Ed Babinski - Jordan exchange (Part 2)

Ed copied Jordan and I the letter Ed wrote to Christian apologist Dr. Gary Habermas

----- Original Message -----
Sent: 21 October 2002 23:01
Subject: Habermas - Babinski

HABERMAS-BABINSKI

Dr. Gary Habermas is a Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Liberty
University, and also the author of Did Jesus Rise from the Dead (a book
that arose from a debate Dr. Habermas had with the famed British
philosopher Antony Flew).

Edward T. Babinski is the editor of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of
Former Fundamentalists.

In 1989 Mr. Babinski was editing Theistic Evolutionists' Forum, a
self-published newsletter, and wrote Dr. Habermas asking if he would
respond to a number of skeptical questions concerning the "raising of the
many" story in the Gospel of Matthew. Habermas graciously responded, and
they exchanged several letters on the subject of the resurrection of
Jesus. The discussion was serious, respectful, even lightly humorous at
times. Both parties enjoyed the discussion so much that Habermas (with
Babinski's permission) submitted the letters for publication to a
Christian publisher, though that project never came to fruition. The
discussion consisted of a series of three exchanges followed by a last
letter sent to Habermas by Babinski in which a broader more complete
summation of skeptical questions were laid out. Friends who read the
letters, both evangelicals and skeptics, agreed that Babinski's summation
(which is reproduced below) featured several "knotty" questions. Habermas
unfortunately did not have time to pursue a reply, though after receiving
Babinski's summation he did seek to have the debate published and
lengthened, which would have supplied both parties with the impetus to
proceed further.

Below is the final letter in the debate, composed by Mr. Babinski (with
some editing and additional verses added).

Best, Ed Babinski

-----------------------------


Dear Habby,
 
In answer to your March 21st letter.You wish to center on the "specific
situation" of Jesus's resurrection: Were the appearance accounts
"objective," were the appearances "literal?" I, on the other hand, do not
see any easy way to separate "general notions of mythology or superstition
among first century people" (which you grant "in general") from the
"specific situation" of Jesus's resurrection.
 
I admit that "appearances" are "attested in the earliest literature." But,
it is "literature" whose "objectivity" in recording events remains in
dispute. (For instance, how "objective" are we to take Paul's claim the he
was taken up to the "third heaven?" And what exactly did Paul see in that
case?)
 
I asserted that the list of appearances Paul recounts were appearances to
others, not to Paul, and therefore Paul's list was "second-hand" evidence.
You agreed "that list is not Paul's own but that he receive it from
others." So, don't we agree in this case?
 
I agree that "we have to take any writing at face value and try to
ascertain what it is saying." That is the beginning of both fundamentalist
and historical critical scholarship. I do not agree that "face value" is
where we should both begin and end our search for the "grounds" of what
the author wrote.
 
I noticed your reliance upon phrases such as, "modern scholarship is
virtually unanimous,"  "on this score scholarship is united,"  "almost all
scholars are agreed," and finally, "this seems to be the conclusion of
most modern scholars, even critical ones." I take exception to such a
method of argument. A man's opinions are not logically strengthened by the
number of men who agree with him (unless his logic functions like that of
an evangelist).
 
I also disagree with your assessment of scholarly opinion. Consider the
world's oldest, most prestigious institutions of higher learning, all
founded on the notion of "Biblical infallibility," yet after continually
drawing the brightest scholars and students, they eventually rejected
inerrancy and the fundamentalist apologetical stance for an
historical-critical approach. Sure, Evangelical scholars try to sum
historical-critical research and results to add up to their way of
thinking, because the H-C approach by itself is not conducive to
fundamentalist faith, but to a more open acknowledgement of individual
opinions and a spectrum of ideas, not signed statements of faith, nor
"majority opinion." In stating, "This seems to be the conclusion of most
modern scholars, even critical ones," your "seems" carries less weight
than you imagine, especially among "critical" scholars.
 
Concerning Jesus's appearances you replied that "we have eyewitness
reports.I think this is the case in both the gospels and in Paul." I think
differently.
 
Paul does not give a single detail as to what anyone's eyes "witnessed,"
not even himself (except for Luke's account of what Paul saw, which
amounts to no more than a bright light and a voice -- which seems to be
what most religions are based on). How does such evidence constitute
"eyewitness reports?"
 
As for the Gospels, they were written at a later date than Paul's
"witness." And the Gospels raise questions of their own:
 
1) Approximately 91% of Mark is paralleled with only minor variations in
Luke and/or Matthew. The same thing can be said of about 50% of Matthew
and about 41% of Luke. Of these parallels, many of them agree in exact
order and wording. This has lead to the elucidation of the "synoptic
problem." How are we to explain the obvious similarities in wording that
we find in these passages, especially since Jesus spoke and taught
primarily in Aramaic, and these agreements in exact wording are in Greek?
A related problem is the question of why, when John reports a similar
incident or saying in the life of Jesus, there is little or no exactness
present in the wording, i.e., compared with the three synoptic Gospels.
 
Such data suggest literary links between the three synoptic gospels, i.e.,
they do not resemble each other because they are three separate
"eyewitness" reports of what Jesus said and did, but because they were
based upon shared written documents, i.e., branches of the same literary
tree, individually "ornamented" (revised/redacted). One of the most
prevalent theories so far is that Mark was one such primary document. The
other primary document contained the parallels shared by Matthew and Luke
but not shared by Mark, this second document being known as "Q" (the first
letter of the German word for "source" -- I am adding these explanations
for the benefit of our readers, not for you, as I know you are familiar
with all of this).
 
In "Q" the message of Jesus's death and resurrection was not central.
While the other major literary source, Mark, ends merely with the empty
tomb, and no appearances, only a "young man" who tells the women, "He is
going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him." No "eyewitness"
data here, like Paul, the other earliest source of evidence.
 
A quick sidelight here on the "young man in a long white garment" sitting
in Jesus's empty tomb in the Gospel of Mark. There is no mention of the
"young man" being an "angel." In fact Mark mentions a "young man" (same
Greek phrase) at Jesus's arrest. Again, attention was paid to what the
"young man" was wearing, which was only a "linen cloth" when Jesus was
arrested. Someone tried to grab the "young man" who "fled" away "naked,"
leaving behind the linen cloth. (Mark 14: 50-52)  So the "young man in a
long white garment" sitting in Jesus's empty tomb on Sunday morning could
be the same "young man" at Jesus's arrest. Mark could be trying to impress
the reader with the faith of an anonymous "young man" who was the last to
leave Jesus when he was arrested (who had to flee away naked), and also
the first to arrive at the empty tomb, clothed in a "long white garment"
covering his previously naked body. The "young man" could remain
unidentified in both cases to draw readers into the tale of Jesus's
resurrection, to allow them to envision themselves as that young man, and
imagine how he went from being naked to clothed in a long white garment -
the last to leave Jesus on the night of his betrayal and the first to
arrive at Jesus's empty tomb full of faith. So by using the phrase, "young
man" twice at such crucial times in that Gospel, the author may have been
trying to get his readers to identify with that human figure and his
faith. But sometime between the writing of Mark's Gospel and the later
three (Matthew, Luke and John's Gospels) Mark's description of a "young
man" was dropped in favor of purely "angelic" figures. The other Gospels
also failed to mention Mark's story about the "young man" who "fled naked
at Jesus's arrest." Instead, at the tomb they have "two men in shining
garments...a vision of angels" (Luke 24:4 & 23), or "the angel of the Lord
who descended from heaven; his countenance like lightening, and his
raiment white as snow" (Matthew), or "two angels in white" (John).
 
Neither do comparisons between the Gospels, and the questions they raise,
end there. In Mark, the words spoken at the tomb are changed from "He is
going before you into Galilee; there you will see him" to "Remember how he
spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man
must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the
third day raise again." Luke has "redacted" (revised) Mark. Neither is the
Lukan redaction difficult to spot. "Galilee" was changed from a place to
go to see Jesus (in Mark), to the place where Jesus gave his discourse
about the Son of Man being raised (in Luke). But why should it be
important where Jesus merely spoke about the resurrection? Didn't Jesus
speak about the resurrection not just in Galilee, but also in Judea? The
Markan announcement is more to the point: "He is going before you into
Galilee; there you will see him." But Luke needed the disciples to remain
in Jerusalem to make his Jerusalem appearance stories make sense. So Luke
redacted the message at the tomb, otherwise the disciples would have been
depicted as running off to Galilee (fifty miles from Jerusalem) to see
Jesus who had gone on there before them, as Mark (and Matthew) say.
 
The Jerusalem appearance stories in Luke include seeing Jesus in Emmaus,
seven miles from Jerusalem; then in Jerusalem, where the disciples are
gathered; and then on a mountain in Bethany (again not very far from
Jerusalem), where Jesus "parted from them." In Acts, Luke added that Jesus
told his disciples "not to leave Jerusalem." and that Jesus ascended from
mount Olivet, "near Jerusalem, a Sabbath's day journey away."
 
The difference between Mark and Luke is clear. The earliest known
manuscripts of Mark contain no appearance accounts, and say Jesus went on
before them to Galilee for that was where they would see him. But Luke
contains stories of appearances solely around and in Jerusalem. Which is
true? This is an honest question based on a "face value" reading of the
Gospels.
 
Even Robert H. Stein, an Evangelical Christian professor at Bethel
Theological Seminary, has examined arguments both for and against Mark's
literary priority, and concluded in favor of it in his book The Synoptic
Problem: An Introduction (Baker, 1987). But, such a priority affects how
"literally" you view the resurrection stories in later Gospels, like Luke
and John. Need I add that among the synoptics, Matthew and Luke diverge
most from each other exactly at those points where they could not follow
Mark, namely, in their accounts of Jesus's infancy and resurrection. (Mark
lacks an infancy narrative and the earliest copies of Mark end simply with
an empty tomb and a promise of a sighting in Galilee, so Mark supplies no
details about Jesus's resurrection appearances.)
 
2) Further comparisons raise further questions. Both Matthean and Markan
stories agree in having the "young man" (Mark) or "angel" (Matthew)
announce at the tomb, "He is going before you into Galilee, there you will
see him." However in Mark the women "flee from the tomb, and say nothing
to anyone" out of "fear," while in Matthew the women depart quickly "to
report" what the angel told them to the disciples. In Matthew the women
even meet Jesus on the way! Jesus says, "Do not be afraid!" Matthew is not
only redacting but also strengthening Mark's story. Neither is such a
process of redacting and strengthening difficult to spot when other
stories in Mark and Matthew are compared. For instance after Jesus walks
on the water in Mark 6:51-52 the disciples "were utterly astounded, for
they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened."
However when Jesus walks on the water in Matthew 14:33, "They worshipped
him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'" Matthew even relates similar
events to Mark but doubles the number of lepers healed (one becomes two),
blind men healed (one becomes two), demon-possessed men exorcised (one
becomes two), even the number of animals that Jesus rode into Jerusalem
(one becomes two). The Matthean strengthening process at work in the
resurrection story is also not difficult to spot. Matthew adds guards at
the tomb, and the raising of many saints. And it is not difficult to spot
the further redaction that was made to justify the "guards at the tomb"
story. Mark mentions no guards, and the women go to the tomb "to anoint"
Jesus's body. But in Matthew where "guards" are assumed, and contact with
the body would not be foreseen as possible, the women no longer go to
anoint Jesus, but merely to "look at the grave."
 
Matthew, like Mark, agrees that the disciples saw Jesus in Galilee.
Though the Gospel of Matthew adds details about two resurrection
appearances, one to the women leaving the tomb, and one on a mountain in
Galilee (not Mt. Olivet in Judea, as in Luke)., they are relatively brief,
and only serve to illustrate later Christian dogmas about Jesus's
authority, baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, etc.
 
3)  Comparing Mark with both Matthew and Luke we see
additional redactions. Luke agrees with Matthew that the women immediately
reported what an "angel(s)" told them (contra Mark which stated "they told
no one").  Luke omits Jesus's appearances to the women (in Matthew) on the
way back to the disciples. However, some manuscripts of Luke add that
Peter ran to the tomb to verify the woman's tale of its emptiness. Luke
adds more appearances, Matthew listing only two. Luke adds the road to
Emmaus appearance, the appearance to the eleven during which Jesus ate a
piece of fish and honeycomb to convince them he was not a spirit, but had
flesh and bones, "And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted
up his hands, and blessed them." (Luke 24) (Imagine parading through
Jerusalem "led" by a resurrected Jesus! Makes you wonder whether Jesus led
them via a path that took them past Pilate's, Herod's, or the chief
priest's house. Surely, if there was a time for palms being flung in his
path, and Hosannas, this was it). And Luke adds an appearance to Simon
alone(though no description is given of it).
 
4) By the time we get to the fourth and last Gospel, John, we find yet
more appearances. In that Gospel we have Mary Magdalene seeing Jesus;
Peter and a second disciple verifying the tomb's emptiness; Jesus
appearing in Jerusalem to all the disciples but Thomas; Jesus returning to
convince Thomas; "many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of
the disciples, which are not written in this book;" Jesus manifesting
himself again, at the sea of Galilee.
 
It is part of a theo-logical progression it would seem from
Mark-Matthew-Luke-John to the many additional Gospel stories and Acts of
the Apostles that continued to be composed by Christians afterwards -- or,
as the fourth and last Gospel states, "There are many other things which
Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that
even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."
That's a lot of books for a ministry that lasted only a few years. All
four Gospels total no more than about 100 pages (in my NASB), which makes
them skimpy collections of what Jesus "did" by the reckoning of that above
verse in John. Two of them even repeat about 91% of what appears in one
Gospel, Mark! "The world could not contain all the books? That is the
language of faith speaking, not reason. It sounds to me like the author is
hinting at the existence of many apocryphal stories circulating among
Christian in his day. He is certainly leaving the door open for such
stories to grow even more widespread.
 
Speaking of apocryphal stories, there is evidence that the Gospels
themselves contain them. There is the added ending to Mark (16:9-20). We
both agree that "almost no scholars would argue for the authority of those
verses.I don't think we should use the passage in Mark when that text is
rejected by most scholars. (The problem here is that most believe that
those last twelve verses are a later addition to the manuscript)" [from
your March 21st letter]. Yet these "additions" are of resurrection
appearances.
 
Or take John's story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. It first
appears in some Old Latin New Testament manuscripts written in the fifth
century or later, and in Codex D (5th or 6th c.), but not earlier.
 
Another addition is Luke 22:43-44, the story of an angel from heaven
appearing and strengthening Jesus in Gethsemane, while Jesus in agony
sweat drops of blood. This story is not in the 3rd cent. Papyrus P75, nor
in Codex B, written in the middle of the fourth century. It appeared later.
 
How can the Gospels be considered "eyewitness" testimony knowing such
additions took place, the most embarrassing one being the addition in Mark
of a resurrection appearance? There are in fact three different endings to
Mark that feature brief resurrection appearances reminiscent of those at
the end of Matthew. However none of those alternative endings are found in
the earliest known manuscripts of Mark, only in later ones. It would seem
that Mark's original ending, which featured merely an empty tomb and women
"telling no one," was not an ending that early Christians considered
satisfactory. Perhaps that also explains the need for additional Gospels
and their redactions and "enhancements?"
 
Another sidelight on the fourth and last Gospel concerns the story it
alone contains of the "raising of Lazarus." In your Dec. 21st letter you
proposed that "we have good reason to believe that these [resurrected]
individuals [like Lazarus and others in the Gospels] appeared in their
natural bodies."  I admit to being ignorant of "good" reasons to that
effect.
 
Concerning the raising of those other than Lazarus, the Gospel stories are
few and unspectacular. For instance in Mark (which I take to be the
earliest source) the synagogue ruler's daughter was "at the point of
death," or in Matthew "had just died" when Jesus healed/raised her. Such
things seem possible. In one afterlife book (Beyond the Light, I think), I
read about a man who had been declared dead in the hospital, then a little
while later he woke up alone on a stretcher in the hallway. According to
another book, Dannion Brinkley was struck by lightning, declared dead, but
then came back to life. But none of those people had been dead for long.
The Lazarus story involves someone dead for "four days," whose body
"stinketh." What "good reason" do we have to believe that story?
 
Let's look at the story of Lazarus in depth also, beginning with our
knowledge of another story in John, the story of Lazarus's alleged
sisters, "Mary and Martha," and how "Mary sat at Jesus's feet," "anointed
them" with perfume, and "wiped them with her hair" in the town of
"Bethany." (John 12) Stories similar to that one are found in the earlier
three Gospels, but with a few differences:
 
Mark 14:3 -- An unnamed woman anointed Jesus's head in Bethany at the
house of Simon the Leper.
 
Luke 7:37-38 -- An unnamed sinner anointed Jesus's feet and wiped them
with her hair in Nain at the house of a Pharisee.
 
Luke 10:38-39 -- Mary, the sister of Martha, listened at Jesus's feet in
an unnamed town at her house.
 
Now consider this: Did you ever get confused about similar events like
those listed above? Say, in a Sunday School discussion, you mixed up the
name of the town where the woman anointed Jesus's "head" with the name of
the town where the woman anointed Jesus's "feet." Was it Nain or Bethany?
Or you confused the woman who "listened" at Jesus's feet with the woman
who "anointed" Jesus's feet? The unnamed sinner lady in Nain, became,
until you looked it up, Mary, sister of Martha? Well, something like that
appears to have happened in the minds of Christians before the Gospel of
John was composed, the last written of the four Gospels. By that time,
similar persons and events from the earlier Gospels had become amalgamated
in people's minds. In John 12:3, Mary, the woman who simply "listened" at
Jesus's feet is now also anointing them and wiping them with her hair.
Thus the unnamed woman of the town of Nain became amalgamated in people's
minds with "Mary, Martha's sister." And the unnamed town where Mary lived
became amalgamated with the town where the woman who anointed Jesus's
"head" lived, "Bethany." And Mary used expensive "spikenard ointment" on
them, as the lady in Mark (and possibly Luke) did. Only this time is it
not at Simon the Leper's house, nor at the house of a Pharisee, but at
"Mary's house."
 
What does the above discussion have to do with the "resurrection of
Lazarus" story? Well, it shows how the Gospel of John amalgamates things
from earlier Gospels. And only the Gospel of John depicts Lazarus as a
real person. Luke mentions a real Mary and Martha, but says nothing about
them having a brother, nor in which town they lived. So the author(s) of
the Gospel of John appear to have amalgamated Mary and Martha, the town of
Bethany, and the "Lazarus" from a parable in the Gospel of Luke -- a
parable in which a poor beggar named "Lazarus" dies and goes to "Abraham's
bosom," while a rich man suffering in nearby "Hades" sees Lazarus and
pleads with Abraham to "send Lazarus to my Father's house, to warn my
brothers.so they may repent [and avoid going to Hades]," to which the
answer was, ".neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the
dead."
 
Think about it.a "Lazarus" who dies and someone who hopes Lazarus will be
"raised from the dead" to "persuade others" "to repent." But such
persuasion is predicted not to work. Where does that appear outside of
Luke?
 
Why in John. John's "Lazarus" is now a concrete person, the "brother" of
Mary and Martha from Luke. (Neither is this Lazarus a poor "beggar," since
he's rich enough to have his own tomb and live in a house with his
"sisters.") He is "raised from the dead" -- a parable come true. And, as
predicted in the parable, such a miracle fails to persuade those who
refuse to listen to Moses and the prophets, namely the Pharisees: "Many
therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done,
believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told
them the things which Jesus had done." The Pharisees refuse to repent, and
even decide, after hearing of this great miracle, to seize Jesus and have
him executed. What a coincidence! Two "Lazaruses," one in Luke and one in
John, both die, both illustrate that "even though he be raised from the
dead, they will not be persuaded," in fact, "Lazarus's resurrection" in
the Gospel of John elicits even a stronger negative response!
 
Not surprisingly, when you add a whole new miracle found in none of the
other Gospels, and make it the focal point for the Pharisees' decision to
have Jesus seized and executed, you have to do something with the fact
that all three of the earlier Gospels agreed that it was Jesus's
overturning of the tables in the Temple that made the Pharisees decide to
have Jesus crucified. So the author(s) of John decided to remove the
table-turning episode from the end of Jesus's ministry and move it to the
beginning of Jesus's ministry. All so that the Pharisees would decide to
have Jesus seized and killed due to the unsettling nature of the stunning
resurrection miracle that was added to the last Gospel.
 
The question remains, did the "raising of Lazarus" actually take place or
might the story have been a later invention, based on an amalgamation of
information and names found in earlier Gospels? The moving of Jesus's
"table-turning" episode from the end of the earlier Gospels to the
beginning of the last written Gospel adds to the force of such a question,
since the author(s) of John made it appear quite obvious that it was now
necessary to make room at the end of their Gospel to display the totally
new miracle and make it the new reason why the Pharisees decided to seize
and crucify Jesus.
 
And there is also the even wider question raised by the fact that the
Gospel of John concentrates on a handful of major miracles in Jesus's
ministry, the Lazarus miracle being used to illustrate that Jesus was "the
resurrection and the life." The author(s) have Jesus speak those very
words, along with a lot of "I ams," one after each major miracle. How
unlike the Jesus who is portrayed in the earlier three Gospels, who asked
his disciples not to tell anyone he was the Messiah, and who did not speak
in such an "I am" manner even after healing people, performing exorcisms,
or raising the synagogue ruler's daughter who was "at the point of death"
(in Mark's version) or who had "just died" (per Matthew's version).
 
The Gospel of John is a theological creation from its opening verses of
Greek philosophy which constitute the author(s)' interpretation of Jesus
("In the beginning was the Word.") -- to Jesus's long-winded prayer in the
garden, allegedly spoken on the eve of his death. Keeping in mind that the
latter prayer was uttered only once in Jesus's life, and while the
apostles were all asleep, or at least falling in and out of sleep, it
seems quite a feat to be able to write down all twenty-six verses of it
(chapter 17). (The Gospel of John also has Jesus speaking in the same
semi-gnostic language as John the Baptist and the author of the prologue
to that Gospel.)  And the Fourth Gospel ends by stating that it was
written "that ye may believe." How objective could such a work be?
 
Oh, and concerning the parable in Luke that may have been the inspiration
for the "Lazarus story" that later grew and found its way into the Fourth
Gospel, not even the Lukan parable may have been original. Stories about a
rich and poor man both dying, and the rich man getting sent some place bad
and the poor man getting sent some place good, have been found in both
ancient Egypt and ancient Judaism. It's a typical "reversal of fortune"
parable. [Richard Bauckham, "The Rich Man and Lazarus: The Parable and the
Parallels," New Testament Studies, Vol. 37, 1991, pp. 225-246]
 
Those are some of the reasons I doubt the N.T. literature, written by and
for believers, containing second-hand stories of resurrection appearances
that appear, even by a "face value" comparison of all the Gospels, to have
grown in the telling.
 
A further important point. Regardless of how "real" a person views the
"appearances" I do not believe that the evidence substantiates a bodily
resurrection. I base my opinion on the reasons given in my letters,
notably, on the earliest stories including those in 1 Cor., and the
"concretization" process that may be traced in the Gospels, from Mark to
John. Even you admitted in your Dec. 21st letter that the "'middle ground'
position [of a 'less than physical resurrection'] is very popular in
critical circles at this present time, perhaps even the predominant view."
 
I remain a little to the left of middle. I suggest that these "middle
ground" scholars maintain such a view of less-than-physical yet "real"
appearances because they are Christians or somewhat conservative Jews, and
their faith has to have something "real" to hold onto.
 
As I see it, for the faithful, all it takes is a possibility (no matter
how remote) that their interpretation might be right, for them to believe
it is. A "maybe" is as good as a "certainty," or increases the faith they
already possess. For the non-faithful, a possibility is just that, a maybe
is as good as a maybe, an "appearance" remains an "appearance," nothing
more, nothing less: Protestants see Jesus and angels but seldom Mary
because the awe/respect that Catholics pay Mary is denigrated by
Protestants. Catholics see Jesus and Mary. Native Americans experience
illuminating visions of animal spirits. Hindus may be visited by personae
from their vast pantheon, while Buddhists may experience the compassionate
"amida Buddha" as they pray, "Save me, amida Buddha." A different school
of Buddhists even experiences "born again" like experiences of hellish
fears followed by the relief of salvation (as discussed in Conrad Hyers's
book, One-Born, Twice-Born Zen). New Agers see chakra colors and UFOs. A
Gallup poll revealed that Southerners hear God's voice much more often
than Northerners. Just whose voice are these people hearing and does it
sound Southern to them? (Protestants stress hearing God's voice more and
the value of "the Word," while Catholics stress seeing God more, which may
explain the greater number of visions they experience in general.) What
about J. B. Phillips's story that C. S. Lewis "appeared" to him after
Lewis had died? (Cannon Phillips had corresponded with Lewis "a fair
amount" before Lewis died, and only saw him in the flesh once before. When
Phillips mentioned that appearance to a certain saintly Bishop, the
Bishop's reply was, "My dear J., this sort of thing is happening all the
time.") My friend, Will Bagley, told me that in a very realistic dream,
Rajneesh, the Hindu guru, once appeared to Will at the foot of his bed
with a brief message. My former fiance told me about how a Catholic aunt
of hers once saw Jesus before going to bed one night. (She told Jesus she
was tired, and went to bed!) Dr. Robert Price knew a woman who ran a
religious bookstore who claimed that Jesus appeared to her often. (Ask him
about that story sometime.) My step-father's great aunt was very ill and
staying with me and my Mom and Step-Dad when she seemed to be hearing
voices and seeing lights before she passed away. I have also read stories
on the web of Near Death Experiences as told by people in Thailand who
claimed to have seen some deities from their Buddhist religious
backgrounds, including a talking turtle:
http://www.innerworlds.50megs.com/thaindes.htm
 
Statistically, Near Death Experiences do not often involve religious
figures, and of those that involve figures of any kind they are usually
compassionate beings of light who leave people of all religions (or even
no religion) with the feeling that love is what's important and death
isn't as scary as they once thought it was. There are some nightmarish
NDEs as well, but they are a distinct minority. And in fact I know of one
that started out hellish but the person was saved by a compassionate
"being of light." (Howard Storm was the fellow's name who had that last
mentioned NDE, and he was transformed by it from a self avowed egotist and
chair of a university art department to becoming a universalistic type of
Christian minister.)
 
After reading the above it should become clear that a person's life and
culture play a role in how things "appear" to them. Also, if there is
"reality" involved in such appearances, it appears to be a universal
reality, not a solely Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist one.
 
The difference between my approach and that of, say, a Christian
apologist, is that I am not trying to say Christianity is "it," and then
when faced with a difficulty in proving my apologetics superior, retreat
into mystery and faith. My ideas originate in mystery, doubt, etc. I
endorse Protagoras's (and Robert Anton Wilson's) approach: During our
brief spans of life, limited to our particular language and culture and
whatever scientific/historical/philosophical knowledge each of us has time
to pursue, we each gain only a limited understanding of "God" and other
immense questions. Heck, we haven't even crawled off the surface of the
cradle planet.
 
Concerning the Bible, it raises "face value" questions it does not answer.
So "fundamentalistic" Christians take the "face value" method only so far,
except when they run into knotty questions. Then they opt for ad hoc
explanations of their own making to deliver themselves from
historical-critical questions and more open-ended explanations. So, in my
opinion, even the most rigid fundamentalists are as "humanistic" in their
boundless faith in their own ad hoc subsidiary explanations, as their most
uncompromising critics.
 
A point I neglected to cover, above, concerning the account of the empty
tomb -- you "just do not think it is the case that the writers had to
simply use women because there was no other alternative." My reply is to
study the Gospels. In Mark, ostensibly the earliest, the story goes that
the disciples "all left him and fled" in the garden. A young man following
Jesus's captors was seized and escaped naked. Peter is afraid to admit to
knowing Jesus. While at Jesus's crucifixion, only women are mentioned,
"And there were also women looking on from afar." "And Mary Magdalene, and
Mary the mother of Joses were looking on where Jesus was laid." Any
subsequent empty tomb story would therefore be limited to women, since we
are told in the earliest Gospel that the men fled.
 
In Matthew, "all the disciples left him and fled," adding at the
crucifixion that "many women were looking on from a distance." And when
Joseph sealed Jesus's grave, "Mary Magdalene was there, and the other
Mary, sitting opposite the grave." Only women again.
 
Luke is the first to omit that the disciples all fled at Jesus's arrest.
But he does note that it was "the women [who].followed after, and saw the
tomb and how His body was laid," i.e., women again, who saw where Jesus
was buried. [Luke 24:12 about "Peter running to the tomb" is a later
insertion that does not appear in the earliest manuscripts.]
 
John, the last Gospel written, bursts this mold open. The women are no
longer watching the crucifixion "at a distance" as in Mark and Matthew,
but "they were standing by the cross of Jesus," and now there is also at
least one man with them. This is a necessary redaction, since John has two
men race each other to the tomb once Mary Magdalene tells the disciples it
is empty, and they couldn't run there unless they knew where it was, and
they couldn't know unless they had attended the crucifixion, which John
says they did.
 
I would say the earliest version of the empty tomb story had to employ
women (see Mark above about the men "all" having "fled"). And the earliest
story about the women "not telling anyone" (in Mark) explains the
relatively late appearance of the legend of the empty tomb, i.e., "no one"
was "told," nor heard, about an empty tomb until later. The empty tomb
legend only arose after various "appearance" stories, like those related
by Paul (who does not mention an "empty tomb") had already spread.
 
Numerous theologians (See for instance, The Anglican Archbishop of Perth,
Peter Carnely's, The Structure of Resurrection Belief; or Thomas Sheehan's
The First Coming) have suggested on the basis of a comparative study of
the Gospels that the earliest stories of Jesus's resurrection and
subsequent "appearance(s)" probably arose in Galilee after Jesus's
disciples fled there. According to the earliest Gospel, Galilee was where
the risen Jesus "went" and where they would "see" him. That was where "the
eleven" pondered for weeks their leader's tragic fate and came to believe
that matters would not, must not, could not end simply with Jesus's death.
We have no records of what the apostles when through in Galilee, but it is
no secret that small groups can exert enormous influence over their
individual members, shaping perceptions, including conformity, and so
forth. All the more so when the groups in question are fiercely partisan,
and in the grip of some transcendent passion. And a passion for
resurrection was not uncommon to that time and place, neither was a
passion for a soon coming resurrection of all the dead in final
apocalyptic judgment. Perhaps a "visionary experience" or very real
"dream(s)" that he had appeared to them to continue his movement, mission,
passion, to preach the soon coming kingdom of God, of which his
resurrection was the first-fruits. 
 
The historical order of accretion of what (the Jewish theologian) Pinchas
Lapide has called a "dense wreath of resurrection legends" would then be:
 
1) Claims of "appearances," no details -- Paul
 
2) Claims of "appearances" ("You shall see him in Galilee"), augmented by
the claim of an "empty tomb," but still no details as to any of those
appearances, since the earliest Markan manuscripts end with merely the
promise of an appearance in Galilee.  And no appearances mentioned in
Jerusalem. -- Mark  
 
3) Two relatively brief "appearance" stories with a few sparse details and
words of the risen Jesus (to go with the new empty tomb legend), one near
the tomb, and the second in Galilee -- Matthew
 
4) More appearance stories, longer, more detailed, that all take place in
and around Jerusalem (for which the angel's message at the tomb had to be
changed), including a tendency to "concretize" Jesus more (he eats some
fish and honeycomb to convince them he is not a "spirit," and even takes
them on a little walk to Bethany). -- Luke 

[Note: The long ending to Mark (16:9-20) was probably composed sometimes
between 3) & 4) ]
 
5) Yet more appearance stories in Jerusalem and also some in Galilee,
including Jesus appearing to ten of the apostles, then appearing to them
all again with Thomas present, so he could be offered a chance to "put"
his "hand" in  "Jesus's side;" Jesus fixing [and eating?] food with the
disciples [in both Jerusalem and Galilee respectively]; and the
announcement, "...there are also many other things which Jesus did, the
which, if they should be written, every one, I suppose that even the world
itself could not contain the books that should be written," a supposition
they may have been based on the spread of further Jesus stories among the
faithful. (I am not judging the nature of such stories, only the fact that
they seem to keep growing from Mark to John and beyond.) -- John
 
6)  Among those "many other things which Jesus did," some of which can no
doubt be found in the bevy of other Gospels and Acts that believers
continued to write, most of which we know only by brief mentions in other
Christian works.  One of which (The Gospel of Nicodemus) expanded on the
incident in Matthew of "the raising of the many" (identifying them as
"Adam and Eve" and some other Hebrew prophets).  Others told of miracles
Jesus performed in his infancy and youth.  And one of which (the Gospel of
Peter) told of Jesus actually being seen stepping out of his opened tomb
(and followed by a talking cross).
 
A joke I recently heard maybe add a bit of lightness to this otherwise top
heavy exchange:
 
After serving his followers for decades, the revered rabbi of an orthodox
congregation died. His faithful flock, wailing and crying, beseeched God
to grant them a glimpse of their beloved rabbi now that he had gone to
meet his reward. God was moved by their prayers and granted them their
request. The congregation looked up at the vision before them, and there
was their beloved rabbi, sitting in heaven with a beautiful blonde on his
lap.
 
"Rebbe, rebbe," they cried. "How could you, the most holy man we know,
after a lifetime of exemplary behavior, end up with a buxom blonde as your
reward?"
 
"My good people," replied the rabbi, peering down. "This woman is not my
reward. I'm her punishment."
 
Best, Ed

 

Ed then sent the following addition...

----- Original Message -----
Sent: 21 October 2002 23:19
Subject: A few small things to keep in mind regarding the Fourth Gospel


I do not believe that Jesus went about declaring himself "I am the Good
Shepherd," "I am the Light of the World,"  "I am the Resurrection and the
Life," "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life," nor, "I am that I am," per
the Gospel of John.  Nor did Jesus speak or write the prelude to the
Gospel of John which declares, "In the beginning was the Word...and the
Word was God." 

Recently, I read an abstract of a dissertation that presents the view that
the community of the Beloved Apostle (out of which the Fourth Gospel
arose)  was not agreed as to who Jesus was, since that Gospel also
contains verses that make Jesus less than God, but the community was able
to unite themselves under the idea of Jesus as "God's wisdom," hence the
prologue.

The differences between the fourth Gospel and the synoptics are numerous
and telling.  In fact in the second Gospel, Mark, which most scholars
believe to be the earliest written, Jesus's Messiahship is hidden, and
Jesus tells people to tell no one about it.  It's only in the Fourth
Gospel, the Gospel of "signs" that Jesus performs seven miracles or signs
and declares "I am" after each one.  Also in the Gospel of John, Jesus
doesn't  speak in parables at all, not a single one!  While the synoptics
agree, "he didn't teach them except in parables."  So, lacking even a
single parable, there's something fishy about the fourth Gospel. Also, it
disagrees with the first three over other matters as well, like whether
the Baptist was in prison or still baptizing when Jesus began his own
ministry and baptisms.  And the fourth Gospel does not mention the
"transfiguration" which seems a bit odd since "John the apostle" (whom
some church fathers identified with "the beloved apostle" of the fourth
Gospel) was one of only three apostles that allegedly "saw" the
"transfiguration." But we get not a whisper about that event in the fourth
Gospel.  The Fourth Gospel also has Nathaniel state that Jesus was "the
Christ" right at the beginning of Jesus's ministry, something that only
Peter does, later in Jesus's ministry, according to the synoptics, which
the rest of the apostles stand mute.  And of course, only the Fourth
Gospel has Nicodemus meet with Jesus "at night" to teach him the secret
of being "born again." While the synoptics have Jesus addressing people in
broad daylight (rather than "at night") about "how to inherit eternal
life," and Jesus put "obey the commandments" first and foremost.  The
synoptics also have Jesus teaching people in broad daylight how to say the
"Our Father," a prayer that teaches, "Forgive us as we forgive others."
Nothing about the need to be "born again," which is a latter theological
interpretation and further from the historic sayings and teachings of
Jesus of Nazareth.

 


Hi Ed,

I hope and trust all is well with you and yours.

I received your "Habby" mailings. I enjoyed them.

So far, they offer no threat to my visions leg of my debate with Locks so
I haven't added them anywhere to my pages. Unless the implication is that
the Gospels are so messed up they can't be relied upon, which of course,
defies scholarly consensus in both camps.

You are always welcome to copy me on your correspondence.

Have a great weekend.

--
"Jordan"
===============================
G. Zeineldé Jordan, Se.
http://www.theism.net/authors/zjordan
===============================

 

continued...


Leaving Christianity contents | email me