Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Resurrection Proofs They're Not

The previous entry was an April Fool, but I have been warned by friends: make an April Fool like that, with a real lead-in, and then deadpan close to reality, and it will give the authorities ideas.

Also in April we are getting the usual trotted out 'It's history' accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, as if it is open to a historical test. Miracles (of which 'the resurrection' is one) are not open to historical test and theological explanation and gloss does not constitute historical material. Only what surrounds it is open to historical test and this depends on secondary sources given primary sources to early Christian communities and rather lost to us.

Ian Paul gives the standard apologist's account on Fulcrum for a human being not dying in the usual way. I then offer a bashed-out answer, which is, as I write, awaiting moderation:

This conflates theological and historical material, which do different jobs and have different purposes. The empty tomb is not provable simply because the documents are written so long after Jesus’s death – all that’s about is a lack of tomb ‘worship’ and identification, and the reason being (in all probability) that there never was a tomb. From the arrest onwards, the accounts don’t work as history alone and can’t. Cruficifixion was not simply about a cruel torture based death, but the carcass left on the construction to be eaten by scavengers – the denial of a death and burial. What remains is dumped into a common grave, a lime pit. There is no account throughout elsewhere of anyone, ever, being removed from a cross to be given a decent burial. There is no reason why Pilate, if he was personally involved at all, giving exception here given all accounts that he ran a particularly cruel regime, that he was a nasty individual that gave no quarter. The accounts of the tomb lead not to faith but confusion; the primary accounts are what are still experienced by about one in eight people today – hallucinations treated as real by those experiencing them of meeting loved ones or religious figures (in this case, both categories). Even these get wrapped into theological categories, thus Jesus is only recognised in the meal and then vanishes, thus being an “I get the point” and ritualised into the ritual [meal] becoming the most significant. The point is that resurrection cannot be understood except by the ascension – small, early, expectant of the end, Christian communities, being told that Jesus did appear to a leadership roll-call and ‘the congregation’ of 120/ 500, but that -sorry [to them] – he appears no longer and now it is spirit led. The Pauline influenced gospels are traditions, theologised, answering the questions of early Christians. The resurrection is itself a small-scale period prior to the Church beginning, rather like the firework lit before it went off. The explanation cannot be divorced from the belief of a small proportion of Jews and attaching Gentiles that the end time was present, that a messiah would return, that it was now Jesus who would be transformed, and a salvation figure thanks to Paul’s interpretive brilliance, and God would do it. Later the Church adapted as that return failed to materialise. The resurrection fits into that expectation and probably is little more than a few hallucinations including Paul and an explanation about why there was never any trips to a tomb. Jesus was simply killed by the authorities like others who were picked up, a casual valuing of life by a regime fearing instability at the edge of empire.

Some minutes later I added a second comment to clarify the above:

Just mention that I bashed out the responding comment at speed. So it was sorry *for them* regarding the explanation to early Christians for no more resurrection appearances, being now paraclete led, and that in the Luke account the appearance is made manifest in the ritual of the meal. When typing at slower speed etc. I’m saying history needs regard for historiography (the rules of the trade) and here we are dealing with secondary sources regarding Jesus and lost primary sources which are written by and for early Christian communities decades later. Thus the tomb account cannot be checked back and the resurrection appearances are, at basis, subjective.

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