What happened on Easter?

March 31, 2010

Anyone who doubts the literal resurrection of Jesus should read a book called ‘The Resurrection of the Son of God’ by Oxford Scholar N.T. Wright. Wright brilliantly discusses the so-called history that Dr Houston asserts belie the resurrection.  Wright proves that the resurrection was a first generation teaching of the church. If the resurrection is a “myth” is first generation Christian, this then makes all the traditional arguments for the resurrection effective.

1- Why would 11 men be beaten, exiled, and killed for something they know is a lie? Many die for a lie they think is true but who dies for a lie they know is a lie?

2- Why would the movement grow rapidly in the very area that Jesus was killed? Wouldn’t people demand to see Jesus? Wouldn’t they point to his grave? Instead it grew? In 1 Cor 15, Paul points skeptics of the resurrection to the 500+ witnesses in Jerusalem who Paul says are ‘still alive’. 500+ witnesses would explain why the movement grew.

3- Alternate theories (ie swoon/near death, stolen body, conspacy etc) all have major flaws (including #1 above).

4 – The narratives offered would not have been offered if it was a lie. Why would they assert that women saw Jesus first? Women were not considered good witnesses in the first century?

And there are many other reasons that I am very confident that the resurrection was not a myth or a cleverly crafted lie. It was real….and the world changed as a result.

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11 Responses to “What happened on Easter?”

  1. MikahYahu Says:

    hahahaha

    What’s friday plus three days?

    it isn’t sunday.

  2. W. Vida Says:

    Hi Mikah. I love that you are commenting but I would ask that you be respectful in your dialog.

    Your question is a good one. I asked it myself when I was a new Christian. The answer is pretty simple. The Jews (remember the early church was first comprised of Jews) counted any portion of the day as a day. Jesus died on Friday (day 1). Was in the grave on Saturday (day 2). And came out on the third day, Sunday (day 3).

    It is not as though the early church just miscounted.

  3. W. Vida Says:

    Further Mark 16:2 states that the tomb was empty on the “first day of the week” (Sunday).

  4. MakeTheMostOfLife Says:

    OK… Here goes

    This eye witness logic is utterly flawed & your belief in it is clearly motivated by what you want to believe to be true.

    Ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. All were then copied and recopied, through many different ‘Chinese Whispers generations’ by fallible scribes who, in any case, had their own religious agendas.

    Consider the entire passage of history and claims made from ‘eye witnesses.’ You yourself will disregard 1000s of claims from other stories which offer similar or even greater eye witness accounts.

    Does you also for example believe:

    The report that seventy thousand pilgrims at Fatima in Portugal in 1917 saw the sun ‘tear itself from the heavens and come crashing down upon the multitude’.

    Does believe that literally actually happened?

    Even in this age, all over the developing world there are stories of witch craft, voodoo and claims that are utterly absurd, but even though the followers are utterly convinced, I bet those eye witness accounts hold little value for you.

    EVEN IF the eyes witness accounts were really true, It is more plausible to believe that Jesus could have been the David Blane of his time. We have seen magicians perform tricks of no less grandeur which can’t be explained by the people watching.

    The truth is, the bible, what started as the word of god, has been utterly pulled to pieces as our modern understanding of the world through science has take over…… Or are you a young earth creationist???

    The circle you are trying to square to convince yourself this is true, is no more plausible then the 1000s of other stories from other religions which you readily dismiss. I’m sure you have already made clear rational arguments in your mind why you don’t believe the prophet Mohamed, was not truly divine, although millions of believers would give their lives defending that as truth.

    The indoctrination that you see in all the other millions of followers from different religions (It has to be that right….. For yours to be true, all others must be false?) is no different to the one you suffer from yourself.

    • W. Vida Says:

      Hi Makethemostoflife, Thanks for the comment. Sorry it is just getting on. I changed the setting so I don’t have to approve comments but I guess that only applies to new posts. You have a lot here but let me answer briefly.

      “This eye witness logic is utterly flawed & your belief in it is clearly motivated by what you want to believe to be true.”

      Yes, this is true to a degree. But when you are about to be tortured to death for claiming you saw Jesus raised from the dead, I think you would want it NOT to be true. No one dies for a lie they know is a lie.

      “Ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world.”

      Yeah. Most of them were atheist philosophers not first century historians. These philosophers started with the idea that miracles are impossible and then concluded that the New Testament was false from there. If you start the other way around you get different answers.

      “All were written long after the death of Jesus”

      They were all written in the first century (less than 65 after the events). There is a good case to be made that they were written before the temple was destroyed in 70 AD (given that none discuss this as though it is a past event).

      “and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.”

      Perhaps Apostle Paul doesn’t give a detailed biography of Christ but he spends a LOT of time on the resurrection. I recommend that you read 1 Corinthians 15 (written ~54AD).

      “All were then copied and recopied, through many different ‘Chinese Whispers generations’ by fallible scribes who, in any case, had their own religious agendas.”

      Hmm, this is not true at all. If the Jewish community that Christianity was birthed out of was good at anything it was copying and maintaining texts over time. For example, when they found the dead sea scrolls they were able to look at the changes in the Old Testament over a 500 yr gap in manuscripts….it was close to perfect.

      “Consider the entire passage of history and claims made from ‘eye witnesses.’”

      I do believe in evaluating every claim. I don’t know about Fatima. I would like to deep dive the history there and try to understand whether they are lying, mistaken, or telling the truth of something that really happened. I don’t know that without spending time looking into it. With that being said, I think the evidence for the resurrection is particularly convincing given that you had a bunch of people that were dying for the witness that they claimed. You had people like James, Peter, and Paul being beaten, tortured, and killed when all they had to do is back off their claims that Jesus rose from the dead – they didn’t. They stuck to it.

      “EVEN IF the eyes witness accounts were really true, It is more plausible to believe that Jesus could have been the David Blane of his time.”

      I think that if big fat Roman Guards grabbed David Blane, beat him badly and stuck him on a cross until he died….he would be dead. No trickery can get you out of that. If the Romans knew how to do anything it was kill.

      “he truth is, the bible, what started as the word of god, has been utterly pulled to pieces as our modern understanding of the world through science has take over”

      Actually, modernism has fallen. Have you heard of “post modernism” that means that, in the philosophical world, modernism is gone and something else has replaced it.

      “he circle you are trying to square to convince yourself this is true, is no more plausible then the 1000s of other stories from other religions which you readily dismiss. I’m sure you have already made clear rational arguments in your mind why you don’t believe the prophet Mohamed, was not truly divine, although millions of believers would give their lives defending that as truth.”

      Yes I have. Mohamed saw his vision in private. Believers contemporary to him and believers today share the same dilemna, ‘do you believe Mohamed’s claim?’ But Christianity in the first century could check it out themselves. Jesus did his miracles in public. He was crucified in front of a crowd. He rose again and appeared to crowds. And yet, in the first century, you see the very people claiming to have witnessed these things, dying for them.

      “The indoctrination that you see in all the other millions of followers from different religions (It has to be that right….. For yours to be true, all others must be false?) is no different to the one you suffer from yourself.”

      That cuts both ways though. Sociology 101 says that every group (including atheists) has something called ‘plausibility structures’ – things that help them believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. So, you may object to me believing I am right and atheists, Muslims, and Hindus are wrong. But that is true for everyone including atheists, Muslims and Hindus. If we are going to move beyond that we need to start address each other’s plausibility structures ….not point out that they are there.

  5. MakeTheMostOfLife Says:

    Thanks for you reply…..

    You clearly are a very strong believer in this story. I wish you could open your eyes to the implications of believing something so strongly on such utterly weak evidence. I knew before you wrote it the exact excuse you would make about why the Muslim religion is false….. Take a step back…. Millions believe that Muslim story and millions of others in different religions, many with stronger beliefs then yours. It’s looks like it is so clear in your mind that that story is blatantly false. That is what an indoctrinated Christian looks like to everyone else by the way. Does that not tell you anything about the human mind and its propensity to believe false stories like this. Like all main stream religions around today, the success of Christianity only tell us that the story is very good at surviving, nothing about the true value of it. This of course will be down to the fact that there is more then 30,000 different Christian denominations, so you can pretty much make up you own do it your self version of the ‘truth’. Ive even debated Christians who believe the Pope is going to Hell as he is believing the wrong version (evolution)….

    If you want to disregard everything that we know and have learned about the world in modern times and place your faith in stories from a bunch of savage illiterate superstitious goat herders from 2000 years ago then you are welcome to it. You talk about the the story and the tortures like it is a cast iron fact, when in reality, it is nothing more then a shaky myth at best.

    This ‘plausibility structures’ paragraph is such a red herring…. Its a shameful attempt for not admitting that religions are indoctrination.

    Ideas/beliefs do not all have equal value or plausibility of being true. Think about all the dead religions…. 1000s of religious beliefs and gods on the scrap heap of time. Millions who believed in Zeus and Thor etc. Now anyone truly believing in any of that would rightly be considered crazy (Hopefully like ALL modern surviving religions after a few hundred years.) Hows the plausibility structure of anyone who believes the earth is flat? Or the 100s of Muslims blowing themselves up and killing innocent people because they believe that will get them 72 virgins in heaven. These people will kill themselves and other innocent people because they BELIEVE it so much. Christians smiling on their way to the electric chair from murdering an abortion doctor…. because god told them to… (Do you think he really did??)

    By your logic… That means it MUST be true right? Someone willing to give their own life & even murder others for a belief that something is ‘true.’

    Don’t just think about what I wrote….. The examples if you let you mind go there will run into the 1000s

    You are going on 100% faith & 0% evidence.

    People like you without realising it, are in some way responsible for ALL the bad things that happen all over the world in the name of religion. When you claim to KNOW something to be true that you can’t possibly know to be true and then take action on it and live your life based on faith, then you you give credence to all the people who believe just like you…. but something slightly different and take it dangerously further. 300 people killed over a Danish cartoon. If Iran does eventually Nuke Israel or a city in America, the person behind it will be using the same type of strong faith that you have…. Their believes might be slightly different, but their lack of evidence will be just the same. Moderates are the power base for the nutters & without the moderates the serious nutters could be safely removed from power and locked away.

    • W. Vida Says:

      Hi MaketheMostofLife,

      “I wish you could open your eyes to the implications of believing something so strongly on such utterly weak evidence”

      An easy way to do that is to address the evidence I have provided and show how it is ‘weak’. You have not done that here.

      “Millions believe that Muslim story and millions of others in different religions, many with stronger beliefs then yours. It’s looks like it is so clear in your mind that that story is blatantly false.”

      No, it could be true. But it relies on the testimony of one man about his personal experience. That doesn’t mean it is false but it certainly is not the kind of evidence you find with the foundation of Christianity. The number of people that believe that one man is not relevant (whether it is the 1 billion Muslims who believe Mohamed or the 10 million who believe Joseph Smith) to the strength of the argument.

      “Like all main stream religions around today, the success of Christianity only tell us that the story is very good at surviving, nothing about the true value of it.”

      Perhaps if we are talking about the continued success today but this cannot be said of its sucess in the first century. The benefit of having a single prophet who receives private revelation (eg Mohamed, Joseph Smith) is that it is hard to disprove. Someone in the 7th century has the same amount of evidence as someone in our own. Christianity, on the other hand, was started by people who saw it themselves – and then died for what they saw. That is unique.

      “There is more then 30,000 different Christian denominations”

      I challenge that number. I would argue that there are two – Heterodoxy and Orthodoxy. In other words, there is a percentage of the people who claim to be Christian who adhere to the ancient creeds that have defined the church since the earliest days of the church (orthodox) and then there are those who reject the principles found in the creeds (heterodox). Are there denominations within the Orthodox world? Yes, but they are all my brothers and sisters in Christ who are not free to believe whatever they want (they are constrained by the Bible and identified by the creeds).

      “If you want to disregard everything that we know and have learned about the world in modern times and place your faith in stories from a bunch of savage illiterate superstitious goat herders from 2000 years ago then you are welcome to it.”

      There is quite a bit of chrono-centrism in this statement. Remember that Aristotle, Plato, Socrates were of this period. Remember the architecture, engineering, and exploration of the day. These were not backwoods people. One of the myths of our day is that people prior to a couple hundred years ago were stupid – that is simply demonstrably false. Even the goat herders knew that dead men don’t rise again. The reason Jesus’ resurrection was remarkable and drew huge response (both in those who rejected and those who accepted the event) was that they all understood that the dead don’t rise. If it happened all the time, people would have yawned.

      “This ‘plausibility structures’ paragraph is such a red herring…. Its a shameful attempt for not admitting that religions are indoctrination.”

      No, that was not my attempt. I believe that all religions (including Christianity) are indoctrination. What I am asking you to admit is that the same indoctrination happens in agnosticism and atheism. We are all culturally conditioned and that impacts what we believe. But it can’t be the only factor or why would anyone even discuss things. People leave Christianity for atheism and people leave atheism for Theism. People overcome the conditions of the culture in which they were raised all the time.

      “Ideas/beliefs do not all have equal value or plausibility of being true.”

      Of course not, that has been my whole point. All plausibility structures are enough to keep the followers of that school of thought in the movement or they would cease to exist (as did the dead religions you mention). But they are not all equal – thus you get conversions.

      “By your logic… That means it MUST be true right? Someone willing to give their own life & even murder others for a belief that something is ‘true.’”

      No, that is not what I am saying at all. A Muslim who is willing to die for his religion does so because he believes it. But no one dies for something they DO NOT believe. That is my point. The first century Christians who claimed to witness the resurrection of Jesus DIED for it. This means that they believed that their own testimony was true. There is a fundamental difference here. Don’t you see it?

      “You are going on 100% faith & 0% evidence”

      Well, I have offered evidence that has not been addressed yet. What event happened on Easter? There was a large number of witnesses (over 500) that claimed to have seen Jesus risen from the dead. They backed up their claims with their lives. That seems like a pretty powerful testimony to me. What do you think happened?

      “People like you without realising it, are in some way responsible for ALL the bad things that happen all over the world in the name of religion.”

      Wow. That is a harsh thing to say. I believe that using violence against innocence is a horrible sin deserving hell as a punishment – but I am responsible for people flying planes into buildings?

      ” If Iran does eventually Nuke Israel or a city in America, the person behind it will be using the same type of strong faith that you have…. ”

      No they wouldn’t. They would be going off one man’s private claims. I am going off the claims of dozens of witnesses who were willing to die for it. Pretty fundamental difference I think.

      Let me ask you a question. There have been a number of atheist nations in world history. The USSR, Cuba, Cambodia, China, etc. If I am responsible for the actions of Theists who kill, are you willing to take responsibility for the actions of these nations?

      You might point out how faith has caused war (which surely it has). But there has always been war – atheist nations go to war just as much as Theist ones do. The rise of atheism has not brought more peace. There has always been murder – atheists are responsible for plenty (including nihilists who murder because of their atheism) – the rise of atheism in the US has not lowered the murder rates. So murder and war can be done in the name of religion but they are a part of human nature and in the absence of religion, people will find other reasons to fight.

      But I would point out how the Christian religion has been the driving force behind the creation of modern hospitals, schools, orphanages, the abolishment of slavery, the end of infanticide, the end of gladiator games, etc etc. I would also argue (based on the work of several scholars including Laurence Wood) that Christianity is responsible for the rise of modern science as well.

  6. MakeTheMostOfLife Says:

    Thanks for you reply

    “I challenge that number. I would argue that there are two – Heterodoxy and Orthodoxy.”

    As for numbers of followers of religions:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/reltrue.htm

    “What I am asking you to admit is that the same indoctrination happens in agnosticism and atheism.”

    Can you explain how you can be indoctrinated with non-belief in something???

    Are you also indoctrinated about NOT believing in Fairies, Zeus, Flying Pink Elephants…. Ad infinitum.

    You ask me to supply the evidence about something not being true, is a bit of a spin being as the onus is on you to provide the evidence, and you keep going on about 2000 year old eye witnesses, which is just not credible.

    Fine… Here is counter views for you to consider

    Examine Jesus’ resurrection:

    http://godisimaginary.com/i15.htm

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

    “They would be going off one man’s private claims. I am going off the claims of dozens of witnesses who were willing to die for it. Pretty fundamental difference I think.”

    No no difference…. THAT IS THE POINT. Your actions and the choices you make in your life are both based claiming certainty in things you can not possibly know. You have made up you own reality and rules. If Christianity is just so unique with this ‘dozens of witnesses….’ in your eyes then you must agree with all the millions have been already tortured and killed spreading Christianity by Christian believers. They believe in the same book and god like you…. Or let me guess…. Your the only one who REALLY understands it and the true message…. You don’t seem to realise that your faith is no more plausible then any of the others.

    Imagine trying to convince a fundamentalist Muslim or Christian for that matter, that there are clear flaws in their logic and belief, ones like you have expressed to me…… In the privacy of your own mind you gasp at how deep their indoctrination is when it is so overwhelming clear to you and everyone else that they just can’t see the writing on the wall. They twist themselves in circles with nonsensical logic, and claims of facts that clearly are anything but. If they would just be able to open there eyes and examine their own belief with a critical eye, the whole fairy tale would come crashing down…..

    “Christian religion has been the driving force behind…. the abolishment of slavery”

    You are kidding right…..

    The Old Testament explicitly endorses slavery, & even gives instructions on how to beat your slaves.

    “The rise of atheism has not brought more peace.”

    O really? How wrong can you be??

    I recommend a very short audio book, if you want to challenge yourself. All the answers to the points you make are covered in it.

    http://rapidshare.com/files/236252404/Letter.to.a.Christian.Nation-Sam.Harris.rar

    • W. Vida Says:

      Hi MakeTheMostOfLife,

      Thanks for the reply. I can tell you are a smart person who has thought a lot about this issue (and cares deeply). I really respect that. Here are my thoughts on what you sent.

      Regarding denominations, as someone with a Master’s degree in this area, I can tell you that this website is exaggerating. The way you get such a huge number is that you take denominations such as Baptists and Pentecostals who are independent by governmental polity and count each independent group/church as a denomination. So if there are 10 independent Baptist churches in town, a person trying to dramatically exaggerate the number of denominations could count each one as a denomination (10 denominations in town). This is questionable at best. I can tell you that Protestantism can be distilled down to about 4 or 5 major theological traditions that (by and large) share a common theology. With that being said, my point above was that, going beyond the specifics of denominational disputes, you do have a broad common consensus in creedal churches that I referred to as “orthodoxy”. Those who adhere to the orthodoxy of the creeds (and really believe the creeds) are true, saved Christians – those who don’t are not (“heterodoxy”). This is why I said there are really only two denominations.

      “Can you explain how you can be indoctrinated with non-belief in something???”

      Sure, let me give you an example. I have no doubt that you would think Christian kids who are taught NOT to believe in Darwinian Evolution are indoctrinated on this issue. I am sure you don’t like that example but the fact is that we are all indoctrinated by our culture, upbringing, and education to believe certain cultural assumptions. These assumptions may be something like skepticism (where an American might be culturally conditioned to be much more skeptical than a Korean). Cultural conditioning hits everyone.

      Regarding the critiques you provided of the resurrection:
      The first link appears have only one major complaint – why didn’t Jesus appear to everyone? But this is not really an argument. We believe all sorts of historical events that are not seen by every last human in history. The fact is that Jesus’ human body is finite and to appear to everyone would take some time. Jesus was appointed to remain on earth for 40 days in keeping with prophesy. He spent the time mostly with the 20 or so people who he was discipling but keep in mind that Jesus did appear to a lot of people. Paul says he appeared to 500. When Paul wrote this it was custom to count only heads of households in the number given (so the real number was well over 1000).

      The second link is to the Jesus Seminar findings. The Jesus seminar was debunked over a decade ago by a plethora of scholars including Oxford scholar N.T. Wright. I would highly recommend you read his “The Challenge of Jesus” to get an overview of why the Jesus Seminar is no longer relevant to today’s historical discussions.

      “No no difference…. THAT IS THE POINT. “
      So, in a courtroom, you don’t believe that 20 witnesses (or 1000) with no motivation for lying (and much motivation for telling the truth- they were being killed for what they claimed) is not more powerful testimony that a single witness (who did not have to die for what he claimed)? I don’t see how you can even pretend that is true.

      ““Christian religion has been the driving force behind…. the abolishment of slavery” You are kidding right…..”

      No, I am not kidding. Do a little reading on William Wilberforce. His evangelical zealousness was the motivation he had for spending 20 years in English parliament almost singlehandedly fighting to end the slave trade for the first major nation in world history. In his effort he made biblical arguments, biblical ethical arguments, and he successfully mustered the church to support his efforts. There is a (mainstream Hollywood) movie that came out a couple years ago called “Amazing Grace” that tells the story – highly recommend renting it from Netflix. Slavery was a mainstay in every major nation (Christian, secular, or otherwise) until Wilberforce (motivated by his faith) fought to end it in England (and this influenced heavily the abolition effort in the US).

      I am going to be blunt about The Youtube video you provided on peace and religion. As an engineering major, I can tell you it is a statistical joke. It lists Cuba (an explicitly atheistic Communist country) as more religious than the US. It fails to note that the countries listed as the most religious are also the third world countries. It conveniently leaves government violence off the list (atheist Stalin killed 20 million innocent people Chairman Mou killed over 40 million). It conveniently leaves the crime and drug ridden Russia off the list. It fails to account for other factors (for example, many of the European countries don’t go to war because the US is the world’s police officer and they don’t have to). It doesn’t go into the fact that many of the laws and foundations of the countries listed as ‘atheist’ were created when the country was Christian. And even if there were not all of these problems, it doesn’t even begin to touch on showing causality in the correlation. Statistics 101 is that correlation of two factors doesn’t imply that one causes the other. Shark bites and Ice Cream cones sold correlate (people swim in the summer) but neither one causes the other.

      I think a much easier argument to make would be to point out that the countries that have historically Christian foundations are the most prosperous and peaceful. There are books that have been written tying the causation of wealth to the Christian religion. The countries that don’t have this Christian background are the third world.

      Regarding Sam Harris, I am very familiar with him and so far have never been impressed. As far as atheists go, I have a lot more respect for Christopher Hitchens (he is funny and likable). But I have never heard any of the ‘new atheists’ address the central arguments of Christianity in a substantial way.

      A bit about my background: I was not a Christian until adulthood. I know what it is to be skeptical. I know what it is to doubt the claims of Christianity. I know where you are coming from. I respect the fact that you are not ready to accept the Christian faith. It took me years of reading Christian thinkers to even begin to come to the faith that I have.

      I will tell you that having come to the side of faith, I am so grateful. Life on this side is wonderful and free. The lie that the world tells you is that freedom is on the side of disbelief but that is not my experience. I would encourage you to investigate further, to do some reading by thoughtful well educated Christian scholars (I suggested Wright already, I would also point you to Oxford’s Alister McGrath, Dr Tim Keller, and the classics by guys like CS Lewis and GK Chesterton).

      Let me give you a video that you can watch that I think is very thoughtful. It was given at Google’s headquarters by a man named Tim Keller. He opens it up for questions and answers at the end and you will see that there are plenty of skeptics in the audience who offer sharp questions that I think Keller answers well. Give it a look and let me know your thoughts.

  7. MakeTheMostOfLife Says:

    Hey,

    Thanks for all your replies, its been fun and interesting, but I do contract work and I’m about to go out on the road working my ass off so everything else goes on hold. Will watch the video at some stage and will try and get back to you in future

    Kind Regards

    James


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