Re: [ASA]RE: Flawed anthro views of RTB

From: george murphy (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 14:51:24 EST

  • Next message: Glenn Morton: "The Star-Trek effect"

    "D. F. Siemens, Jr." wrote:

    > On Tue, 22 Jan 2002 07:40:57 -0500 george murphy <>
    > writes:
    > in response to Glen Morton:
    > > <snip>
    > > Your statement isn't entirely clear. I think you mean that
    > > the evidential
    > > explanation of the resurrection story is that it was a supernatural
    > > intervention.
    > > The observational evidence concerning the resurrection
    > > consists of:
    > > a) the accounts of Jesus' death by crucifixion,
    > > b) claimed encounters of Mary Magdalene, Peter &c with
    > > Jesus after his
    > > death, &
    > > c) the reports about the women finding the empty tomb.
    > > A good case can be made from these that Jesus was indeed alive after
    > > his death on
    > > the cross. That in itself does not force on to the conclusion that
    > > this was "a
    > > supernatural intervention, a miracle," though that seems to be the
    > > most reasonable
    > > explanation. Even less does the observational evidence compel one
    > > to conclude
    > > that Jesus is Messiah, Son of God &c.
    > > (What else could the resurrection be if not a miracle?
    > > Briefly, it could
    > > be a Tipleresque gathering of data concerning Jesus in the far
    > > future plus sending
    > > this information back in time via advanced potentials or some other
    > > technique plus
    > > appropriate cloning technologies. I DO NOT THINK THAT THIS IS WHAT
    > > HAPPENED but
    > > the point is that it is something that we can envision without
    > > violating known
    > > laws of physics. We can use our scientific knowledge of the world
    > > to suggest an
    > > analogy with the resurrection, which is just what Paul did with the
    > > general
    > > resurrection in I Cor.15.)
    > > Observational data in itself seldom compels one to a unique
    > > conclusion.
    > > In this case it was their attempt to understand the data concerning
    > > Jesus' death
    > > and resurrection within the theological framework provided by the
    > > faith of Israel
    > > that led the first Christians to make the claims about Jesus that
    > > they made,
    > > claims that eventually resulted in the Nicene Creed.
    > >
    > This neglects something that I think would have been clear to anyone who
    > had witnessed the crucifixion: one does not swoon on a cross and recover.
    > This is evident in the way they hastened the death of the two crucified
    > with our Lord--they broke their legs. This meant that they could no
    > longer push up enough to reduce the tension on the thorax sufficiently to
    > take a breath. All that is necessary to suffocate a person is to tie
    > their outstretched arms to a support and not put a support under their
    > feet.
    > Observers at the scene had clearly seen that Jesus was no longer pushing
    > up to take a breath during the time that it took to go into the city and
    > get permission to take the body down for burial. This had to be longer
    > than the maximum time that one can survive without inhaling. So, if Jesus
    > had only swooned at first, he would have been dead before they could take
    > him down. This is independent of the spear thrust into his heart, another
    > matter that would be fatal. Unless one can make a case that he was not
    > crucified at all [Muslim style, perhaps], Jesus died.
    > Therefore, we must turn to the resurrection. Were the witnesses lying, or
    > were they hallucinating? These attempts to "debunk" the resurrection have
    > insurmountable flaws when examined thoroughly. The hope that legends grew
    > up later is destroyed by the date of the earliest manuscripts. The
    > testimony of the witnesses rings true, as does the effect of faith in the
    > risen Lord down through the millennia since. If you want to follow a
    > Tipleresque script, you have to swallow harder than anybody I've met can.
    > Science fiction can be fun, but it's not a basis for building a
    > worldview.
    > Was the resurrection supernatural? a matter of direct divine
    > intervention? Is there any other possible explanation for someone known
    > dead who later ate and could be touched, yet suddenly disappeared and
    > then turned up in sealed room?

            I agree with you that "swoon" theory & its variants are implausible.
    I should have mentioned Gerald O'Collins Jesus Risen, an excellent resource
    which deals with such notions in a good-humored way in addition to providing
    an excellent treatment of evidence for the resurrection, its theological
    significance, & the treatment of Jesus' resurrection by modern theologians.
            But we also should recognize that the passion narratives in the
    gospels and the accounts of the empty tomb and Easter appearances can't be
    read as if they were straightforward "Just the facts Ma'am" reports. They
    are theological accounts, & use (among other things) theological symbolism.
    E.g., there is no reason to think that the spear thrust of John's gospel
    couldn't have really happened. But the flow of blood & water from his side
    could also represent the river flowing from the new temple (Ez.47:1-12,
    Jn.2:21) - or maybe both.
            & of course there's the fact that the four gospels tell the story in
    different ways, & naive historical harmonization often does more harm than
    good. There is certainly historical data there &, as I said, one can make a
    good case for Jesus' resurrection from it & our knowledge of subsequent
    events. But it needs to be done with some care.
            Please note my capitalized disclaimer in the original. The scenario
    I sketched was intended only to
            a. show that the resurrection of Jesus need not be thought of as
    something disjoint from our knowledge of the physical world, &
            b. provide an analogy which may (or may not) be helpful in some
            But any attempt to "explain" the resurrection must avoid the pitfall
    fo treating it as "resurrection in general." The Easter message is not
    "someone is risen" but ""Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified ... has risen"
            An article of mine in the Winter 1999 issue of dialog deals with
    these ideas more extensively in a cosmological context. I'll be glad to
    email the text to anyone who doesn't have access to the journal. This issue
    also has good articles by O'Collins and Pannenberg on the resurrection.
            I'll be out of town starting tomorrow for about a week.


    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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