500 Eyewitnesses to the Risen Christ? Not likely.

How does Christianity stand up to atheist critique?Christians often point to 1 Corinthians 15 as important evidence for the resurrection.  This book, Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth, was written roughly a decade before the earliest gospel of Mark (written in 65–70CE).  This makes it the earliest claim for the resurrection of Jesus.

Here’s the interesting section:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have [died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3–8)

Claims about this important passage are all over the map.  Some argue that it actually precedes Paul’s writing.  They say that it appears to be in a different style, as if it were a creedal statement (like the modern Apostle’s Creed) that would have been recited by believers.  That is, though Paul wrote this passage 25 years after the crucifixion, it had been an oral creed since as early as a few years after Jesus’ death.  They cite this as evidence that belief in the resurrection was even earlier than Paul’s writing.

Others propose a very different interpretation: that the different style suggests that it was added to copies decades after Paul’s writing.

To understand this interpretation, consider how we know what the epistle says.  Our earliest copy is from papyrus P46, part of the Chester Beatty collection.  This manuscript was written in roughly 200 CE, which means that our best copy of 1 Corinthians is 150 years older than the original letter.  150 years gives a lot of opportunity for hanky-panky as scribes copy and recopy the letter, especially during the early turbulent years of the new religion of Christianity.

But I give this simply as background.  We can’t resolve this scholarly debate about the authenticity of this passage.  What I find more interesting is one verse:

[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have [died].  (1 Cor. 15:6).

This is a popular passage among apologists, and they see it as powerful evidence in favor of the resurrection story.  Granting for now that Paul actually wrote this in the mid-50s CE, that’s a lot of eyewitnesses, and Paul in effect dares his readers to go check out his claim if they want.  Who would make a claim like this, making himself vulnerable to readers catching him in a lie (or at least an error), if he didn’t know it were true?

But this bold and confident defense of the resurrection wilts under scrutiny.  Let’s imagine that we’re in that church in Corinth and we have just received Paul’s letter.

1. Who are these 500 people?  Names and addresses, please?  To find out, someone would need to send a letter back to Paul (200 miles across the Aegean Sea in Ephesus) to ask.  Paul’s challenge is vague, not inviting.

2. How many will still be around?  Paul is writing in about 55CE about a supposed event that occurred over 20 years earlier.  Of the 500 eyewitnesses, how many are still alive and still in Jerusalem, ready to be questioned?

3. Who would make this trip?  Jerusalem is 800 miles away, and getting there would involve a long, dangerous, and expensive trip.

4. How many candidates for this trip?  If the church in Corinth had thousands of members, the risk of someone with the means and motivation to make the big trip to Jerusalem might be high.  But Paul had only started the church a couple of years earlier.  How many members would there have been … maybe 100?

5. Who would challenge Paul?  If the founder of the church says something, who’s likely to question it?  There might well have been people who were unimpressed by Paul’s message, but these would never have joined the church.  Others within the church might have become disappointed and left.  Even if these people might have wanted to topple Paul, they wouldn’t have been in the church community to learn of the claim.

6. What did the eyewitnesses actually see?  Let’s imagine that we have the money and daring to make the trip, we’ve found at least a handful of names that we can search for to find many of the eyewitnesses, and we’re rebellious enough to spit in the face of our church’s founder and see if he’s a liar.

After many adventures, we reach Jerusalem.  What will the eyewitnesses say?  At best they’ll say that, over 20 years ago, they saw a man.  Big deal.  Did they see him dead before?  Were they close enough to the movement to be certain that they recognized Jesus?  Human memory is notoriously inaccurate.  There’s a big difference between the certainty one has in a memory and its accuracy—these don’t always go together.

7. So what?  Suppose all these unlikely things happen—we make the long trip and we track down eyewitnesses—and we conclude that Paul’s story is nonsense.  If we successfully make the long trip back, what difference will this make?  Even if we had the guts to tell everyone that Paul’s story was wrong, so what?  Who would believe us over the church’s founder?  We’d be labeled as bad apples, we’d be expelled from the church, and the church would proceed as before.  And Paul’s letter would still be copied through the centuries for us to read today!

As with the Naysayer Hypothesis, apologists imagine that this argument is far stronger than it is.  And if Paul’s claim is such compelling evidence, why didn’t the gospels include it?  None do, and they were all written after 1 Corinthians.

Who would imagine that a supernatural claim written two thousand years ago would be compelling when we wouldn’t find it compelling if written two minutes ago?

Let’s consider two possible conclusions about this verse.

  1. The resurrection happened as the gospels describe it.  (Let’s grant for now that the gospels all tell the same story.)
  2. Tales circulated orally in the years after the crucifixion among Jesus’s followers, with the number of eyewitnesses to the risen Christ growing with time.

Why imagine a supernatural story when a natural story explains the facts?  Even supposing that Paul invented the story to boost his credibility or strengthen his church, this is a plausible natural explanation that trumps the supernatural one.

Photo credit: University of Michigan

Articles in support of the Christian position:

  • “1 Corinthians 15:3–8,” Agent Intellect blog, 2/24/09.
  • Keith Krell, “The Facts of Faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-11),” bible.org.

70 thoughts on “500 Eyewitnesses to the Risen Christ? Not likely.

  1. What you fail to recognize is that there is a much better way to prove your theory. that this was all made up, or at a minimum exaggerated. Find written evidence that the Biblical writers were wrong on the facts, and find it written by contemporaries who knew better.

    There are numerous historians cited by scholars who document various aspects of the life and death of Jesus and the rise of Christianity. Among many are these cited by Gary Habermas:

    Jewish historian Josephus
    Roman historian Tacitus
    Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas
    Thallus, a Middle Eastern historian writing in 52 AD, earlier than Paul
    And MANY others…

    While they narrate various aspects of the history, NONE of them cite a conspiracy by Paul and others which was REFUTED by witnesses. Your narrative fails in the “lie too big to keep secret” category. Find evidence that contemporary witnesses challenged the histories being written.

    As for the time period being too great, obviously you have no memory of the Challenger disaster (25 years ago), the moon landing (42 years ago) or the death of JFK (48 years ago). It could be said that many of those who lived through these memorable events are still living and many witnesses could be found. Do you think our minds are sharper than the minds of folks in the first century? No evidence indicates that this specific aspect (the 500 witnesses) or any other aspect of the narrative was refuted by contemporary writers as a hoax or exaggeration. They may not back the Christian’s claims, but the charge of hoax is not there.

    Find evidence for your claims. Why would you think that simply asserting that something like a conspiracy is possible is the same thing as providing evidence that it happened?

    • What you fail to recognize is that there is a much better way to prove your theory. that this was all made up, or at a minimum exaggerated. Find written evidence that the Biblical writers were wrong on the facts, and find it written by contemporaries who knew better.

      I don’t have that evidence … but why would we expect to find it?

      I went into more detail on this topic in the post “10 Reasons to Just Say Nay to the Naysayer Hypothesis.”

      And MANY others…

      Show us. Pick a couple of the most compelling citations about Jesus from these historians. I think I’ve read them all, though you may have new information.

      All I’ve read so far are “People worshipped a man named Jesus” or something to that effect. Yeah, I already agree with that.

      As for Thallus, I believe I’ve heard that the trail to his autograph is particularly cloudy.

      While they narrate various aspects of the history, NONE of them cite a conspiracy by Paul and others which was REFUTED by witnesses.

      Agreed. Similarly, we don’t have contemporary accounts of King Arthur’s time saying, “Y’know, they mention this guy named Merlin, but he was totally not a real magician.” Must we then conclude that Merlin was indeed a shape-shifter, as legends have it?

      Your narrative fails in the “lie too big to keep secret” category.

      Huh? This was a time when there was a seer on every street corner and a prophet in every temple. Every other famous person was born of a virgin or claimed divine parentage.

      Anyway, I’m focused on one specific verse in 1 Corinthians. Why does my argument fail?

      Find evidence that contemporary witnesses challenged the histories being written.

      Historians don’t demand this for other supernatural claims; why demand it here?

      As for the time period being too great, obviously you have no memory of the Challenger disaster (25 years ago), the moon landing (42 years ago) or the death of JFK (48 years ago). It could be said that many of those who lived through these memorable events are still living and many witnesses could be found.

      Similarly, we can find eyewitnesses to ghosts, aliens, and anything else you don’t believe in. What do we conclude from that?

      No evidence indicates that this specific aspect (the 500 witnesses) or any other aspect of the narrative was refuted by contemporary writers as a hoax or exaggeration.

      To be clear, hoax or conspiracy is less likely than good old fashioned oral legend.

      You act like we haven’t seen things like this resurrection claim. People said that Augustus Caesar ascended into heaven. People said that Sathya Sai Baba (who died earlier this year) raised people from the dead. And you’ve surely seen lots more. Do we credulously accept these as true? Of course not. We have a well-populated bin labeled “Legend” for these stories.

      • Re RickT: “Find evidence that contemporary witnesses challenged the histories being written.”

        Re Bob: “Historians don’t demand this for other supernatural claims; why demand it here?”

        Why not, since it’s trivially simple to find.

        Matthew 28:12ff: And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’”

        If it wasn’t a serious challenge, a response to it wouldn’t have been written into Matthew.

        As ever, Jesse

      • lao tsu wrote: If it wasn’t a serious challenge, a response to it wouldn’t have been written into Matthew.

        I thought about the passage from Matthew 28:15, “And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” but couldn’t find a non-Biblical source that made this claim.

        The Babylonian Talmud does mention a Yeshu, and states “But no one had anything exonerating for him and they hung him on the eve of Passover.”
        If this Yeshu is a reference to Jesus, it only mentions that he was killed, and nothing else is said. Nothing about a resurrection or the disciples stealing the body is mentioned.

        If anyone does have a non-Biblical source for this “widely circulated” story that the disciples stole the body, please let me know.

      • Retro:

        If anyone does have a non-Biblical source for this “widely circulated” story that the disciples stole the body, please let me know.

        This is an interesting diversion, but I don’t see it taking us anywhere interesting. Seems to me that we wouldn’t expect to have access to naysayers’ accounts today, regardless of whether there were any.

        And if there had been naysayers, why imagine that that would have much impact on the early religion? One guy raises his hand to say, “Uh, guys? This story doesn’t make sense for reason X.” So what? Who would imagine that all believers would stop what they’re doing and say, “Huh? Oh–OK, thanks for mentioning that. I’ll just stop being a Christ follower then.”?

      • Bob S wrote:This is an interesting diversion, but I don’t see it taking us anywhere interesting. Seems to me that we wouldn’t expect to have access to naysayers’ accounts today, regardless of whether there were any.

        I agree. I simply want to point out that so far the Bible is the only source for any of these stories.

        It’s really a bogus claim to say this story in Matthew is great evidence of a coverup by the contemporaries of Jesus.

        Like Richard Carrier, I think this story in Matthew is great evidence of the development in the legend of Jesus.

        Richard Carrier, Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story: The authors create a rhetorical means of putting the theft story into question by inventing guards on the tomb … it is most suspicious that the other gospel accounts omit any mention of a guard, even when Mary visits the tomb (compare Matthew 28:1-15 with Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-9), and also do not mention the theft story—this claim is not even reported in Acts, where a lot of hostile Jewish attacks on the church are recorded, yet somehow this one fails to be mentioned. Neither Peter nor Paul mention either fact, either, even though their letters predate the gospels by decades. Worse, Matthew’s account involves reporting privileged conversations between priests and Pilate, and then secret ones between priests and guards that no Christian could have known about (27.62-65, 28.11-15). This is always a very suspicious sign of fiction… (the author of Matthew) had the motive to make it up, to answer the objections of later skeptics (just like the Thomas story in John), and the story looks like an invention, because it narrates events that could not be known by the author.

    • Rick said: “Find written evidence that the Biblical writers were wrong on the facts, and find it written by contemporaries who knew better.”

      Since most people could not read or write, and papyrus doesn’t last very long, lack of this written evidence does not prove anything for your claim.

      Also, how many of these possible “contemporaries” would have been in a position to “know better”? Again, lack of this written evidence does nothing to prove your claim.

      Rick said: “As for the time period being too great, obviously you have no memory of the Challenger disaster (25 years ago), the moon landing (42 years ago) or the death of JFK (48 years ago). It could be said that many of those who lived through these memorable events are still living and many witnesses could be found.”

      Of course there’s no such thing as conspiracy theories about the Challenger explosion (the Soviets shot it down), the moon landing (it was all faked), or the assasination of JFK (Oswald did not act alone).

      Rick asked: “Do you think our minds are sharper than the minds of folks in the first century?”

      Do you think the minds of the first century worked any different than the minds of modern people who invent conspiracy theories?

      Rick asked: “Why would you think that simply asserting that something like a conspiracy is possible is the same thing as providing evidence that it happened?”

      Why would you think that simply asserting that a story is true is the same thing as providing evidence?

      You don’t have evidence that the resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 brothers and sisters at the same time, you merely have a sentence in a book.

      A sentence in a book is a claim, not evidence.

      • Regarding “most people couldn’t read and write…” Those who did quoted those who couldn’t. This isn’t a strong rebuttal. It merely emphasizes that those who wrote the histories found and documented no case for conspiracy.

        Regarding existence of conspiracy theories regarding the Challenger, et al: Right. That is the point. The theories you stated are thoroughly debunked to the satisfaction of most of us. Yet the existence of the claims is also well documented. Thanks for restating that point. No such documentation of allegations of hoax exists with regards to Paul or the other historians’ claims.

        Regarding a sentence in a book not being evidence: That is called historic evidence. We use it to know anything about history. We have it in that book (the Paul’s writings) and in numerous historians of the period, just like we have history today written in books. Only they didn’t have the printing press so there weren’t as many copies. But lots of copies of lots of historians agree on basic facts, and don’t dispute this one.

        You can’t discount it simply because it ended up in the Bible. That acceptance into the standard canon of scripture is testimony to the way scripture was adopted into the BIble—people (especially the apostles) accepted it as true at the time without public concerns for its veracity. That was one of the tests of which books would be accepted as scripture.

        Thanks for your comments, which strengthen the case against Bob’s assertions.

      • Rick:

        No such documentation of allegations of hoax exists with regards to Paul or the other historians’ claims.

        You’re saying we should expect to have copies of written documents refuting Paul’s story if it were false?

        And to restate the obvious: hoax isn’t the likeliest candidate. It’s legend.

      • Rick said: “This isn’t a strong rebuttal. It merely emphasizes that those who wrote the histories found and documented no case for conspiracy.”

        Or, maybe those who wrote the histories only found and documented what they wanted to find and document.

        Would you expect a book that is trying to get you to believe in the existence of Bigfoot would also find and document evidence against the existence of Bigfoot? The Bible isn’t a history book, the Bible is a book that’s trying to convince you to believe in something.

        Also, how exactly would you find and document the evidence to show the existence of Bigfoot is merely a hoax? Maybe you could take some pictures of a Bigfoot that doesn’t exist? Maybe you could take some plaster casts of some Bigfoot footprints that don’t exist? Maybe you could find and record some eye witness testimony from people who have never seen a Bigfoot?

        Seriously, are you going to believe in all the stories about Bigfoot until someone documents that it’s all just a hoax, or are you going to wait until there’s some actual evidence that Bigfoot even exists?

        Rick said: “No such documentation of allegations of hoax exists with regards to Paul or the other historians’ claims.”

        And what does this actually tell us? It might really be telling us that the claims about Jesus were not wide spread and well known enough for anyone outside the movement to know anything at all about them. No one is going to write a book critiquing the resurrection Jesus if they have never even heard of Jesus.

        By the time the Jesus story is well known enough to actually write it down, it has been told and retold orally for several decades. This is plenty of time for the story to change, and for legends to develop before becoming solidified into text.

        Rick said: “You can’t discount it simply because it ended up in the Bible.”

        And you can’t say it’s true simply because it ended up in the Bible.

        Rick said: “That acceptance into the standard canon of scripture is testimony to the way scripture was adopted into the BIble—people (especially the apostles) accepted it as true at the time without public concerns for its veracity.”

        And your comment here actually strengthen my claim. How did the people who decided what was canonical know what was true and what wasn’t? The short answer is they didn’t.

        The people who formed the canon were not eye witnesses. The people who formed the canon were not historians, rather, the people who formed the canon were BELIEVERS.

      • Rick said: “You can’t discount it simply because it ended up in the Bible.”

        [And Retro said:] And you can’t say it’s true simply because it ended up in the Bible.

        A quick comment: though these two statements are sort of symmetrical, the burden of proof lies on the person making the claim. Rick is making the claim that the gospel story is history, so he has the burden of proof. If that burden is not carried (and the burden for such a remarkable claim is substantial), we are obliged to reject the claim.

        • Bob’s comment—”A quick comment: though these two statements are sort of symmetrical, the burden of proof lies on the person making the claim. Rick is making the claim that the gospel story is history, so he has the burden of proof. If that burden is not carried (and the burden for such a remarkable claim is substantial), we are obliged to reject the claim.”

          Seems to me the original claim has been made by the historians. You want, without any burden of evidence, to allege that the understanding of truth for two thousand years is to be discarded. Seems to me you have the burden of proof to come up with something, ANYTHING in evidence of overturning history.

          You will say that no, you don’t, and we can go back and forth. It is clear to me you just want to make allegations without having to do the leg work to prove what you say. Once again, my response will be that you are not involved in serious and rigorous debate. You are simply slinging mud without evidence and hoping against all odds that something will stick.

          Answers from logic never seem to even cause you to think about the other side having a valid point. That is not a good track record. Does your side truly possess all truth in these discussions?

      • Bob S said: “Rick is making the claim that the gospel story is history, so he has the burden of proof. If that burden is not carried (and the burden for such a remarkable claim is substantial), we are obliged to reject the claim.”

        According to Rick, the more remarkable a claim is, the more remarkable the evidence against that claim needs to be.

        If you can’t prove it to be false, then it must be true.

        “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” – Chistopher Hitchens

        Rick T said: “Seems to me the original claim has been made by the historians. You want, without any burden of evidence, to allege that the understanding of truth for two thousand years is to be discarded.”

        I have a challenge for you Rick: There are many historical claims about miracle workers other than Jesus. Find written evidence that the claims about Apollonius of Tyana were wrong on the facts, and find it written by contemporaries who knew better.

        • Bob said, “Did I say that I want to overturn history? You must’ve misunderstood me. My point is precisely the opposite: I want to follow history. And historians in every case reject supernatural claims. That those claims were made, of course, is historical, but they don’t accept those claims as true. I invite a counterexample.”

          Your original claim in the post was that the account of 500 was unlikely, and therefore you expect those who disagree to prove its truth. You now want proof of something different, namely that historians tend to discount supernatural claims in general. And you want us to provide proof to the contrary. Way to move the goalposts. I’m not playing that game. The challenge I made to you was to find any evidence of historians claiming witnesses who countered the historic facts they themselves were writing. You can’t find it, so the goalposts must be moved. Go ahead and do that, but don’t claim the moral high ground for changing the question and dodging the challenge.

          For Retro, regarding “how many people actually [witnessed] the dead body of Jesus,” and provide citations. Thanks for the homework. Doesn’t matter. You already know the answer. Both Mary’s and other followers including the disciples and other women who had supported Jesus’ ministry, the crowds on the way to the crucifixion who had never seen a prisoner survive the ordeal, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees. There are verses to back all these up. But as I said, it doesn’t matter. No matter what number is provided, it won’t be enough for your arbitrary standards of proof. So let me ask you a serious question: How many would it take to convince you? Please provide a number and the reason this number would be sufficient. Also provide a reason why we need exactly that number to convict someone in a contemporary court of law.

      • Rick:

        Seems to me the original claim has been made by the historians. You want, without any burden of evidence, to allege that the understanding of truth for two thousand years is to be discarded. Seems to me you have the burden of proof to come up with something, ANYTHING in evidence of overturning history.

        Did I say that I want to overturn history? You must’ve misunderstood me. My point is precisely the opposite: I want to follow history. And historians in every case reject supernatural claims. That those claims were made, of course, is historical, but they don’t accept those claims as true.

        I invite a counterexample.

      • Rick:

        Your original claim in the post was that the account of 500 was unlikely, and therefore you expect those who disagree to prove its truth.

        The burden of proof is on those who say that the resurrection was historical.

        You now want proof of something different, namely that historians tend to discount supernatural claims in general.

        No, this is my assertion.

        What do you think? Does it sound reasonable?

        Way to move the goalposts. I’m not playing that game.

        I’ve no idea what skullduggery you imagine, but curses for foiling my non-plan!

        The challenge I made to you was to find any evidence of historians claiming witnesses who countered the historic facts they themselves were writing.

        And I very, very clearly stated that I have no such evidence. I’ll say again: so what?

        don’t claim the moral high ground for changing the question and dodging the challenge.

        Huh? What challenge did I dodge?

        No matter what number is provided, it won’t be enough for your arbitrary standards of proof.

        Then let’s move from arbitrary and evasive atheists to solid and honest Christians. You tell me: if the tables were turned, what evidence from another religion would you need to say that Christianity is nonsense and that you must switch over?

        I predict that the level of evidence that would convince you is roughly what would convince me.

      • Rick T said: “How many would it take to convince you? Please provide a number and the reason this number would be sufficient. Also provide a reason why we need exactly that number to convict someone in a contemporary court of law.”

        The point is that anyone who didn’t see Jesus dead, can’t claim that Jesus resurrected. The Bible says that all the disciples fled, so none of them actually seen Jesus being crucified or the dead body.

        Since all the disciples fled at Jesus’ arrest, as far as any of the disicples knew, Jesus could have been held for three days, and then released alive.

        If the disciples assumed that Jesus was crucified, his reappearance a few days later would seem miraculous.

        I’m not saying that this scenario is true, but it’s much more plausible than Jesus actually raising from the dead.

      • Retro:

        Since all the disciples fled at Jesus’ arrest, as far as any of the disicples knew, Jesus could have been held for three days, and then released alive.

        Great point. And you’re simply giving the story the benefit of the doubt, seeing what it needs to hold up as history.

        The far more plausible explanation IMO is simply that the gospels story is legend.

      • Bob S said: “Great point. And you’re simply giving the story the benefit of the doubt, seeing what it needs to hold up as history.”

        By these standards, we’d also have to accept what the Mormons claim too.

        From Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge): The Three Witnesses were a group of three early leaders of the Latter Day Saint movement who claimed in a statement of 1830 that an angel had shown them the golden plates from which Joseph Smith, Jr. translated the Book of Mormon and that they had heard God’s voice testifying that the book had been translated by the power of God.

        Another eight witnesses signed a statement that they both saw and handled the plates.

        How’s that for historical evidence?

      • Retro:

        By these standards, we’d also have to accept what the Mormons claim too.

        And all written evidence about the early days of the Mormon church are written in modern English and there is far, far more evidence (diaries, letters, newspaper articles, and so on) than what we have for the early Christian church. The gulf to cross is far less.

      • Jesse’s comment is instructive. It reminds us that the chronological contemporaries of the disciples (soldiers and Jewish priests) tried to cover up the supernatural events of the resurrection. It also shows the cover up attempt was documented. My challenge was the reverse, namely for Bob or others to demonstrate any evidence the Christians had made up the supernatural stories to establish their case.

        In any case, this is great evidence that if there had been a coverup involving a twisting of the facts by the Christians, it would likely have been documented by the contemporary historians. There is no evidence of this, however.

      • Rick:

        the chronological contemporaries of the disciples (soldiers and Jewish priests) tried to cover up the supernatural events of the resurrection.

        Sure, according to the story. I don’t know why the story is historical fact.

        My challenge was the reverse, namely for Bob or others to demonstrate any evidence the Christians had made up the supernatural stories to establish their case.

        I got nuthin’. Now: what do we conclude from this?

        (I also got nuthin’ for Merlin, so after you finish proving that Jesus existed, you can move on to Merlin.)

  2. Bob said: “What did the eyewitnesses actually see?”

    This question, to me, is the most important.

    What does it actually mean to say that Jesus appeared to 500 brothers and sisters at the same time?

    Question: What exactly did Paul (who wrote this passage in 1 Corinthians) see when he met the resurrected Jesus?

    Acts 9:3-4 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (See also Acts 22:6, and Acts 26:13)

    Answer: Nothing but a blinding flash of light.

    And when Paul did actually see Jesus, it was in a TRANCE: Acts 22:17-18 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me…”

    When Jesus appeared to the 500, maybe it was like the post resurrection appearance on the road to Emmaus in Matthew 24:

    Matthew 24:13-16 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

    Matthew 24:30-31 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

    So Jesus likes to play games, and He purposely keeps them from recognizing Him, and then once they do know that it’s Him, He quickly vanishes?

    We see the same thing again in John and Mark:

    John 20:13-14 “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

    How in the world could Mary not recognize Jesus, and mistake Him for a gardener?

    John 21:4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

    Mark 16:12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.

    What in the world does “in a different form” mean?

    So then, what does it actually mean to say that Jesus appeared to 500 brothers and sisters at the same time?

    Jesus could have simply appeared to the 500 “in a different form” such as a flash of light, as an unrecognized stranger, or merely as a vision in a trance. NOT VERY CONVINCING!!!

  3. Amen Rick T.

    And let me add Bob just continues to fulfill the truth of the scriptures ..Bob is telling us the Crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is foolishness.

    And what does 1 Corinthians ( just what Bob was quoting from) tell us ? It tells us that…” We preach ( believers) Christ crucified to the Jew a stumbling block and to the Gentile ( Bob) foolishness”.. Just what Bob says. That this is foolishness.

    What else does 1 Corinthians tell us. “That the word of the cross to those who are perishing is foolishness, but to us it’s the power of God..”

    So Bob continues to fulfill the power of the word of God…. God has blinded Bob to see the truth as it is also told in 1 Corinthians. It says. ” But a natural man ( Bob) DOES NOT accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are FOOLISHNESS to him, and he CANNOT UNDERSTAND them, because they are SPIRITUALLY appraised.” ( Caps inserted by me)

    So thanks for bring up 1 Corinthians for us Bob. As you yourself prove the absolute truth of the scriptures

    • Bob C said: “And let me add Bob just continues to fulfill the truth of the scriptures.”

      And maybe you fulfill this verse in Barnum 3:16 “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

      Simply saying that people not believing in a claim is actually evidence for that claim is the very definition of foolishness.

  4. I have a very important question that I’d like an honest and sincere answer to:

    How many people actually witness the dead body of Jesus?

    This is important because if someone didn’t actually witness the dead Jesus, it’s meaningless to then say that they witnessed a resurrected Jesus?

    Please post the Bible verses that you use for your answer.

  5. The discussions above are getting too hard to sort out and answer. When trying to make a reply, the web link brings you to a spot with no reply to that comment available, and not to the point where the comment was made.

    The point to summarize here from my perspective is that Bob and Retro make claims based on made up stories of what they think is plausible, and trot out red herrings such as the Mormon faith as a parallel. Mormon faith has no archaeological evidence whatsoever. Christianity has loads. Not apples to apples. Moving the goal posts. I think there is not much to add to this discussion other than we disagree, and my side has historic and archaeological evidence. Your just-so stories don’t.

    • Rick T said: “Mormon faith has no archaeological evidence whatsoever. Christianity has loads.”

      Who’s moving the goalposts? We were talking about eye witness accounts, and now you want to change it to archaeological evidence?

      Your fantastic eye witness testimony is no different than the Mormon’s fantastic eye witness testimony.

      If you want to bring up archaeological evidence, what kind of archaeological evidence do you have that Jesus was resurrected? Did Jesus scratch “Jesus was here” inside a tomb somewhere?

    • Rick:

      When trying to make a reply, the web link brings you to a spot with no reply to that comment available

      Yes. I use search.

      trot out red herrings such as the Mormon faith as a parallel.

      This is the kind of thing that “Doctor” Kent Hovind used to do in his debates–simply dismiss an argument with an authoritative tone and hope it goes away.

      The gulf we must cross to get to the Mormon faith is far less than that for the Christian faith. The big supernatural claim that the Mormons claim is that an angel pointed Joseph Smith to gold plates. And, as Retro has pointed out, we have many eyewitness statements written in English.

      The big supernatural claim for conventional Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead. You think you have better evidence?? How many eyewitness statements do you have in any language? And how long from (1) event to first writing and (2) first writing to our oldest copy? Again, the Mormon story eclipses Christianity.

  6. Bpb, if you want to make a serious case against the historicity of these statements, then it pay to do the homework. Do you know why it is claimed that this is in a credal form, and part of an oral tradition from the earliest days of Christianity? If you do not, then surely you should before you try to trot out arguments disproving them. And if you do, why don’t you engage with these arguments? Try Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” for starters.

    You immediately discount the idea that it could be a credal statement based on, actually I don’t know what? The wikipedia link you gave to the authorship of 1 Corinthians states that there is near consensus on Pauline authorship. The author who is quoted as claiming it is a 2nd century insert made the claims in a book which had chapters by Barbara Thiering – she of the married, divorced and remarried Jesus with four children, which makes the Da Vinci Code look like solid history. It is safe to say that such claims are on the extreme fringe of Biblical scholarship. Interestingly, if those verses are a credal statement, then the questions you ask of the text suddenly become moot. A resident of Judea in the 30s would not have the difficulties of making an inquiry that you present.

    And before you give any more of your assertions about the unreliability of human memory, try doing some research. Here’s a link to part of a review of a book that would be very relevant: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2011/12/22/remembering-jesusthe-mciver-book-final-part/

    • Karl:

      Do you know why it is claimed that this is in a credal form, and part of an oral tradition from the earliest days of Christianity?

      Yes, I’ve heard these arguments several times, though you may well understand them much deeper than I.

      You immediately discount the idea that it could be a credal statement based on, actually I don’t know what?

      Based on the conclusions of New Testament scholars. According to the Wikipedia article, they “denied that Paul wrote the verses and believed they were an interpolation possibly dating to as far back as the beginning of the 2nd century.”

      Then my post went on to say, “But I give this simply as background. We can’t resolve this scholarly debate about the authenticity of this passage.”

      And before you give any more of your assertions about the unreliability of human memory, try doing some research. Here’s a link

      How is that link relevant? And did you check out the link I gave? It’s a fascinating experiment about memories of the Challenger accident. The lesson from this experiment: don’t confuse confidence in your memory with accuracy. They don’t have to go together.

      • And yet, another of the Wikipedia articles you linked to stated that there is near consensus on Pauline authorship. So you have found a dissenter. How seriously are their ideas taken?

        But the point remains that your questions that you have posed no longer have any weight if these verses really are a credal statement from the 30s in Judea. Surely then, it is important for you to do the research to find out the truth or otherwise of this particular claim, instead of discounting it based on one dissenting voice.

      • Karl:

        And yet, another of the Wikipedia articles you linked to stated that there is near consensus on Pauline authorship.

        The claim I’m trying to shut down is the Christian saying, “Imagine Paul writing this—that he had the boldness to do so gives tremendous support to it actually being true!” And I think I have by showing that this claim was hardly the slam-dunk argument people imagine it to be.

  7. To All my dear brothers and sisters in Christ :

    I hope this is a good lesson on the failures of the arguments of “Evidentualism” .. Trying to use evidence to convert haters of God. ( Sinners).. Look at an example the Bible gives of why evidence can not change a man’s heart, and convert him to Christianity. There were people who knew Jesus, saw Jesus die, and saw Jesus after He rose..There can be no greater evidence than this..Eye witness of knowing Jesus and seeing Jesus die and seeing the risen Jesus. There can be no greater evidence than this. .And what does the Bible say about some of these witnesses. It says ( the most amazing three words in the Bible) ….” AND SOME DOUBTED.”

    So here you are 2,000 years later trying to convince Bob and Retro of the resurrection?

    This is an unbiblical attempt that Jesus , nor the Apostles use to try to “Prove” God.

    Just for a moment let’s play along with this evidential argument approach.. Lets say Bob and Retro agree and say by the evidence from your argument I agree Jesus rose, and now I will be a Christian. Than 2 years later someone comes with a new better argument that the whole resuerection was bogus. And Bob and Retro buy into that argument. And de-convert back to unbelief? Get my point? All you have done is got an intellectual “win” with an argument, that in a few days someone else may “win” them back to unbelief..

    That is a pathetic unbiblical way to witness.

    Bob and Retro are blinded by the providence of God. They think the resurrection is “foolishness” as 1 Corinthians affirms. Unless Bob and Retro acknowledge the their sins and bow the knee to the Holy Triune God of the Scriptures there will be no true repentance or true Spiritual birth..So stop cheapening the gospel and tell them, that only those the Father gives the Son will be saved.. Salvation is of the Lord..

    Thank you .

    • Bob C:

      Trying to use evidence to convert haters of God.

      Yeah–it’s weird how God gave us a brain to process evidence and Science to show that following the evidence is a fantastic way to understand reality. Maybe he enjoys punking people.

      Look at an example the Bible gives of why evidence can not change a man’s heart, and convert him to Christianity.

      Doesn’t Matthew make clear that the reason Jesus did the miracles was to provide evidence to show that he was the real deal?

      There were people who knew Jesus, saw Jesus die, and saw Jesus after He rose..There can be no greater evidence than this..

      That’s powerful evidence. Which is why I am continually amazed that people don’t accept the truth of Merlin’s ability to harness real magic. I mean it’s right there in black and white, right?

      There can be no greater evidence than this.

      And how is that relevant to us today? We don’t have this evidence; we have a story about this evidence. Not quite the same thing.

      Get my point?

      OK, so you don’t like evidence. What do you propose instead? Just believe? But then, of course, you look like any other charlatan.

    • Bob C said: “There can be no greater evidence than this..Eye witness of knowing Jesus and seeing Jesus die and seeing the risen Jesus. There can be no greater evidence than this.”

      Reading a story in a book is not actually evidence at all. Which is why I, just like Doubting Thomas, cannot believe it unless I see it for myself.

      Bob C said: “Look at an example the Bible gives of why evidence can not change a man’s heart, and convert him to Christianity.”

      I agree 100%! Converting to Christianity is based soley on emotional arguments.

      If you want to be religious, be religious… just don’t make it out like you hold your religious beliefs for intellectual reasons.

      • I’m not convinced by anyone who says they would believe if they saw it with their own eyes. As Chico Marx said, “Who you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?”

        Frankly, we have become too used to disbelieving our own eyes whether it is David Copperfield making the Golden Gate Bridge disappear, or the latest special effects from a Hollywood blockbuster. The fact is, that if we today saw what looks like someone rising from the dead, we would be waiting for the credits to roll so we can see who is responsible for this illusion.

      • The fact is, that if we today saw what looks like someone rising from the dead, we would be waiting for the credits to roll so we can see who is responsible for this illusion.

        Good point. Since you’re not fooled by a David Copperfield, and you’re not duped by the claims of an Indian mystic who raises people from the dead, why believe the claims in a 2000-year-old book? Indeed, why should anyone?

      • Karl said: “I’m not convinced by anyone who says they would believe if they saw it with their own eyes.”

        Good point. Eye witnesses can be too easily fooled. This is why some actual scientific evidence would be best.

        Karl said: “The fact is, that if we today saw what looks like someone rising from the dead, we would be waiting for the credits to roll so we can see who is responsible for this illusion.”

        I agree, people are better educated and more sophisticated today.

        Truth is, there were illusionists back in Jesus’ day just like there are today. (Acts 8:9-25) Today if someone cuts a lady in half, you know it’s just a trick. 2,000 years ago an uneducated person might actually think it’s real.

        Even today, people are still gullible enough to believe in mentalism tricks like mind reading, ESP, out of body experiences, etc.

        Strange thing is, every person who claims the ability to do miracles today fail miserably when their claims are actually tested. Makes me think the same thing would’ve happened 2,000 years ago too.

      • Ironic. I point out how it modern technology has made it possible to be skeptical even to the point of disbelieving your own eyes, and it gets interpreted as a justification for people from another era without this technology to disbelieve their eyes because they can’t be trusted.

        There were no special effects studios in the 1st century. However there were probably skeptics back then who would rather disbelieve their eyes than follow the implications of believing what they have seen.

      • Karl:

        There were no special effects studios in the 1st century.

        No, but let’s not dismiss their storytelling ability. We do have CGI in movies, but good storytelling hasn’t changed much in thousands of years.

        The gospel looks like just another mythological or legendary story. Shouldn’t we treat it as such?

      • Karl said: “Ironic. I point out how it modern technology has made it possible to be skeptical even to the point of disbelieving your own eyes, and it gets interpreted as a justification for people from another era without this technology to disbelieve their eyes because they can’t be trusted.”

        Yeah I know, it’s always tough when people won’t just simply agree with you.

        Karl said: “There were no special effects studios in the 1st century.”

        There were other people performing illusions around the time of Jesus. These illusions were convincing, and many people believed they were real.

        Did you read the passage in Acts about Simon the Sorcerer? Have you read anything at all about other miracles workers around the time of Jesus? Have you read anything at all about modern day miracle workers?

        Karl said: “However there were probably skeptics back then who would rather disbelieve their eyes than follow the implications of believing what they have seen.”

        True, there have always been skeptics and/or atheists. It’s interesting that these skeptics/atheists seem to have have been correct about every other religion and miracle worker except for yours.

        You really only have two options: Either Jesus was doing the same thing as all these other miracle workers, or Jesus was doing something different.

        You can’t show that Jesus was doing something different unless you actually know about these other miracle workers.

        Acts 8:9-11 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.

        If Simon the Sorcerer was able to fool these people with “sorcery”, then they obviously couldn’t tell the difference between “sorcery” and actual miracles.

        So then please explain to me how to tell the difference between sorcery and genuine miracles.

      • For anyone wanting a brief overview of some “rivals” to Jesus, you can watch this 45 min. video from Nat. Geo. here:

        http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3126202689810625112#

        One thing I’d like to point out: Protestants commonly point out that things like the Catholic tradition of venerating the Virgin Mary came from pagan sources.

        It is also common for Christian apologists, like William Lane Craig, to suggest that Jesus’ followers had no expectation that Jesus would rise from the dead. To Craig, this demonstrates that Jesus’ resurrection was not contrived, so it is very unlikely that Christians simply invented the resurrection story.

        We can see however, that other religions did have an expectation of a dying and resurrecting saviour. If Christianity co-opted other pagan beliefs and rituals, then it is also very likely that Christianity also co-opted the belief and rituals of the resurrection too.

        Again, you can’t show that Christianity is actually something different unless you actually know about these other religions and cults.

        One explanation for why Christianity won out and survived is that it simply absorbed the most popular rituals and beliefs of all the surrounding religions into a single “mega-religion”.

        So I challenge everyone to watch the video when they have the time.

      • Retro:

        It is also common for Christian apologists, like William Lane Craig, to suggest that Jesus’ followers had no expectation that Jesus would rise from the dead.

        Good point. WLC likes to argue that Jesus was totally unexpected: “The Messiah will be a conquering king with an army, so who’s this guy??”

        And yet the gospel story (Matthew in particular?) has many “as was foretold in the Scriptures” comments to make the claim that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy–that Jesus was indeed foretold.

      • Bob S said: “And yet the gospel story (Matthew in particular?) has many “as was foretold in the Scriptures” comments to make the claim that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy–that Jesus was indeed foretold.”

        Exactly, which is why Matthew has many odd things in it, like quoting non-existent verses, misquoting verses, and Jesus riding TWO donkeys. It is PAINFULLY obvious that Matthew custom wrote his gospel to conform with the alleged “messianic prophecies” found in his personal copy of the Old Testament, which cannot possibly be the same version as the canonical Old Testament that we have today.

        Also, someone is bound to call me “uncharitable”, or say that William Lane Craig isn’t a “true” Christian. However, I think it’d be fair to say that WLC knows alot more than the average person. Likewise, many of the people on the Apologetics.com forum were highly educated, and some have even earned a PhD. I feel reasonably confident that William Lane Craig is the best defender that Christianity can currently produce, so it’s not like atheists are picking on a 98lb weakling with asthma.

        If a person has earned an actual PhD, they should know better than to make arguments that rely on the average person being uneducated. Call me “uncharitable”, but WLC and others should be ashamed of themselves for exploiting the average person’s ignorance.

      • Retro:

        If a person has earned an actual PhD, they should know better than to make arguments that rely on the average person being uneducated. Call me “uncharitable”, but WLC and others should be ashamed of themselves for exploiting the average person’s ignorance.

        It does make one wonder–does WLC actually know the weaknesses of his arguments? He must’ve come across any rebuttal to his arguments that you or I could make. What then to make of his silence in responding to them?

      • Bob S said: “He must’ve come across any rebuttal to his arguments that you or I could make. What then to make of his silence in responding to them?”

        As you know, Craig’s very good at formal debating. Craig uses the exact same scripted arguments, word for word, in every debate, and he’s able to pack 10 hours of crap into a 10 minute bag. Craig simply brings up philosophical arguments that are quick and easy to make, but difficult to refute with a compelling scientific explanation in the limited time of a debate.

        EVERY Craig debate ends with his argument from personal experience… and how can anyone argue with that?

        Also, I’ve heard Craig dodge tough questions by “running out of time”. Watch his debate with Bart Ehrman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXwuu6uUdMI Craig claims he’s out of time even though he had several minutes left, and Ehrman points this out at the 50 minute mark. Ehrman’s conclusion starts at about the 47 minute mark, and he mentions how Craig has dodged several issues. Craig also dishonestly claims that Ehrman had dodged several issues even though Ehrman did respond to them.

        Bottom line, Craig is preaching to the choir, and Christians are simply all too happy to overlook his dishonest tactics, and no one bothers to fact check any of his claims.

        BTW, for anyone who may have missed it, here’s the video of the 2009 Craig vs. Hitchens debate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KBx4vvlbZ8

  8. Karl Udy said:

    ” I’m not convinced by anyone who says they would believe if they saw it with their own eyes. As Chico Marx said, “Who you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?”

    Frankly, we have become too used to disbelieving our own eyes whether it is David Copperfield making the Golden Gate Bridge disappear, or the latest special effects from a Hollywood blockbuster. The fact is, that if we today saw what looks like someone rising from the dead, we would be waiting for the credits to roll so we can see who is responsible for this illusion.”

    Amen! That is exactly my point! Salvation of a dead sinner who hates God, is only possible if God first takes the action. This is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit giving spiritual life to the dead sinner who has no spiritual life.

    That is called being ” Born again” the new birth comes only from the regenerating work of the Triune God… The Father chooses those He wishes to save, the Son redeems those the Father gives Him, and the Spirit gives that person life. And the Spirit indwells that person so they can never fall from Grace. We see the entire roles of each of the persons in the Godhead.

    • Bob C:

      The Father chooses those He wishes to save

      So, from our standpoint, it’s arbitrary? We aren’t entitled to understand God’s selection process?

      Makes one wonder why this religion is worth celebrating! If this is reality, it would be just another harsh fact that we wish were different.

    • Karl wrote: Frankly, we have become too used to disbelieving our own eyes whether it is David Copperfield making the Golden Gate Bridge disappear, or the latest special effects from a Hollywood blockbuster.

      For a brief run down of other miracle workers and Mesiah’s around the time of Jesus, have a look at Richard Carrier’s paper that gives the background of the time and place in which the Gospels were written:

      http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/kooks.html

  9. To Bob:

    The Father chooses those He wishes to save

    So, from our standpoint, it’s arbitrary? We aren’t entitled to understand God’s selection process?

    No, it may look arbitrary. But keep in mind we all deserve justice. But God for His own Glory and his own good pleasure Has determined to save a people for Himself

    I do have to questions for you.

    1) have you ever doubted your Atheism?

    2) Do you agree If God did exist, He would owe you no explanations?

    • Bob C:

      No, it may look arbitrary. But keep in mind we all deserve justice.

      So you’re agreeing with me: from our standpoint, it’s arbitrary. And you’re saying that we’re not entitled to understand God’s selection process.

      1) have you ever doubted your Atheism?

      No. I’ve heard Christians say that doubt is a part of being a Christian. But I’ve not heard the corresponding statement from atheists.

      2) Do you agree If God did exist, He would owe you no explanations?

      If God existed, I wouldn’t need explanations since it would make sense–what is a crime, the punishment for that crime, and all that. As it is, of course, it’s bizarre and doesn’t correspond at all to how humans would do things. You’ll respond that we simply can’t understand God. OK, then, but if God’s actions are unjudgeable, never again judge God as “good.”

      • If you consider keeping an open mind is the same thing as doubt, then I would say I have doubted atheism. Show me that your position actually has better evidence and arguments than my position, and I’ll have to change my mind.

        If you really care, I’ll explain to you where the problem usually occurs: You started believing in Jesus and the Bible because of emotional arguments, and probably were taught it from a very early age.

        Now that you’re older, you are trying to rationalize your faith with objective things like logic, evidence, and science.

        Because you already believe, you can’t imagine why a non-believer is unimpressed with your evidence and arguments, and you must then further rationalize your position by saying that “Salvation of a dead sinner who hates God, is only possible if God first takes the action.”

        I guess God hasn’t wished to redeem me yet, so until God takes the action, I’ll be sitting here waiting to perish so I can be resurrected and live for all eternity in hell.

        I’d like to remind you that we atheists are doing nothing different than what Elijah did in 1 Kings 18.

        For those of you who are not familiar with the story, Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel. Each side made sacrifices to their God without building a fire. The lighting of the fire was to be performed by the strongest god, and this would reveal Jehovah as the true God. When called, Baal was silent and there was no fire. Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal and said, “Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”

        So then Bob Calvan, I challenge your God just like Elijah challenged Baal. If your God will not take the first action so it is possible for a non-believer like me to be saved, then maybe your God is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe He is sleeping and must be awakened. Or maybe He simply doesn’t exist.

  10. To Bob and Retro.

    First Bob said:

    ” If God existed, I wouldn’t need explanations since it would make sense–what is a crime, the punishment for that crime, and all that. As it is, of course, it’s bizarre and doesn’t correspond at all to how humans would do things. You’ll respond that we simply can’t understand God. OK, then, but if God’s actions are unjudgeable, never again judge God as “good.”

    No I would not respond ” we can’t understand God… ” God has revealed enough about Him self to understand for a lifetime. Yes, there are secret things of God that not for us to know.. But that is none of our business. And we know why God is in control of all mankind’s actions, and every storm, hurricane, and where each dust particle will land.

    Retro siad:
    If you really care, I’ll explain to you where the problem usually occurs: You started believing in Jesus and the Bible because of emotional arguments, and probably were taught it from a very early age.

    No true I had no concern for God until God saved me at 35 years old. In fact all through my childhood never went to church knew nothing of God.

    “…Now that you’re older, you are trying to rationalize your faith with objective things like logic, evidence, and science…..”

    Not true I do not rationalize my faith.

    “…..Because you already believe, you can’t imagine why a non-believer is unimpressed with your evidence and arguments, and you must then further rationalize your position by saying that “Salvation of a dead sinner who hates God, is only possible if God first takes the action.”

    Yes, I can imagine why non-believes are unimpressed with my arguments.. The Bible is clear on that.. The Unbeliever does not have the ability to come to faith on his own free will. ( Romans 1,3,and 9. John 6,8,10. 1 Cor 2)

    “….I guess God hasn’t wished to redeem me yet, so until God takes the action, I’ll be sitting here waiting to perish so I can be resurrected and live for all eternity in hell…”

    Yes, God has not redeemed you. Yet at the same time you are responsible to repent and bow the knee to Jesus Christ and confess Him as your Lord and Savior. You are 100% responsible.

    “…So then Bob Calvan, I challenge your God just like Elijah challenged Baal. If your God will not take the first action so it is possible for a non-believer like me to be saved, then maybe your God is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe He is sleeping and must be awakened. Or maybe He simply doesn’t exist.”

    Or maybe God is leaving you in your sins? You have broken God’s holy law and you will receive what all of us deserve Justice. No man will get injustice from God.

    And if you read Romans 9. God the potter has the right to make out of His clay vessels for good and vessels for wrath.. You may be a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction? I would hope while God is keeping you alive that you repent immediately and be saved.. Be a new creation who loves and serves this awesome triune God.

    • Bob C:

      No I would not respond ” we can’t understand God… ” God has revealed enough about Him self to understand for a lifetime.

      Are you saying that the whole burning in hell thing makes sense to the ordinary person? Or only to the select Christian like you?

      The Unbeliever does not have the ability to come to faith on his own free will.

      So you’re saying the biblical message isn’t clear?

      Yet at the same time you are responsible to repent and bow the knee to Jesus Christ and confess Him as your Lord and Savior. You are 100% responsible.

      Even though Jesus hasn’t given us sufficient evidence to understand that he even exists?

      You have broken God’s holy law and you will receive what all of us deserve Justice. No man will get injustice from God.

      That’s a relief. Explain then the justice in infinite punishment in hell for finite crimes.

      God the potter has the right to make out of His clay vessels for good and vessels for wrath.

      Is this the message of Job–that God does whatever the heck he feels like and we just need to deal with it?

    • Bob C said: “No true I had no concern for God until God saved me at 35 years old. In fact all through my childhood never went to church knew nothing of God.”

      I’m always interested in hearing why people converted, and unlike your case, most people went to church as a child. So what was it exactly that changed your mind?

      Bob C said: “Yes, I can imagine why non-believes are unimpressed with my arguments.. The Bible is clear on that.. The Unbeliever does not have the ability to come to faith on his own free will.”

      And yet a sentence or two later you say that I’m 100% responsible. How’s this not a contradiction? As I see it, I can’t freely choose to believe in God any more than you can choose to not believe in God.

      I was once a sincere Christian, and I believed and repented… so why didn’t it stick?

      Bob C said: “You may be a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction?”

      And if I am, then there’s nothing I can do to change it, is there? How convenient.

  11. Retro asked:

    “…I’m always interested in hearing why people converted, and unlike your case, most people went to church as a child. So what was it exactly that changed your mind?….

    The supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.. Nothing in me?

    Bob C said: “Yes, I can imagine why non-believes are unimpressed with my arguments.. The Bible is clear on that.. The Unbeliever does not have the ability to come to faith on his own free will.”

    And yet a sentence or two later you say that I’m 100% responsible. How’s this not a contradiction? As I see it, I can’t freely choose to believe in God any more than you can choose to not believe in God. will

    My reply to that is:

    That would be an Antinomy.. A Paradox if you will. ( not a contradiction)

    1) You are 100% responsible to repent because you know the truth.

    2) Unless God regenerates you first by the power of the Holy Spirit you will never believe.

    Retro said:

    I was once a sincere Christian, and I believed and repented… so why didn’t it stick?

    Because you faith was not a saving faith..It was an intellectual faith, a false faith. You did not come to Jesus as the poet said .” Nothing in my hands I bring , only to thy cross I cling”. You were never a sincere Christian.

    Bob C said: “You may be a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction?”

    “And if I am, then there’s nothing I can do to change it, is there? How convenient.”

    My reply is:

    You are doing exactly what you want ..God is not behind you with a gun at your head making you do what you are doing. If God leaves you in you natural state a vessel of wrath you would not want it any other way.

    If the thought of you being a vessel of wrath bothers you, that is a good sign..And If I were you I would ask God to reveal Himself to you..Acknowledge you have sinned against God..And plead with God to save you. And mean it from you heart, tell God no matter what the cost is ,that you want to know Him and serve Him. That is my prayer for you my friend.

    ” Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

    • Bob Calvan wrote: The supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.. Nothing in me?

      So you just woke up one morning, and for no reason decided to become a Christian?

      Bob Calvan wrote: And If I were you I would ask God to reveal Himself to you..Acknowledge you have sinned against God..And plead with God to save you. And mean it from you heart, tell God no matter what the cost is ,that you want to know Him and serve Him.

      I have sincerly done this.

      So what exactly happened when you did this? How do you know that God heard your prayer and you are now saved? How exactly did God reveal Himself to you?

  12. Retro

    We are at an interesting point on our conversation.

    If you wish to continue ( as I hope you do) I suggest private email.

    Mine is :

    pcalvan@cox.net..
    If you email me paste your last set of questions. Thanks

  13. Jesse’s comment is instructive. It reminds us that the chronological contemporaries of the disciples (soldiers and Jewish priests) tried to cover up the supernatural events of the resurrection. It also shows the cover up attempt was documented. My challenge was the reverse, namely for Bob or others to demonstrate any evidence the Christians had made up the supernatural stories to establish their case.

    In this case, the bribery story in Matthew serves better as a confession than as an accusation. It’s good evidence the body actually was stolen by early disciples. By the time Matthew was written, enough years later to say “this story has been spread among the Jews to this day,” it couldn’t be ignored. It doesn’t say much at all about chronological contemporaries, as it’s so severely lacking in credibility. It asks us to imagine that guards physically present at a miraculous angelic visitation during the resurrection of Jesus himself, accompanied by earthquakes and darkening heavens, with hordes of the dead resurrected as well and walking the streets of Jerusalem … just went back to work, and took a bribe to lie about it.

    It’s the theological equivalent of a six-year-old girl scuffling her shoes, with chocolate smeared across her face, saying the pixies got into the cookie jar and it wasn’t her. “No, we didn’t steal the body like everyone’s been saying for years, it was the Roman guards, taking bribes to say so.” If the author of Matthew had been less ignorant of Jewish tradition, he might have hit upon the Mosaic convention and given God the credit for hardening their hearts.

    In any case, this is great evidence that if there had been a coverup involving a twisting of the facts by the Christians, it would likely have been documented by the contemporary historians. There is no evidence of this, however.

    It’s better evidence that no debunking can survive a determined adherent.

    But one thing really is clear from this passage, and shouldn’t be overlooked. The vast majority of Jews likewise rejected the resurrection of Jesus. Jews contemporary with Jesus, present during the time of these reported miracles, living in Jerusalem, there to see them all had they occurred, were unconvinced, and instead found the accusations of theft by the disciples more credible.

    As ever, Jesse

    • lao tzu wrote: “It asks us to imagine that guards physically present at a miraculous angelic visitation during the resurrection of Jesus himself, accompanied by earthquakes and darkening heavens, with hordes of the dead resurrected as well and walking the streets of Jerusalem … just went back to work, and took a bribe to lie about it.”

      As you point out, the scenario makes little sense as it’s usually presented by apologists today.

      I think the more likely explanation for a story like this is that it’s an attempt to settle a debate between later Christian sects who were arguing about whether Jesus’ resurrection was bodily or spiritual. Some sects believed that people would have spiritual bodies when resurrected, others believed that people would be resurrected into a physical body. (Some sects even believed that Jesus was never physical at all, but was only a spiritual being.)

      So then, IMO, this story in Matthew is not about whether Jesus actually resurrected or not, but it’s really about whether He resurrected physically or spiritually. By creating a story about guards, sealing the tomb, and finding the tomb empty, this story “proves” that Jesus resurrected physically. Also compare it to some of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus where He eats food or people touch Him. These stories were created to offset the other stories where His resurrection body performs non-physical things like appearing in locked rooms, stories where His body is able to vanish, or the story in Acts where Jesus levitates and disappears into a cloud.

      • Absolutely! You see, Jesus had a new and improved “resurrection body”, which is somewhat like, but not totally like, a physical body, and is also somewhat like, but not totally like, a spiritual body. So even though Jesus currently has a somewhat physical body that can eat real physical food, He doesn’t need to actually eat food (or poop) right now as He sits around waiting in Heaven. I bet you didn’t know that, did you Bob?

        If one is open to the fact that early Christianity was not unanimous in their beliefs, it’s easy to see how differing ideas developed and/or competed with one another as the New Testament was formed.

        Even the most fundamentalist Christians are forced to admit that there were at least some later additions and/or changes to the New Testament, such as the longer ending of Mark. This longer ending adds a verse about Jesus appearing to “the Eleven”. We know this differs from 1 Corinthians 15:5 where Paul says Jesus appeared to “the Twelve”. This documents how the story of the demise of Judas must have developed after the writing of 1 Corinthians, but before the addition of the longer ending of Mark.

        This longer ending of Mark also adds “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”, which seems to have been added to end the developing debate over the necessity of baptism for salvation.

        The most miraculous thing about the Bible is how it’s possible to support both sides of just about any issue. It’s really no wonder that politicians swear an oath with one hand planted on a Bible!

      • Retro:

        Jesus had a new and improved “resurrection body”

        Makes you wonder why this was such a big deal to the early Christians. I guess they were tied to the idea of a bodily (not spiritual) resurrection for some reason. Maybe because it differentiated them from those darn Gnostics who rejected a physical body.

        This documents how the story of the demise of Judas must have developed after the writing of 1 Corinthians, but before the addition of the longer ending of Mark.

        I hadn’t heard that one–nice. I’ve heard of Marcionite and Gnostic influences as well.

        It’s really no wonder that politicians swear an oath with one hand planted on a Bible!

        :)

      • Bob S wrote: “I’ve heard of Marcionite and Gnostic influences as well.”

        I challenge Christians today to demonstrate that the Marcionites and Gnostics weren’t also Christian.

        It’s about the same thing as saying that the Whig partry wasn’t also American.

        As we know, it’s the winners who write the history books, and it was the winners who developed the New Testament canon.

        Acts 19:19 adequately explains why we don’t have surviving “written evidence that the Biblical writers were wrong”.

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