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Defending the Faith: Christ's resurrection was a witnessed fact, not a later fantasy

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  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    March 28, 2013 8:36 a.m.

    Excellent!

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 28, 2013 9:17 a.m.

    “Modern people commonly assume that pre-modern people were stupid… unenlightened by science and awash in superstition.”

    Well, they were not stupid, but they were in fact “unenlightened by science and awash in superstition.” To suggest otherwise is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

    Stories of people rising from the dead (as proof of magic powers) were common place in the ancient world. As was virgin births, prophecy, miracles, and all sorts of other “evidence” of someone’s divinity.

    The story of the rise of Christianity is not so much an account of incredulous apostles, but rather the credulity of subsequent followers who believe in the only written record of this story - a story that defies everything we now know about how the world actually works (and that was written decades after the “facts” – play the “telephone” game with 10 friends for an easy demonstration as to why this matters).

    So believe it if you like, and more power to you if it impacts your life for the better. Just don’t call your belief anything that is based on good evidence… it is a leap of faith, period.

  • TheRealU HERRIMAN, UT
    March 28, 2013 9:56 a.m.

    @Tyler D

    Very well said.

  • ascaphus Salt Lake City, UT
    March 28, 2013 10:47 a.m.

    What the article fails to mention is that these "eyewitness" accounts in the Bible were not recorded until decades after the event. This greatly reduces their reliability.

  • UTAH Bill Salt Lake City, UT
    March 28, 2013 11:01 a.m.

    Keep in mind the presence of Mohammed and Buddha were also witnessed and documented. By the author's logic - this makes them just as legitimate as Christianity.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    March 28, 2013 11:07 a.m.

    @Tyler D

    Well said: Good reasoning and thought makes for a much healthier and stronger society better protected against fraud and exploitation .

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 28, 2013 12:43 p.m.

    RE: Tyler D, Just don’t call your belief anything that is based on good evidence… it is a leap of faith? Fulfilled prophecy 2 examples :
    …because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Is 53:12)See Mark 15:27-28. Side pierced (Zec 12:10) see John 19:34

    It is not true that we do not possess the original text of the Bible. What we do not possess are the original manuscripts
    We have accurate well- preserved Copies of the original text. There are some 5,700 early N.T. MS, and they contain all or nearly all of the original text . The original text can be reconstructed 99% accuracy. There is a distinction between the text and the truth of the text. While we have 99% of the original text, 100 % of the truth comes through.

    Over 26,000 N.T. quotes from the(2nd c) disciples of the apostles and early church fathers can reconstruct the N.T. less 11 verses.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    March 28, 2013 1:33 p.m.

    @sharrona,
    Is it possible that there are significant variations between the original manuscripts and the text as with the translation of the Book of Mormon. Also, most of the original manuscripts were interpretations of hearsay, or personal believe. The extant witnesses of the times were the general population of Jews and Romans and scholars of the times, none of whom left witness to the events of the Bible story. It is a basis of faith and wishful thinking of hope. To manufacture authentication is not beneficial to the search for truth.

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    March 28, 2013 2:12 p.m.

    Agree completely with the views expressed by Dr. Peterson in his article, with these very important elaborations and clarifications:

    The Lord's Supper & Feetwashing - Tuesday April 4, 30 A.D. [13 Nisan].

    Crucifixion - Wednesday April 5, 30 A.D. [14 Nisan], 9am until 3pm. Age 34 years+4 days per the Book of Mormon (3rd Nephi 8:5).

    Christ in the Paradise of God - Wednesday 3pm until 5am Thursday April 6 [15 Nisan] per Luke 23:43. 15 Nisan Thursday was a special sabbath day ("feast day" or "high day" per John 19:31).

    Christ preaching the Gospel to the spirits in the spirit prison in the heart of the earth from this time until 5am Sunday April 9, 30 A.D. [18 Nisan]. "3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth" per Matt.12:40.

    Resurrection - 5 am Sunday April 9, 30 A.D. [18 Nisan].

  • Shimlau SAINT GEORGE, UT
    March 28, 2013 2:11 p.m.

    utah bill; I don't think that anyone that I know would dispute the fact that both Mohammed and Buddha lived. I don't think that anyone would dispute the fact that they both died. Now, we come to the crux of the issue. Jesus was resurected. Neither of the others were. there's the difference.

  • brokenclay Chandler, AZ
    March 28, 2013 2:32 p.m.

    The case for Christ's resurrection is actually quite robust. It has been identified by Antony Flew as the most plausible miracle in history. For those critics who are genuinely interested in not being superficially dismissive, I'd recommend the following two works:

    1. The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N. T. Wright
    2. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, by Michael Licona

    The general consensus of New Testament scholars, both conservative and critical, is that either the resurrection actually occurred or that we do not in fact know what happened. The latter view is telling, because scores of critical theories have been proposed to explain the resurrection. All of them have been roundly rejected by the majority of scholarship. The universally accepted facts among NT scholars just don't support the theories.

    One work that I will be reading this summer is Craig Keener's Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. I will let you know if I recommend it after reading it, but from the reviews it looks like it will be the book for critics to refute when it comes to miracles.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    March 28, 2013 2:36 p.m.

    Accounts of Jesus’ resurrection come early in the timeline of Christianity. Precisely how early is not known. The gospel narratives were written a full generation after the fact. But they were relating well-known oral traditions that include skepticism that the miraculous event had actually occurred.

    The four gospels do not completely harmonize on details of an empty tomb, appearances of the risen Christ and to whom, etc. Whether or not one regards it as likely or even a rational belief, the tradition that God raised Jesus from the dead does seem to have come very early in the story.

  • brokenclay Chandler, AZ
    March 28, 2013 3:38 p.m.

    I'd also like to briefly address this prattle that all of the sources on the resurrection come "decades" after the fact. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is a very old tradition that is universally recognized by NT scholars (again, critical and conservative) to go back to at least 36 AD, about five years after the resurrection would have occurred. And this is simply when Paul would have received that tradition; it could very well be even earlier than that. I trust that our amateur critics on this forum will cease to use this as an argument in light of this rebuttal.

    In any event, "decades" after the fact still stands as very strong evidence in itself. The synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written between 15 and 30 years after the resurrection. And it is nearly universally acknowledged by NT scholars that part of the source material for Mark (the theorized document "Q") would be even older than this. The tradition for the resurrection is in fact quite close to the event, and not nearly as dubious as those unaware of the facts would have us to believe.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    March 28, 2013 4:36 p.m.

    Tyler D is correct. You can't call it fact. It's a belief. Not fact.
    Too many times we hear people claim to "know" something that is merely faith or belief. That isn't knowledge.
    This culture has co-opted the meaning of "belief" with "knowledge. They are not one in the same.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    March 28, 2013 4:43 p.m.

    How novel to acknowledge that belief in Christ is a "leap of faith." The apostle Thomas learned that ~2000 years ago, but being 2000 years late is better than never. Perhaps in Meridian, ID you want something scientific like dialectical materialism. It didn't work for Marx, Hegel or Engels but then their "religion" was less evidence-based than Christianity.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 28, 2013 5:33 p.m.

    Skeptic

    I agree. Good reasoning and thought do make for a much healthier and stronger society better protected against fraud and exploitation.

    Ascaphus,

    To a degree, yes (which is why some of the details vary). But to the central fact I think the nature of the act would be sufficient to be burned into the memory for a lifetime.

    Tyler D

    Though I agree a bit reference science, I hesitate to think about what my great, great grandchildren will think of me and my quaint scientific beliefs or even whether they will consider what I “know” now to even be science.

    As to the facts of the gospels, yes, they were written well after but as related by first person witnesses – diminishing the effects of the telephone game.

    Ultimately, the physical evidence can only tell us if someone was, not what they were in the divine scheme. That is the realm of the Holy Ghost.

  • mark Salt Lake City, UT
    March 28, 2013 11:44 p.m.

    Nope. People were just as gullible then as they are now.

  • EternalPerspective Eldersburg, MD
    March 29, 2013 7:12 a.m.

    For all skeptics of God’s works including the mortal ministry and eternal mission of Jesus Christ, how enlightened is the world of today having accelerated the abandonment of religion, faith, and morality for the pursuit of self-indulgence, self-gain, and the praise of the world?

    How far has human intelligence and worldly achievements progressed with respect to unprecedented widespread contention, conflict, violence, breakdown of the family, degree of unhappiness, emulation of celebrity vanity and hedonism, children practicing dangerous adult behaviors, and many other dramatic shifts in culture done in the name of intellectual freedom and enlightenment?

    Never before in recorded history have the teachings of Jesus Christ been abandoned so much by "enlightened" modern thinkers. But who can see the consequences of losing spiritual protection by abandoning real truth over distractions and deceptions of rationalization and the intelligence of worldliness?

    To suggest that the works of humanity today have "enlightened" the world, is to ignore how these trends are a sad example of a failure to believe in God, which has the same type of consequences as written in the scriptures. Such is walking in darkness where truth becomes relative.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 29, 2013 8:28 a.m.

    @brokenclay – “I trust that our amateur critics on this forum will cease to use this as an argument in light of this rebuttal.”

    Not quite…

    Paul was not an eyewitness to the events of the gospels so I don’t think hearsay counts as good evidence (unless you believe one man’s vision counts as good evidence… oops, sorry - I just realized the irony of that comment on this forum).

    And the best (non-biased) evidence we have regarding the dates of each gospel is as follows:

    Mark – 65-70AD
    Matthew – 80-85AD
    Luke – 80-85AD
    John – 90-110AD

    And it’s worth noting that the Jesus most Christians identify is the one depicted by John (the Jesus who proclaimed his power & glory in full from the get go). The Jesus depicted in Mark (the earliest and perhaps most reliable gospel), by contrast, is a far more mysterious figure that confounds everyone (even his own disciples until very late) about who he is.

    And so we can actually see the telephone game happening from one gospel to the next. We can only imagine how things evolved in the ~30 years before Mark.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    March 29, 2013 9:15 a.m.

    @Eternalperspectve
    It is amazing how those who hanger for the good old days apparently have so little understanding or appreciate the terrible human conditions of past history. Things are way better today and improving all the time.

  • rlsintx Plano, TX
    March 29, 2013 10:41 a.m.

    The most powerful assurances are those which will remain true through eternity, because they bypass the frailties associated with transmitted, physical objects or written "history".

    Every single detail quoted in the article is weaker than the simple confirmation a person can seek through the gift of the Holy Ghost which bears witness to the truth of all things; a confirmation 1:1 between them and God, that Jesus is The Christ, the first fruits of the eventual resurrection of all mankind and Redeemer of men from sin.

    Best Wishes to all on this weekend we remember His life and sacrifice for us all.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 29, 2013 11:54 a.m.

    @Twin Lights – “the physical evidence can only tell us if someone was, not what they were in the divine scheme. That is the realm of the Holy Ghost.”

    Cogent (and polite) as usual… always enjoy reading your comments.

    Would just add though that the Holy Ghost (or God, Allah, the Tao, Brahma, our Buddha Nature, the Great Spirit, etc…) has been “confirming” incompatible religious beliefs for millennia so I think we can question whether or not this knowledge is objective or subjective.

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    March 29, 2013 12:24 p.m.

    Why would one need a sound historical reason for believing in Jesus?

    Isn't this a matter of faith? If your belief is based on the word of people who lived two thousand years ago, then you are going to have to accept Pagan gods as historical facts as well.

    Why not leave this in the spiritual realm where it has deeper meaning and can actually make a differences in people's lives?

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 29, 2013 12:28 p.m.

    Tyler D,

    I understand the point. But I think it divides out a few ways. First, there are misfires/misreads/self-deceptions or even just flat out deceptions (yes – I understand that this can cut in any direction). Second, I think there are universal truths that are witnessed to us. Perhaps sometimes interpreted slightly differently based on cultural biases, but the essential truths will out. Third, I think there are differences of kind involved. I have no doubt that folks in other religions have spiritual experiences. But what is witnessed? That Christ is the savior – sure. That certain truths/principles should be observed? Absolutely. But that their specific sect is the one with God’s authority? I tend to think not. At least that has been my experience in conversations.

  • MealyMouth Alpine, UT
    March 29, 2013 1:46 p.m.

    It's a beautiful article. It's what I believe, whether or not I can say, "I know", faith is what will get me there. Just like I know that I have a brain inside my head, though I've never seen it for myself. I'm thankful for the Book of Mormon, which is Another Testament of Christ. I know it to be true.

    Happy Easter to all!

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 29, 2013 2:08 p.m.

    RE: Tyler D, the dates of each gospel. Isaiah, sometimes called the fifth gospel=(good message). Around 680 B.C..

    Isaiah 53 is a wonderful picture of Jesus.

    Isaiah 9:6, portrays Christ, “For to us a child is born to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders .And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

    Isaiah 7:14 (LXX )The Virgin Birth”… behold, a virgin=( Grk. parthenos) shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel”.= “God with us".(Mt 1:23).

    Passover was fulfilled by Jesus: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us “(1 Cor 5:7);
    The celebration of the Eucharist(communion) was an early practice(see 1Cor 11:17-),which began a few years after Jesus death. This was not to mourn at Jesus’ tomb it was a celebration,Why would people celebrate the death of one they loved?

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    March 29, 2013 2:11 p.m.

    There is simply no primary evidence that a resurrection actually took place. Narratives of the event are recorded in the gospels, but these secondary substitutes hardly meet the "best evidence rule" without the corroborating original manuscripts.

    Furthermore, no material evidence exists establishing that the gospel authors were actual witnesses to the events. Nor can it be reliably determined if those authors interviewed other witnesses in order to compile their narratives. It's more likely that the gospel writers simply recorded their thoughts as they understood the events to have happened.

    Since original manuscripts don't exist, thereby placing authentication of textual authorship and witness accuracy into question, secondary manuscript evidence is not entirely credible. The claim of supernatural evidence is even less compelling.

    Without primary evidence substantiating the reality of a religious claim, testimony to the veracity of that claim must remain in the realm of faith. So called "defenders of the faith" mistakenly equate faith and supposition with actual truth. There is nothing wrong with faith -- it's indeed a legitimate constituent of belief and can be a meaningful impetus for ethical living. But faith is not a valid component of fact.

  • EternalPerspective Eldersburg, MD
    March 29, 2013 2:50 p.m.

    skeptic

    I agree with you that some things are better today, but primarily with respect to conveniences, technology, daily necessities, and protection of basic freedoms (in some parts of the world) that were lacking in history.

    Is it really true the prosperity that has made us rich as to the things of the world caused happiness to broaden?

    If so, then why do people contend with one another more than ever? Why is violence so prevalent in every day life now that many live in fear? Why are there metal detectors in so many venues like schools, amusement, parks, etc? Why are people not faithful to one another anymore in marriage? Why do children grow up so fast? Why do so many suffer fro mental anguish?

    While history was far from perfect and mortality was much higher because the understanding of medicine and the human body along with technology tools did not exist.

    With all that we have today, the question remains, is there more of what truly matters in the modern world, or are we as a society, nation, and world quickly losing attributes like love, charity, sacrifice, and faith that is the glue that binds people together?

  • utahmtnman Park City, UT
    March 29, 2013 3:09 p.m.

    Decades after the fact, huh?

    Paul's testimony was not based on hearsay. It was based on three forms of communication--(1) personal revelation from the Holy Ghost that is available to anyone that has a hunger to know of these things, (2)first-hand accounts of an abundance of people who had seen the resurrected Christ themselves, and (3) his personal experience of seeing the resurrected Savior. Consider Parul's words in 1st Corinthians 15:5-8:

    5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
    6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
    7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
    8 And last of all he was seen of me . . .

  • brokenclay Chandler, AZ
    March 29, 2013 4:23 p.m.

    Tyler,

    Out of curiosity, what source are you using for dating the Gospels? Without space constraints, the dates you gave could be debated. I will focus instead on my original challenge.

    In any event, my argument was completely ignored. It was said by you that NO sources date to within "decades" of Jesus' crucifixion. I gave an exception to your assertion (within five years of the resurrection), and yet this point was given an ad hominem dismissal, in spite of the fact that critical scholars accept this fact. Do you have any formal training in the area of NT studies?

    Allow me to give another source. According to the German expert on Mark, Rudolf Pesch, the passion narrative portion of Mark is derived from an earlier source that goes back to at least 37 AD, just seven years after Jesus' resurrection.

    It is acknowledged that it takes more than two generations for legendary accretions to enter into historical documents. This would be the second century, when the apocryphal gospels were written; they exhibit the very characteristics one would expect of legendary documents. Also, please consider reading the works I suggested earlier.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 29, 2013 5:03 p.m.

    @Twin Lights – “I have no doubt that folks in other religions have spiritual experiences. But what is witnessed? That Christ is the savior – sure”

    This confused me. Are you saying that a Hindu experiencing the “bliss of oneness with God” (or however they describe it) is getting confirmation that Christ is the savior?

    But in general I see your point… difficult to know when it holds for people’s own experiences though - can’t really get in their heads to know. But I do think it’s safe to say that when people in any tradition have profound religious experiences it almost always causes their belief in that tradition to grow stronger. [Is that to be taken as confirmation of the truth of their tradition? For me, no… I think the effect is most likely just psychological or maybe even physiological (like “falling in love” after sex).]

    If we take that as a given, then the interesting question to me is what religions or spiritual practices do the best job at facilitating these experiences?

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 29, 2013 8:30 p.m.

    Tyler D,

    Twin Lights here.

    Not quite. More that it is experiencing the divine and, as you indicate, it increases one’s belief in diety. Does that tend to confirm their particular faith tradition? Perhaps so.

    As to what best facilitates a spiritual experience? Within the LDS faith, it is to read the scriptures, to ponder, and to pray. Because pondering is an enlightened examination of things, I find it odd that so many criticize folks seeking the spiritual with not thinking. For me, thinking with the Holy Ghost (somewhere between thought and prayer) is a powerful experience.

    BTW, as Brokenclay indicates, I think the gospels often have earlier sources that are quite direct.

  • Hospitality SPRINGVILLE, UT
    March 30, 2013 1:01 a.m.

    There is only scientific theory, not fact. There can be no scientific fact until all the data is in. Can it be that God has deliberately left some without sight, so that the seeing might learn to be kind anyway, as He is?

    “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way?” is the irrefutable evidence for the seeing. It was then, and it is now. The sightless see no evidence. To argue with them is pointless. No one can find God for someone else. Each man has to seek Him out for himself. And each man's words reveal whether or not he has done that.

  • jttheawesome Scranton, PA
    March 30, 2013 5:56 p.m.

    With all due respect to those who in this comment section have attempted to write off the Bible and all the events depicted therein as superstition, or the result of "telephone game" antics of ancient writers who wrote things down several years after the fact, you are apparently unaware that in the Jewish culture of the time, Jewish boys and men (and perhaps some women, as well) had no written books of scrolls at home. They were taught to read and write in the synagogue. It was not uncommon for young men to memorize large portions of the Old Testament, if not all of it. The oral and memory skills of that age were remarkable, and extremely accurate, over millenia. Therefore, to have the four Gospels written within a few decades of the Lord's Resurrection and ascension, is like breaking news for us today. I spent four years studying the Bible and its origins, and the evidence for its authenticity is there for all to see - if one is willing to accept it. However, those who do not wish to believe, while free to do so, might at least do some honest research before judging us as ignoramuses.

  • zoar63 Mesa, AZ
    March 30, 2013 7:19 p.m.

    And there is a Latter-day witness of the risen Christ

    'We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

    His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

    I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.'

    D&C 110:1-4

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 30, 2013 8:53 p.m.

    RE: Tyler. Isaiah 53:1-12 describes the Atonement . The propitiation which literally means to make favorable and specifically includes the idea of dealing with God’s wrath against sinners. Expiation literally means to make pious and implies either the removal or cleansing of sin.

    Baptism, Romans 6:1-6 and Col 2:12. Demonstrate that the meaning was intimately linked to Jesus’ death and Resurrection.

    The Resurrection brought major, changes in key social structures in Judaism. Clear-cut non-Trinitarian Monotheism was a defining trait of the Jew . There was no belief that God could be a man the Messiah was pictured as a super human, but not God himself.

    RE: zoar63 (D&C 110: 1-,16) Elias and Elijah appear to JS, but in the Bible they are the same person. The KJV translators attempted to transliterate Elijah to Elias because there isn’t a Greek character for the English letter J.

    To avoid confusion, modern translations: NIV, NJKV, NASB and the Catholic Bible have Elijah instead of Elias in(Mt 11:14,; Luke 1:17).

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    March 31, 2013 7:13 p.m.

    Religion is leap of faith in a sense, a leap from a world of our five conscious senses to a sphere where events and feelings unmeasurable by our limit setting and ego controlled reasoning are none the less experienced. Since the natural man cannot or will not bow to what he himself cannot reason with or measure with mortal means, and dismisses with disgust such events with claims they are not true or not real.

    To each his own. However I note that that man seems clearly animated to impose his system on others, at times uninvited, or in any public forum in an effort to destroy other people's sense of peace and rejoicing.

    Curious. I think I've read this somewhere before.