2013

You believe that they are 100% true, even though the gospels contradict each other in key details? I think you cannot be serious.

Joriss - #80318

May 19th 2013

You said: Have you never asked yourself how much of the gospel is true? The gospel is the good news that Christ has come to save us, that He died for us and rose again and that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish but have eternal life. This is the gospel and is 100% true.
If the gospels differ in some details, it is not in key details.      d

Lou Jost - #80319

May 19th 2013

You didn’t actually answer my question. It sounds as though you haven’t ever questioned them. I do thank you for at least agreeing that they contradict each other (so maybe they are, say, 80% true); granted the contradictions aren’t important enough to make us toss out the whole story, but what if some of the core details are also not true?

beaglelady - #80323

May 19th 2013

Is there some reason you need to nag him?  I’m sure he’s examined his faith—most people have.

Lou Jost - #80329

May 19th 2013

Someone who says everything there is 100% true probably has not.

beaglelady - #80331

May 19th 2013

He didn’t say all the details were true.  He gave a good summary of the Gospel and said that was 100% true. 

Lou Jost - #80336

May 19th 2013

“How much of the gospel is true? I believe God has provided a hundred percent true gospel.”

GJDS - #80345

May 19th 2013

You and the fruitfly should give each other lessons on what it is to “quote mining” ... but then that would require attributes that do not include an innordinate need to ‘catch someone out’.

Joriss - #80352

May 20th 2013

“but what if some of the core details are also not true?”

As I said already: things have been revealed to us, so that we KNOW that Christ is risen.

The gospel is not unrational,  nevertheless you can’t lay hold on it purely by ratio. We need to open up our hearts and also our minds for the Truth. This Truth will satisfy our hearts and our minds, included our ratio. It doesn’t contradict rational thinking, although rational thinking alone is not able to enter the door of God’s kingdom. We enter by faith in a God who in his wisdom has decided, that we should enter his kingdom like children that recognise the love of their father. Faith doesn’t depend on our intellect, retarded people can enter God’s kingdom on the same conditions as intellectuals can: by faith in Jesus. The difference between the intellect of retarded people and intellectual people is ridicuously small, compared with the difference between the intellect of the cleverest professor and that of God. So it is not unrational at all, that God has the same condition for all of us: believe in Jesus. He is the Truth and He appeals directly to our conscience. So we can accept the truth and we can dodge the truth, evading the light, because we don’t like it. The gospel, though the entrance is not by ratio, is very rational in itself.

GJDS - #80324

May 19th 2013

My poor typing skills are obvious to anyone - your inability to conduct a discussion that does not include terms like, “how much of the Gospel is true or false” you are biased” that we “loose our ability to reason and distinguish waht is true what is from false”, is very obvious.

I have placed the major ‘implausibilities’ of the Christian faith in print (not included in these posts - although I think I mentioned one point in passing), and have invited skeptics and atheists to discuss these I have not heard your type of language from any of them. I have seen such rubbish in other posts and publications by aggressive and pompous, self-referential atheists.

What I noticed from resonable people was an attitude that understood many concepts may be difficult to reconcile with sense-based observations of everyday life. Thus they would consider their own position and belief. This is reasonable.

Your comments (if I can ever make sense of them) seem to be related to your expectations of what is discussed in the Gospels rather than any depth in understanding their content. It is only after some understanding, can anyone posit the question, “do I believe this”. The answer can only be made by the individual - and after this, either yes or no is valid.

I cannot see anything in your posts that indicates this - if, as you indicate, you cannot understand ‘flew in the sky’ ‘killed to atone’ and so on, why this innordinate interest and endless discussions? It does not make sense. Anyone would say, these things are too incredible and go on to things that he/she finds more interesting.

Eddie - #80313

May 19th 2013


You seemed to be asking for an explanation for the use of “Ghost” in the expression “Holy Ghost”; and you seemed to be of the view that it was an odd translation.  Then you indicated that you had learned English in a very brief time, and that it was contemporary English that you had learned.  Putting all of this together, I inferred that you were unfamiliar with older English usage, and so my answer above was meant to fill in a gap of knowledge in your English, especially religious English.  I wanted to make clear to you that “Holy Ghost” was a time-honored English expression, not some newfangled translation.  If you already knew that, I apologize for being redundant, but I could not tell whether you knew it or not.

While we are on the subject of language, I hope you will not mind this correction:  you keep using the word “ascertain” see your first paragraph above) when you mean “assertion.”  The words have entirely different meanings in English!  Since this is a systematic error—I’ve seen it probably a dozen times in your posts—it is one you should consciously go after and correct.

GJDS - #80322

May 19th 2013



Thanks for pointing out “ascertain” and “assert” or “assertion”. I understand the distinction and will keep an eye on how I spell these words.

Just to clear this thing up - I learnt English in less than 6 months at a young age and have used it for many publications (mostly in science, and fewer as poetry - all in English). Since this conversation has taken this bent, I will point out that a prominant USA scientist who was an examiner of my thesis made it a point to highlite the strength of my use of language. Just a way of saying that I have used English for a very long time. My biggest surprise was to see one or two of my poems published as ‘gems’ and one poem as a theme for a major event.

My ‘beef’ with English is something else. I do not have time to study any language (although I have spent some time on German and ancient Greek a long time ago) - English is fascinating, but messy, and the spelling has always made me feel very irritated - it does not ‘sound’ the way it is spelled.

However, my real excuse for the errors was identified many years ago when I tried to learn to type. On this subject, there is universal agreement that I get ‘F’ at every attempt. The other point is that I am still trying to get rid of a bad habit termed - writing as a stream of consciousness.

Hopefully this post would put to rest concerns related to the errors and expressions that are found in hasty posts without spell-checking.

No I was not asking for an explanation on “Holy Ghost”; instead I was trying to point out the dangers that may be faced when anyone translates from one language to another. A discussion of English translations of Homer’s story of Troy would probably be a better illustration of translation problems.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #80174

May 16th 2013


The discussion made me read the passage in Acts carefully, which I should have done before.

The way I read it, there was a very bright light, then a conversation between Jesus and Paul, and Paul was made blind.  No one else in the group heard the conversation and no one else was made blind, but Paul, but everyone experienced the light. 

Was there a physical presence to this Jesus?  Yes, the light was the physical presence of Jesus.  Did Paul actually see Jesus?  He said he did.  It would seem that it was the brightness of the light that blinded Jesus.

Was there a mental presence to this Jesus?  Yes, the conversation with Paul demonstrates that the Risen Christ was also a intellectual Person as well as a physical presence.

Was there a spiritual presence to this Jesus?  Yes, Jesus was telling Paul that he had his values and theology wrong. 

The Jesus Paul experienced was real Person, physical, mental, and spiritual.  That is the bottom line.    


Lou Jost - #80177

May 16th 2013

The light is in only one of the two accounts, omitted in the other, but be that as it may, the bottom line of my point is that there was no actual physical body, and I guess you agree. I agree with you that if the light was real, that was something physical. I can’t say what it was though….apparently no one else present thought it was Jesus, so Paul’s mind either recognized or inserted that identity, which was not obvious on physical grounds. Also, of course, even Paul did not actually recognize the light as Jesus at first (remember he never saw the living Jesus). It was only the voice that told him who it was.

Eddie - #80214

May 17th 2013

I’ve followed some of this conversation with interest, but haven’t participated so far.  In part that’s because I’m not quite sure what people are debating here.  Things seem to be shifting back and forth between Paul’s account of his conversion and what the Gospels say about the Resurrection.

As far as the conversion accounts of Paul go, I agree with Lou.  I’ve looked up the Greek in the two Acts passages mentioned, and it seems to me that the most natural way of taking the passages is that Paul saw a light, and heard a voice, even an intelligible voice, and recognized from the message that the voice came from Jesus.  It would be an unnatural, forced reading of the passages to derive from them that Paul saw either the mortal form of Jesus or the glorified body of Jesus witnessed by the disciples in the Gospels.  

I can think of no good reason for altering this conclusion.  It is true that there are some statements outside of Acts which seem to indicate that Paul at some point or another had seen the actual form of Jesus.  But unless I have missed something, those statements are general and are not tied to the conversion accounts.  It might well be that Paul did see the physical form of Jesus on other, unrecorded occasions, after his conversion.  That would not warrant reading the vision of Jesus’ physical form back into the Acts passages.

The question whether the disciples saw the actual physical body of Jesus (glorified or not) after his death is an entirely separate question.  Jesus could well have appeared to the disciples in bodily form, and to Paul only via a light and a voice.  I don’t see why Jesus always has to manifest himself in the same way.  So I see no contradiction between saying that Paul did not see the body or face of Jesus in the Damascus experience, and affirming a bodily Resurrection.  Thus, I see no need for  Christian apologetic to rush to the defense of the proposition that Paul saw the form of Jesus on the Damascus road.

As for whether Paul’s experience on the Damascus road was of something real, or only of a phantasm of the mind, that is again another question.  The light and voice might well have been real physical phenomena for Paul, and even for his companions (though apparently if they heard a voice, they couldn’t make out what it said).  There could have been a real event in the physical realm of light and sound.  I don’t see how one could prove or disprove it.  Those who want to see Paul’s vision as merely in his mind can of course do so, and those who think he actually saw and heard something external to his mind can believe that.  I can’t imagine any “neutral” argument that would settle the matter one way or the other.  We are never going to possess photographs or sound recordings of the incident.  Those whose metaphysics demands, a priori, that all visionary experiences recorded in ancient writings are purely of the mind and correspond to no external reality, cannot be refuted; but there is no reason why such a metaphysics should be accepted by others.

I offer a final general comment.  My sense is that for Paul the living experience of Christ (whether his physical form was ever seen by Paul or not) is the central focus of Christian theology; that experiential focus—that we know Christ rose again because we feel him with us, talk to him, draw strength from him, etc.—means that Paul, while certainly not denying a physical Resurrection, is going to be less interested in documents and evidence for such a thing.  He is not about to interview all the disciples and make sure their stories of the Resurrection hang together before he believes them, because he has (he is convinced) spoken to the risen Lord himself.  

So, assuming that Paul at some point became aware of the story of the empty tomb, did he believe the story?  Why wouldn’t he?  It is completely compatible with his own experience of a risen Christ.  Christ might well have appeared at first bodily, but then, after his ascension, appeared only as light, a voice, or as a non-material image of his bodily self.  Still, he would have relatively little interest in the sort of “empirical evidence” we get in, say, the story of the doubting Thomas.  The single experience on the Damascus road was, for him, all the “evidence” he would ever need.

Lou Jost - #80215

May 17th 2013

Eddie, thanks for joining this conversation and providing some language clarification. The larger point I was arguing was that Paul’s experience of Jesus here did not include a physically real body. And yet he includes his experience in the list of Jesus’ “appearances"to disciples and others (and uses the same verb for “appeared” in all of them). This leaves open the possibility that these other appearances he lists were of the same kind as his. I don’t claim it is proof that all the other appearances were like his, but it seems that this passage does not rule it out.

The absence of any talk of the empty tomb in Paul is also consistent with the theory that this story did not exist at the time. The argument from silence, by itself, is weak, because Paul wasn’t writing an encyclopedia, he was trying to resolve conflicts among congregations regarding what to believe. It is natural for him to leave out irrelevant details. But the argument that some skeptical scholars make is that there are places in Paul where the empty tomb, and especially the apostles’ experience of a physically resurrected Jesus, would have been extremely relevant to his arguments, like his discussion of the nature of the resurrected body. The most authoritative answer would have been to tell people what the actual eyewitnesses reported. He doesn’t do that, so the silence even when it would have been highly relevant to his purpose is surprising. This seems to leave room for the idea that perhaps the physical resurrection and the empty tomb were invented (perhaps by Mark) for theological purposes.

Can I ask you for an opinion about the Greek in the other passage I quoted above (80039), from 1 Peter 18? There, translations conflict. Some translate it as something like Christ rose in the spirit, while others say something like Christ rose by the spirit.

Lou Jost - #80218

May 17th 2013

I forgot to add another reason that Paul’s experience seems important. Wright argues that first-century Jews all would have thought that resurrection HAD to be of the physical body. I don’t know about that, but if Paul is able to say he experienced the resurrected Jesus, and if this Jesus was not in a physical body visible to others, then this effectively shows that no, Paul could conceive of the resurrected Jesus as non-physical, refuting Wright’s claim.

Lou Jost - #80225

May 17th 2013

Sorry, it was James Dunn, not Wright, who made this argument; see above.

Eddie - #80228

May 17th 2013


Your reference to “1 Peter 18” is either incomplete or erroneous; there is no such verse.  But I can answer your question in a general way. 

I assume that the preposition en appears in the passage (which I can only confirm with the correct verse number).  The basic meaning of the preposition en in Greek is “in.”  The core meaning is spatial.  However, the preposition has a wide range of meanings, and, especially in Biblical Greek, it can introduce a cause or means, and thus can be translated as “by” or “through.”  Context determines whether or not a non-spatial meaning is justified.

So either meaning is possible, and often both meanings can be justified; I wouldn’t make a particular judgment without looking at the verse in context; and as Peter isn’t a particular interest of mine, I probably wouldn’t have an enthusiastic recommendation.

I agree that it is logically possible that Paul knew of no physical resurrection, and that the idea only appeared later.  And I agree that if Paul were trying to argue, like an objective historian, that the Resurrection was a fact like the Battle of Waterloo, he would have been foolish not to cite the testimony about the empty tomb, if he had heard it.  But this is part of a much more general problem in understanding Paul:  he shows little interest, not only in the physical details of the Resurrection, but in the earthly life of Jesus generally.  So the question “Why doesn’t he argue from the empty tomb?” needs to be considered in a wider context.  (He doesn’t argue from the Sermon on the Mount either, as far as I can tell.)  Also, there is the consideration I raised above:  he may have been trying to infect his hearers with an “experiential” more than a “historical” Jesus.  But I claim no expertise on Paul.  I’m just making some tentative observations and some tentative suggestions.  

Lou Jost - #80241

May 18th 2013

Oops, I left out the chapter number, sorry: 1 Peter 3:18.

Yes, your assessment of Paul is shared by many secular scholars, and it makes some people wonder if the gospel stories surrounding the historical Jesus were later additions to flesh out or illustrate the teachings that were handed down. The gospels themselves (including the resurrection stories) would then be parables to add life to, and illustrate the meaning of, the sayings recorded from Jesus. In this view, Jesus was a real person and left many profound teachings which were capable of moving and motivating many people, and really was crucified, but was not divine.

But I am also no expert on Paul, as I am sure everybody here knows!

Lou Jost - #80242

May 18th 2013

Your last point is also a possibility, of course. After all, this experiential dimension of Jesus was what he himself knew.

Eddie - #80261

May 18th 2013


I looked up 1 Peter 3:18.  The preposition en (“in” or “by”) does not appear.  The words “flesh” and “spirit” are in the dative case, but they are without any preposition in front of them.  The dative without a preposition can mean many things, including “in” or “by,” but here I don’t think the meaning is spatial and I don’t think any agent is indicated.  Rather, I think we have here the “dative of respect.”  This usage indicates in what respect or in what way something happens or is true.  

I would render 1 Peter 3:18 (fairly literally) as:

“For Christ too a single time suffered concering sins [on behalf of us/you], (a) righteous (man) on behalf of unrighteous (ones), in order that he might lead us [you] to God, having been put to death with respect to flesh but having been made alive with respect to [the] spirit.”

[words in brackets are not found in all manuscripts] 

Of course, in English, the idea of “with respect to” can be conveyed by   “in,” so the last part could also be rendered as:

“having been put to death in (the) flesh but having been made alive in (the) spirit.”

Note that the meaning of “in” here is not spatial.  

Hope this helps.

Lou Jost - #80263

May 18th 2013

Thank you Eddie. Your suggested translation was also used in the majority of translations I have found online. This is an interesting verse, which again suggests belief in a non-physical resurrection. I understand the authorship of 1 Peter is in dispute, and if it was not authored or directed by Peter, the line loses some of its evidential force, but it is still a striking statement for the earliest Christians to be making.

Eddie - #80283

May 18th 2013


Yes, I can see how my suggested translation would support your idea.

I should add, however, in the interest of completeness, that there are many uses of the dative case without a preposition, and one very common use is the “dative of means” (also called “instrumental dative”).  So the meaning could be “having been made alive by means of (the) spirit”—which could suggest the revivification of the physical body.  

I make one more point:  the letters of “Peter” are often said to have been written quite late, probably after all of the Gospels, and at least after the earlier ones.  If that is the case, then, even if the story of the empty tomb first appears in the Gospels, it is almost inconceivable that the writer of Peter would not have read it or heard of it.  Whether and how this should affect our translation of this passage is an open question.


Lou Jost - #80297

May 19th 2013

OK, that is a good point. If 1 Peter was written after the first gospel, it loses its evidential value with respect to the hypothesis that these stories arise with Mark. It neither supports nor refutes it.

The evidence from Paul remains, and I think this is strong positive evidence for the hypothesis. It is not just an argument from silence. It could be called the argument from lost opportunity, because Paul didn’t mention historical details even when it would have greatly helped his case in explaining things or settling disputes.

GJDS - #80180

May 16th 2013

Lou has been unhappy with my post summarising traditional views on the Gospels. I provide a slightly shortened account of the types of analysis and criticisms of the Bible in general and the NT in particular – further details can be obtained by anyone truly interested in these matters. This general information should show the enormous effort and scholarship that has been made into the Bible and its contents – understanding it however, may require more than scholarly studies.

Literary analysis techniques have been used to examine the Bible; criticism examines the Greek and Hebrew texts (textual criticism), the historical setting of the various parts of the Bible (historical criticism), and various literary questions regarding how, when, where, and why the books of the Bible were first written (literary criticism).

Higher criticism introduces seemingly endless speculations about the Bible’s source and meaning, contributing to cynicism and doubt about the authority of God’s Word. The lower school (unwilling to vaunt human pride above the Spirit of God’s Word) study with equal skill and diligence and bear the fruit of an accurate text distilled from carefully examined manuscripts. The latter approach also provides insight, evidence, and an intellectually sound defence against the irreverent judgments of some higher critics. The criticisms are:

Textual criticism: the attempt to determine, as accurately as possible, the wording of the text of the Bible as first written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Since none of the original documents has survived and the text is available only in copies, it is necessary to compare the early copies with each other. This allows the textual critic to classify these early copies into groups exhibiting certain common features and to decide why any differences occurred and what the original wording most likely was.

The early copies on which textual critics work consist mainly of manuscripts in the original languages, translations into other languages, and biblical quotations made by Jewish and Christian writers.

Historical criticism: the examination of the Bible in light of its historical setting. This is particularly important because the Bible was written over a period of more than one thousand years. The story the Bible records extend from the beginning of civilization in the ancient world to the Roman Empire of the first century A.D.

Historical criticism is helpful in determining when the books of the Bible were written. It is also helpful in determining a book’s “dramatic date”—that is, when the people it describes lived and its events happened. The dramatic date of Genesis, for instance, is much earlier than the date when it was written; these stories better reflect their dramatic date than the dates of their writing, just as the picture presented in the New Testament best reflects what is known about the early part of the first century A.D.  continued

GJDS - #80181

May 16th 2013

continued ....

Literary criticism: this is divided into sources, tradition, redaction, and authorship.

1. Source criticism attempts to determine whether the writers of the books of the Bible used earlier sources of information and, if so, whether those sources were oral or written. Some biblical books clearly indicate their dependence on earlier sources, e.g. Luke, and Acts - much of his information was handed on by “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). However, these sources usually have not survived independently and their identification and reconstruction cannot be certain. It is fairly clear, however, that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke draw on common sources; their two most widely agreed sources are one that related the story of Jesus and one that contained a collection of His teachings.

2. Tradition criticism (including form criticism) studies how information was passed from one generation to another before it was put in its present form. Tradition is simply that which is handed down; it may be divinely authoritative, or it may be merely “the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8; Col. 2:8). Sometimes a tradition was handed on by word of mouth for several generations before it was written down, as in the record of the patriarchs in Genesis. Sometimes a tradition was handed on by word of mouth for only twenty or thirty years, as in the records of the works and words of Jesus before the Gospels were written.

Tradition criticism attempts to trace the stages by which these traditions were handed down, the forms which they took at those various stages, and the forms in which they reached the people who committed them to writing.

Classifying sections of the Bible according to the form they take can provide an additional perspective from which one can better understand the text of Scripture. However, this method must be used with great caution and restraint to avoid imposing the critic’s own assumptions on the Bible.

3. Redaction criticism attempts to understand the contribution to the finished manuscript made by the person who finally committed the oral or written traditions to writing. This may be illustrated from the Gospel of Luke. Luke makes no claim to have been an eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ ministry; everything he records in the Gospel was received from others. Tradition criticism studies what Luke received and the state in which he received it. Redaction criticism studies what he did with what he received. Luke (and the same can be said of the other evangelists) was a responsible author who set the stamp of his own personality on what he wrote. It is important to remember that an author’s personal contribution to the finished book was no less reliable (and, hence, no less authoritative) than the tradition which he received.  continued ...

GJDS - #80182

May 16th 2013

continued ....

4. Authorship and destination criticism involve the attempt to determine the authorship of a work, as well as the person, group, or wider public for whom it was written. The judicious use of literary criticism will throw further light on the circumstances which led to the writing of the book and the purpose for which it was sent. For example, we do not know for certain who wrote the letter to the Hebrews. However, by looking critically at Hebrews we can learn much about the character of the author and a little about the character and situation of the people to whom the letter was written. The passing of centuries and the study of Bible texts, transmitted from generation, has only deepened the evidence for the fact that we have in hand a trustworthy text, divinely protected from error or human confusion.

Hayford, J. W., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1995. Hayford’s Bible handbook. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville

Lou Jost - #80205

May 17th 2013

There is a problem with much of this bible “criticism”, and it is the same one that Christians readily note in the extensive Islamic scholarship regarding the Quran. Most of the scholars in these fields (though not all) are in fact deeply commited believers in the book they study, be it the Bible or the Quran, who see things through their lens of belief. The source you just quoted, for example, says “we have in hand a trustworthy text, divinely protected from error or human confusion.” That statement reveals a remarkable blindness. The contradictions and ambiguities in the gospel passages we have been discussing, plus all the nonsense in the Old Testament, disprove the statement. A skeptic could not possibly trust such a source to be an honest judge of the material.

I’ve been listening to NT Wright’s talks lately, and while they have historical depth, they too sound like “preaching” rather than scholarly discourse. I don’t know enough about history to judge much of what he says, but his seemingly complete lack of skepticism is cause for concern. These events of 2000 years ago are hard to figure out, and anyone who expresses such certainty about the wildly improbable details is very difficult to trust.

GJDS - #80208

May 17th 2013

Your own reasoning would render your comments invalid - you do not believe the Bible is what it is and as a result you insist it is full of the nonsense you keep bringing up. Your assumption is that every scholar who has contributed to our understanding of the Bible must somehow be either fools who are blinded by their belief, or we have ‘the mother of all conspiracies’ stretching for 2000 years. If you have looked into these matters, you would have realised that many scholars have worked on many manuscripts, some partially destroyed, others fragements, others parchments in which some had been written over, and even sentences on things like pottery fragments.

Nonetheless you at least show consistancy, in that you believe you have figured it all out, while countless others are untrustworthy scholars. The fact that belief comes into any outlook is obvious - the notion that because someone believes something renders such a person inapt or somehow incapable of sound scholarship is simply wrong.

Criticisms are found for everything, especially ancient literature. Faith does not displace reason - however the conflicts between people of differing beliefs and traditions are also obvious. These matters ultimately are decided by each individual. 

Lou Jost - #80216

May 17th 2013

I did not say that “every scholar who has contributed to our understanding of the Bible must somehow be either fools who are blinded by their belief.” Bias is often subtle and, as many commenters here have noted, virtually inescapable. And I recognize my own bias: I am looking for explanations of the data in terms of known, understood phenomena, if possible.

GJDS - #80227

May 17th 2013

You are going around in circles - the comments (and other Christians) have made is about eye witnesses who testified to the resurrect and are mentioned in the Gospels. I have pointed out the material that Christians have relied on. You dispute this material and now seem to imply there is other material (looking for explanations and data ......). I have stated that you must, (if your argument has any substance) identify any data or material that YOU can use for your activity. You keep going back to the Gospels, try to make some sort of argument against them, and complain at the rebuttels. Since YOU consider these (Gospel) sources are inadequate and/or biased, it is up to YOU to bring up YOUR sources that you have relied on to come to what YOU claim, is data of a type you consider reliable, that proves your ascertains, and that we can consdier. After a seemingless endless number of posts from you, I still cannot see anything of substance from you regarding YOUR position. Eddie has a point - it is hard to see what you are trying to say.

If this statement is difficult for you to understand, I simply cannot see the point of your endless posts - anyone can go to the web site you use to find out what these anti-Christians are saying. Are you a voice for them on this site?

Lou Jost - #80232

May 17th 2013

“...eye witnesses who testified to the resurrect and are mentioned in the Gospels.” You are ignoring the possibility that the gospels do not really contain eyewitness testimony, and if they do, you do not know how much that testimony was transformed by the writers’ own beliefs. There are enough discrepancies and obvious mythification in the gospels that we need to consider these possibilities. One example that we discussed above is Matthew’s claims of strange events in the aftermath of the death of Jesus.

GJDS - #80233

May 17th 2013

You obfuscate to the point of making things meaningless - for the last time, do you have anything resembling data to support your ascertains. Obviously from your evasive comments, you do not - then the ‘substance’ of your comments are: (1) the Gospels are false, (2) scholarly research is untstworthy if it supports the Gospels and those people are dishonest, and (3) you do not believe these accounts so you are honest and everyone else is so blind they cannot see this fantastic truth you possess.

All I need to add is that perhaps that famous spagetti monster in the sky is showing you all of these brilliant insights and some day a select few may join you - oh heck, I have spent all of my posts for one reason, to insult poor old Lou (I do not think so).

Lou Jost - #80249

May 18th 2013

I simply stated that scholars, like all of us, have biases, and we need to watch for those. It should be obvious from my comments that I am not an expert in Bible studies and don’t claim to have special knowledge here. I am just exploring non-supernatural explanations for the gospels and the rise of the early church, just as you would explore non-supernatural explanations for the rise of Hinduism or Islam.

GJDS - #80251

May 18th 2013

As usual this is pointless repition that goes in endless circles.

beaglelady - #80222

May 17th 2013

Biblical scholarship and Quranic scholarship can’t really be compared.  The Biblical scholar is free to speak his mind.  Sure, you might get in trouble with your denomination or religious school, but that’s as far as it goes.  With the Quran you can literally lose your life if you say the wrong thing.   Do you know how hard it would be to make a movie about Mohammad and keep Muslims happy at the same time? You can’t even show Mohammed’s face!

Lou Jost - #80224

May 17th 2013

That’s true….but it seems to me a large number of them are not coerced but sincerely believe what they are saying. Watch some debates involving western immigrant Muslims vs atheists, or vsChristians. Those Muslims didn’t have to be there debating, didn’t have to be passionate, but they are. It took no coercion.

beaglelady - #80226

May 17th 2013

Yes a lot of them do believe sincerely. You aren’t going to see the ones who don’t.   I read a lot of books by Bernard Lewis. He tells the story of a Muslim teacher who tried to make a point his students, also Muslim, didn’t like. They threw him out the window.

beaglelady - #80255

May 18th 2013

oops, I meant to say “who tried to make a point to his Muslim students  that they didn’t like”



Roger A. Sawtelle - #80204

May 17th 2013


The text says that there was a blinding light in both accounts.  The only difference is that the second affirms that everyone saw it, whilew the first account does not. 

If there was a blinding light, then it is reasonable to say that everyone saw it.  The second account affirms this.  Both accounts seem to affirm that everyone heard the voice, but only Paul understood it.

Jesus appeared to Paul in the way that I suggested.  Blinding light is used in the NT as a  theophany.  Paul knew that God was sending him a message.  He did not know what that message was until Jesus spoke to him.  It is that simple. 

Paul was so caught up in his own faith that he had no way of knowing that Jesus was the Messiah until that time and place.  It should also be noted that this experience was quite clear and convincing. 

Even when the disciples told Paul that he was causing too much trouble in Jerusalem, so he had to leave and go home to Tarsus, he did not give us his faith in Jesus.  Some of us give up on Jesus because we feel betrayed by the church.  Paul was rejected by the Church, but he was ready to pastor when Barnabas came to Tarsus to ask him to help out in Antioch.

Paul took on Peter over the place of the Gentiles in the Church.  Then too his faith saw him through much persecution by his fellow Jews and the Pagans, as well as disputes within the Church.         

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