Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Questioned: William Lane Craig and Mike Licona

Recently I noticed some interesting comments from an anonymous commentator which really should be posed to folk such as Mike Licona and William Lane Craig - both do not believe the story of the many raised saints:


What about other APOCALYPTIC elements in the earliest Gospel (GMark)? Why should Craig only imagine that the "raising of many saints" in Matthew is questionable, when there are equally APOCALYPTIC elements in the tale of Jesus' death and resurrection in the earliest Gospel, Mark? Why not question the historicity of those as well?

1) "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" GMark has Jesus say those words at his trial, and GMatthew and GLuke follow suit more or less. But it's pure apocalyptic.

2) "At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon." GMark says this happened, while Jesus was dying, and GMatt and GLk follow suite more or less.. But it's another purely apocalyptic idea that also appears in the little apocalypse of Mark, chapter 13.

3) "The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” GMark says this happened, and GMatt and GLk follow suite more or less.The curtain in the temple separates the mundane world from the heavenly world of God's domain, His holy of holies, so the "tearing" echoes the beginning of GMark where Jesus is baptized, comes out of the water and sees "heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove," and the idea of the heavens being opened is again, pure apocalyptic. As is the soldier's remark that accompanies the "tearing open" of the holy of holies or heaven, for the soldier declares, "Surely this man was the Son of God," just as in the baptismal scene "a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Pure apocalyptic once again.

These APOCALYPTIC elements in the earliest Gospel are unquestioned by Craig, and only the tale of the "raising of many saints," which Matthew added to the Markan tales, is questionable? Craig, like Licona, who agree the "many raised saints" tale is questionable are merely opening the door to more questions, including the all too APOCALYPTIC idea of Jesus having been "raised," the "first fruits" of a predicted soon coming general resurrection."

For those who are unfamiliar with the story of the many raised saints here is an old post for you:

Here we have William Lane Craig doubting the biggest resurrection story in the Gospels. Amazing. This is enough food for thought for any Christian to re-examine their faith and look into Islam. People, the Bible you have only makes sense with Islam - with Islam you can discern what parts of the Bible are to be believed and which parts are to be rejected or left without belief and disbelief.

Of course the Gospels contain more than one resurrection story, so which one is this Christian apologist doubting? He is doubting the biggest one - the most spectacular resurrection story of them all. Clearly if folk can think the Gospel writers were capable of telling such spectacular fabricated stories then surely the same people would not trust the Gospels?!


What are churches teaching?
Non-Christians and lay Christians alike may be unaware of the Gospel accounts containing a number of resurrections.

In Matthew’s Gospel* the story of Jesus being crucified includes an eschatological-style scene which included an earthquake as well as the resurrection of many holy men:

A unique and otherwise unclassifiable incident is reported by Matthew as coinciding with the death of Jesus on the cross. According to his Gospel, the tragic event was marked by an earthquake, a common feature together with thunder, tornado and fire, of the eschatological crescendo in scripture (Isa 29:6; Ps 18:7;Mk 13:8; Mt 24:7; Lk 21:11). [1]

The resurrection of many saints

We just don’t see our Christian friends celebrating the resurrection of the “many” saints, are they unaware of this story or are they selectively choosing to believe in the story about Jesus whilst ignoring/forgetting/disbelieving the resurrection account concerning these holy men.

Our Christian friends don’t even know the names of these men (and women?) but celebrate the resurrection story of Jesus (p) every Easter. Christians claim he “conquered” death but fail to celebrate all these saints who also “conquered” death according to the stories within the New Testament.

Here is the Jesus scholar, Geza Vermes, to describe the forgotten resurrection story:

Following this earthquake, rocks were split and tombs were opened. Out of them emerged the risen bodies of many saints who were seen by numerous inhabitants of Jerusalem following the resurrection of Jesus (Mt 27:51-53). Needless to say, nothing is heard of them afterwards. [2]

I’m not surprised nothing was heard of these saints afterwards.

Seeing resurrection stories as metaphorical…

Vermes writes: Matthew’s account is best understood as symbolical and suggests that an anticipatory resurrection, the disgorging of the raised ‘saints’ (i.e. righteous) by the gaping tombs, happened immediately after Jesus had expired. Yet the saints are said to have appeared to ‘many’ not on Friday, but early on Sunday. Therefore the religious message hints at link between the death and consequent resurrection of Jesus and the general rising of the dead. This idea points to St Paul’s definition of the rising of Jesus as the ‘first fruits’ of the general resurrection. [3]

Now, this is interesting. If folk can take the “resurrections” of all these holy men as symbolical why not take all the accounts claiming Jesus was resurrected as metaphorical too?

 David Friedrich Strauss introduced the idea of the Gospels containing untrue stories as religiously true ‘myths’. So the resurrection of Jesus could also be seen as one of these myths which were designed to convey a ‘religious truth’. Perhaps the ‘religious truth’ the resurrection stories were designed to convey was the message that, ultimately holy people always win.

The author of Matthew liked earthquakes

The author or scribes involved with the Gospel of Matthew added another earthquake story to the mix – another earthquake story that nobody else mentions.

Geza Vermes notes, It is to be observed tat Matthew speaks again of an earthquake at the moment of the resurrection of Jesus (Mt 28:2). There is no further reference to the story in the New Testament tradition. [4]


I guarantee you there will be fundamentalist Christians out there who literally believe in all of the resurrections in the New Testament – including those of the ‘many’ saints. To those folk, I would ask them, what happened to the ‘many’ saints who rose from the dead. Where did they go? What were their names? Did they also “conquer” death?

*Accomplished scholars consider the Gospel of Matthew to be anonymous.

[1] The Resurrection, Geza Vermes, Penguin Books, 2008, p 92

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. p 92-93

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Anonymous said...

ed babinski made that comment

here it is

Anonymous said...

recently babinsky talked about jesus' family thinking to themselves that jesus had something wrong with him.

you can see it here at good acre's


this is the interesting bit

Actually, in Mark not only do Jesus and his kin worry that their sibling is not alright, but later in Mark when Jesus returns to his home town Nazareth where some of his sisters are still living, he is "without honor" there, and "can do no miracles except heal a few people" per Mark. Fits.

The question should be, do inerrantists have a good response to the fact that multiple stories found only in Mark never appear in either Matthew or Luke who used Mark. You should study the bits of Mark that both Matthew and Luke failed to include in their Gospels. They seem like obvious sections one would delete if one wanted to produce an ever more grand depiction of Jesus.

NOW look at the two REDACTIONS in luke's gospel

Anonymous said...

the other problem we have with the gospels accounts is the problem of eyewitness testimony.

think about it. you have eyewitness testimony from DIFFERENT people , but TWO writers are FORCED to use a non eyewitness' SEQUENCE, WORDS and order.

EVEN when they DISAGREE with mark they still REPRODUCE markan wording in thier accounts.

what this indicates is that they were limited with the information they had. they didn't have witness testimony to CROSS reference.


In addition, if you read Mark as as a unitary and original composition that is primarily a symbolic narrative and not an effort at writing history or biography, it is certainly possible to put forward a non- problematic role for the enigmatic ending. I'm going on over long so I'll hold that point for follow-up discussion should any ensue.

Finally, another reason for doubting the existence of "a vibrant oral tradition" underlying Mark is how constrained the authors of Matthew and Luke were in utilizing the material. If these oral traditions were so "vibrant," why does it appear as if they were silenced by the spread of Mark?

Oral transmission is distinguished from literary transmission particularly by the degree of freedom the oral performer has to choose and very the exact wording of a passage while still conveying the outline of the narrative faithfully. If this sort of performance underlaid Mark's literary rendition, then why do we see Luke and Matthew reproducing Markan wording and order even where they are clearly at pains to alter the narrative away from themes in Mark that the authors weren't interested in, that is, why didn't those authors also avail themselves of the vibrance rather than make the very typically literary alterations we can see them making at many points in their naraatives. What happened to these oral traditions between the composition of Mark and the composition of Matthew and
Luke, and why are not the authors of those texts adapting from it on
matters that Mark treats rather than from passages in Mark that they clearly find unacceptable as given in their written source?

bart ehrman in his debate said

I sometimes have difficulty convincing my students that if two documents have word-for-word agreements(whether a newspaper article, an ancient narrative, or a plagiarized term paper), then someone is copying someone. And so I do a little experiment with them. I did it this last week. I walk into class, and start fussing around in front of the room (of 240 students). I put down my bag; I take out my books; I take off my coat; I put my books back in the bag; I fiddle with the powerpoint; I walk around; I put my coat back on – I do things. Students are puzzled. And then I tell them each to take out a piece of paper and a pen and to write down everything they’ve seen me do since I came into the room.

I then collect four papers, at random, and tell everyone that we are going to do a synoptic comparison. And I read, one by one, each paper, asking everyone else if anyone has a *single sentence* that is just like one of the four. The four are always completely different. And no one – ever, in my 30 years of teaching – has a sentence (or even four or five words in sequence) the same as any of the four.
Then I ask them what they would think if I picked up four papers from the class, and two of them had an entire paragraph, word for word the same. What would they think then? And of course they say “Someone was cheating.” Yes, of course! Someone was copying someone else. But then I ask, what if I didn’t do this exercise today, but I waited forty, fifty, or sixty years, and I didn’t ask you, but I asked four people each of whom knew someone who had a cousin whose wife was next door neighbors with someone whose brother once knew someone in the class to write what happened that day – and they had entire sentences that were exactly alike, word for word?

Anonymous said...

paul VS matthew

"Paul had no knowledge of these dead saints who beat Jesus at his own resurrection game ("after Jesus’ resurrection" appears, when taken in the context with both Jesus’ death (Matt. 27: 50) and the splitting of the Temple Veil (Matt. 27: 51a), a latter apologetic interpolation to harmonize Matthew's credibility with Paul’s eschatology). "

Spot on.

The harmonization/interpolation makes the whole thing seem even more ridiculous than before.

Try to imagine these dead "saints" who are resurrected when Jesus is dying on the cross. So they just sit there, twiddling their thumbs in their tombs, and don't come out until days later just so Jesus can be the first guy to leave his tomb? It's laughable. What are they doing? Sitting in the dark for a day and a half? 'Wow! I've just been raised from the dead! I'd like to get out and go back home, and the tomb door has been broken open, but I have this strange urge to just sit here and do nothing for 36 hours."

Anonymous said...

notice also the CAUSE AND EFFECT in the narrative? massive earquake which pops open tombs and some idiotic scribe REDUCED the speed of matthews special effects by delaying the departure of those saints. matthew had a HABIT of speeding things up.

Anonymous said...

isn't it interesting that the ADDITION oF THE phrase, "after the rising of her " changed the meaning of the text?

remove it and see how the CAUSE AND EFFECT runs throughout the narrative and make it much more sensible.