Sunday, April 20, 2014

Was the Resurrection of Jesus a Hoax by His Followers?

When I was an atheist, I had a simple explanation for Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection. During his ministry, Jesus won a number of converts. When he died, his followers wanted his message to continue. So they invented the story of Jesus rising from the dead in order to ensure that his teachings would live on.

There are multiple problems with this view. The one that eventually shook me out of my folly is this: Liars make poor martyrs. Most people won't willingly die for any cause. Some people will die for what they believe in. No one dies for something they know is a lie.

Hence, Jesus' followers sincerely believed that he had risen from the dead. The only question that remains is what convinced them that their teacher had been raised.

16 comments:

  1. More likely explanation: the entire thing is just a myth. Same with Noah's ark, burning bushes, talking snakes, and so on.

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  2. Funny how the people who have never studied the evidence are always so confident in giving us a "more likely explanation"!

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  3. Note that Walter doesn't even offer any negative or positive evidence or argument for his statement. Conclusion: He either has no idea what he's talking about, or that he's a troll.

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  4. Perhaps they didn't realize that the stories would get them killed at the time they invented them. I'm sure Joseph Smith wasn't thinking about the possibility of being lynched twenty years in the future at the time he invented his story about the Angel Moroni and the Golden Plates. Even if we had any reliable evidence that Peter was actually martyred during Nero's persecution in 64 A.D., I don't see how that would tell us anything about his propensity to invent a story thirty years earlier.

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    1. http://jesusmythbusting.blogspot.com/2014/11/can-i-prove-resurrection.html?m=0

      They definitely knew it was going to get them killed. The whole point of crucifixion was to say that if you do what this guy did, you're going to end up like him. It was to strike fear into the hearts of those watching. That's why no other messianic group on either side of Jesus ever continued supporting their leader after they had been killed. See my blog post.

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    2. Despite the fact that the Romans routinely crucified Jewish revolutionaries, such revolutionaries continued to attract followers. By your logic, this never should have happened since the threat of crucifixion should have been sufficient to deter anyone from opposing Rome. Clearly, many first century Jews were willing to take risks in the hopes of removing the Roman yoke.

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  5. Vinny, they were horribly persecuted for years, and eventually executed. Don't you think that, at some point, the remaining apostles would have said, "You know, half of us have been killed, and the rest will eventually be killed. Should we keep perpetrating this fraud?"

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  6. Were they horribly persecuted for years? The evidence for that is even weaker than the evidence that they were martyred. Unfortunately, we have very little reliable evidence of what happened to Jesus' earliest followers and most scholars seem to think that the persecution of early Christians was pretty sporadic.

    However, if the persecution was really as bad as you seem to think, I have no doubt that some of Jesus followers would have considered throwing in the towel and returning to their former lives. However, that wouldn't have been an easy thing to do. Neither the Roman nor Jewish authorities would have forgotten who they were. Few of their former friends and neighbors would have been very happy to see them again. The political situation in Palestine between prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was pretty chaotic, and sticking with the movement and hoping for the best may have been the only real option for many.

    Moreover, we certainly can’t infer that no one said the kind of things you have suggested just because they didn’t leave any record of it. Those who were able to return to their former lives would have every reason to keep quiet about having been a Christian, and the Christians would have little reason to speak or write about those who had left.

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  7. Vinny, I'm starting to wonder if you have any clue what you're talking about. The persecution of Jesus' followers is attested in our earliest Christian sources, as well as in our earliest non-Christian sources. Our knowledge of this persecution is grounded in multiple, independent testimony, which is why respected Christian scholars and respected non-Christian scholars agree on this persecution. So when you say that the "the evidence for that is even weaker than the evidence that they were martyred," have you ever bothered to study any of this, or are you just inventing history as you go along?

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  8. I've read The Myth of Persecution by Notre Dame professor Candida Moss. Her conclusion is that the persecution of Christians was generally isolated and sporadic. Who have you read?


    The earliest non-Christian source is Josephus. Where does he say anything about Christians being persecuted?

    I don't know of any scholar who maintains that there is solid evidence of how the apostles died. Many of the traditions are contradictory and date from centuries after the fact.

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    1. I have some proof for you about Christian persecution the evening news. It even has pictures so maybe you can understand it.

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  9. LOL! "The Myth of Persecution"??? That explains things.

    You mention Josephus. He records the martyrdom of "James, and some others." But why would James and others have been martyred, since there was no persecution? And you forgot Tacitus. He mentions mass arrests and torture of Christians during the first century. Odd, since there was no persecution. You also forgot Pliny the Younger, who wrote a letter to Trajan about arresting Christians and putting them on trial. Trajan's response was that if Christians don't prove that they aren't Christians, they should be executed (must be a misprint, since there was no persecution). And you forgot Suetonius, who mentions Nero's punishment of Christians (obviously another misprint).

    Our earliest reports, however, are the letters of Paul. He records horrendous persecution of Christians. But he must be lying, since there was no persecution. We also have historical narratives of waves of persecution in the book of Acts (which must be fabrications, since there was no persecution).

    Next thing you know, you'll be arguing that Jesus never existed!

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  10. Josephus says nothing to indicate that James was a Christian or that his death had anything to do with him being a Christian. Therefore, our earliest non-Christian source does not corroborate your claim that Christians were persecuted "for years." Tacitus describes a single incident in which Nero scapegoated the Christians of Rome for the fire which Nero started. That is perfectly consistent with Professor Moss's conclusions.She does not claim that there were no persecution and neither do I.

    What scholars have you read that would disagree with Moss?

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  11. Before I respond, you still need to address Suetonius, Pliny, Paul, and Acts.

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    1. Suetonius corroborates Tacitus. Pliny is much too late to tell us what may have happened to anyone who might have invented the resurrection story. I don't dispute that the New Testament reports the persecution of the apostles, but you claimed that it is attested by the earliest non-Christian sources. What we have from those sources is a single instance three decades after the origination of the resurrection story.

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  12. Wow. This is beyond silly. I can't even believe I'm responding to this.

    So your theory of the stoning of James in Josephus is that James was put to death for some offense that didn't involve his belief in Jesus? Perhaps he became a robber, eh? The explanation for why he and "others" were stoned couldn't have anything to do with persecution of Christians, right? Josephus just coincidentally mentions that this was the brother of Jesus. So the people Josephus mentions that have any connection to Jesus are killed, but we can't tie this in with any other stories of persecution. I don't think you'd make it as a historian, my friend.

    Tacitus says, "Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace."

    Suetonius says, "Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition."

    So Tacitus says that Christians were "a class hated for their abominations," so much so that they were being tortured and mutilated by 64, and Suetonius confirms that there was an extremely negative view of Christians as troublemakers.

    But let me see if I've got your theory straight. Your view is that even though Christians were hated and despised, and even though we know that they were being slaughtered, and even though Romans tended to annihilate troublemakers, it never would have occurred to the Romans to go after the leaders of the movement, right? So we can ignore the persecution of the disciples in the Bible, right? The Roman authorities, according to you, never go after the root of the problem, right? Do you live in opposite world or something?

    I didn't realize I was talking to a hyperskeptic when we started. If I had, I wouldn't have bothered responding. But since I know your position now, let's have some fun.

    I'm not convinced that you exist. Convince me that you exist before we continue this conversation. Don't bother responding to my points about persecution until you first prove your existence. I don't want to waste my time having a discussion with a non-existent person, so let's settle the question of your existence before we move on.

    Waiting patiently.

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