Resurrection Debate – Question #4 From Tim With Vocab’s Response

Q4. What are your sources of history about the early church? About the earliest Christians and what contemporary people were thinking about Jesus? One of your pivotal arguments seems to be that the elite Jews would have hated Christianity for its message (that whole eye of the needle thing isn’t exactly wooing the rich, for example). History indicates that you are right about this, and that early Christians were not from this class at all. Can you bridge the gap and show us that a portion of these Jews did indeed convert, against their theological convictions? And did they mention why they converted? (As in: did they report being a witness to the resurrection?)

A4. This question actually contains about five questions. I cannot answer them all here, especially since I feel I have answered some of them already during the course of this debate. One thing Tim is confused about is he seems to think that lower class Jews had entirely different theological beliefs than upper class Jews. There is a small grain of truth in this; for example, the unpopular Saducees were an elite aristocratic power group who did not even believe in a general resurrection of the dead. They were a small minority, though. The Pharisees did believe in a general resurrection and most common people theologically aligned with them on a large host of issues. We know why many of these working class folks, such as fishermen and tax collectors, changed their theological convictions – it was because they claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. Many of them give their reasons and we have many of their stories documented – in a first century Jewish Christian work now called The New Testament.

Although we have the seen the foolishness of discounting the Gospels as historically reliable, I do want to briefly mention some writings of the early church dealing with the resurrection so we can look at some early evidence for the resurrection outside of the NT.

One early non-canonical Christian source – I Clement – is highly significant because it is so early – 96 AD. This means Clement was writing contemporaneously with the last author of the NT itself – John. Some folks who deny the bodily resurrection as the central early Christian belief will say resurrection belief evolved and grew later. But here we have Clement, writing from Rome, attesting to this belief several times in his little letter. NT Wright, who wrote a whole chapter on the resurrection in non-canonical early Christian texts had this to say about Clement:

"Clement is quite clear that the future resurrection is based upon the resurrection of Jesus himself." [1]

Another clear example of resurrection belief outside the NT was Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote around 107 AD:

"For I know and believe that after the resurrection he was in the flesh. … After the resurrection he ate and drank with them as a fleshly being …" (Smyrn 3.1-3).

Wright provides a longer list and more precise exposition that shows resurrection belief was indeed alive and well outside of the NT from the first century on.

Those were from Christian sources and very clear about belief in the resurrection. These next two are from non-Christian sources and are not very clear. I would not build an entire case around them. Still, they are worthy to mention as a sort of ‘closing excursus’.

A governor in Asia Minor named Pliny the Younger, writing around 112 AD, relates some information he has learned about Christians (via torture):

"They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god…"

The phrase ‘certain fixed day’ refers to Sunday and is proof from a non-NT source that early Christians met on a specific day and then worshipped Jesus as a god." Historically, we know the certain day would be Sunday – in honor of the event of the resurrection. As a side note, Pliny’s statement "as to a god" implies “unlike other gods who were worshipped, Christ was a person who had lived on earth.” [2]

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote this about Jesus:

"Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. . ."

Tacitus reports the Christians had derived their name from a historical person, Christus (from the Latin). His details about Jesus’ crucifixion comport to the NT record. But there’s something else here: what of the odd statement by Tacitus where he says this “most mischievous superstition,” was "checked for the moment" but then it "again broke out not only in Judaea, but also in Rome?" One historian thinks Tacitus is “bearing indirect . . . testimony to the conviction of the early church that the Christ who had been crucified had risen from the grave." [3] We can’t be certain, of course, but that would help explain how a movement based upon a disgraced criminal could have spread to the capital so quickly.

NOTES:
[1]N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 483.
[2] M. Harris, “References to Jesus in Early Classical Authors,” in Gospel Perspectives V, 354-55.
[3] N.D. Anderson, Christianity: The Witness of History (London: Tyndale, 1969), 19.

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About Kazz

My name is Shawn Esplin and I am an advocate of Free Thought and general good sense and thought in general. To that end, I encourage people to seriously question the things that they have been taught, especially as children, because many of these things - religious and secular - are taken on faith until we actively choose to seriously examine them for ourselves.

10 thoughts on “Resurrection Debate – Question #4 From Tim With Vocab’s Response

  1. VOCAB
    We know why many of these working class folks, such as fishermen and tax collectors, changed their theological convictions – it was because they claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.

    CARR
    Vocab cites 1 Clement.

    Clement believed in the Phoenix, which shows you how reliable Vocab’s Christian sources were.

    1 Clement likens Jesus resurrection to the Phoenix.

    How does Clement know the Phoenix was resurrected?

    Easy.

    Clement tells people the Phoenix leaves its bones behind in the grave, to prove it was resurrected.

    There is a bird, which is named the phoenix….But, as the flesh rotteth, a certain worm is engendered, which is
    nurtured from the moisture of the dead creature and putteth forth wings. Then, when it is grown lusty, it taketh up that coffin where are the bones of its parent, and carrying them journeyeth from the country of Arabia even unto Egypt, to the place called the City of the Sun;

    Vocab’s OWN SOURCE compares the resurrection to the flesh rotting and the bones being left behind as proof of resurrection.

    This is Vocab’s OWN SOURCE – trashing the idea of a corpse being transformed.

    We have not one single Christian in the first century who ever wrote a document claiming to have seen a flesh and blood Jesus.

    In fact, we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that Christian converts scoffed at the idea of their god raising corpses.

    Paul tries to explain what a resurrected body was like, and uses not one single detail of any alleged eyewitness testimony, not even when talking to Christian converts who were scoffing at the whole idea of their god choosing to raise corpses.

    Instead, he says ‘the last Adam became a life-giving spirit’.

    And he writes further, explaining that the earthly body is destroyed.

    ‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’

    I’m sure Vocab will ignore his OWN SOURCE explaining that resurrection means leaving the bones behind.

  2. I’m sure he’ll ignore it too. Which is a shame, because Vocab’s own stated mission is to take on “all comers” as it were – to debate them seriously and exhaustively. He doesn’t live up to this lofty promise, I fear.

  3. VOCAB
    “They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god…”

    The phrase ‘certain fixed day’ refers to Sunday…

    CARR
    No such statement about what day of the week it was ever occurs in Pliny.

    VOCAB
    As a side note, Pliny’s statement “as to a god” implies “unlike other gods who were worshipped, Christ was a person who had lived on earth.”

    CARR
    This is pure fantasy. There is no such implication. That is like claiming that anybody who writes about people worshipping the Sun, as if it was a god, is implying that the Sun had been on earth.

  4. Clement was a man of his times in that he seemed to believe (as did many Romans) there was a real bird from Egypt called the Phoenix. In his letter he describes what he thinks is its natural behavior in the wild. He uses this as an analogy for the resurrection:

    “Let us consider the marvelous sign which is seen in the regions of the east, that is, in the regions about Arabia. There is a bird, which is named the Phoenix. This, being the only one of its kind (touto monogenēs hyparchon), lives for 500 years; and when it reaches the time of its dissolution that it should die, it makes for itself a coffin of frankincense and myrrh and other spices, into which in the fullness of time it enters and then dies. But as the flesh rots, a certain worm is engendered, which is nurtured from the moisture of the dead creature, and puts forth wings. Then when it has grown lusty, it takes up that coffin where are the bones of its parent, and carrying them, it journeys from the country of Arabia even unto Egypt, to the place called the City of the Sun—and in full daylight and in the sight of all, it flies to the altar of the Sun and lays them on it. And this done, it then returns. So the priests examine the registers of the times, and they find that it has come when the five hundredth year is completed. (1 Clement 25)

    PhD candidate/blogger Chris Smith says this:
    Clement of Rome (30-100 A.D.) is the quintessential example of an “evangelical” exegete. He takes the Old Testament seriously in its own right, including the Jewish covenant and sacrificial system that are so minimized by other early interpreters. He takes nothing in the Old Testament typologically; in fact, the only typology in his entire epistle focuses on the Egyptian legend of the phoenix, which he believes is historically accurate and which he takes as a type of the resurrection!

    This is significant because Smith describes himself as a liberal and claims “that almost all of the apostolic fathers’ solutions were decidedly more liberal than the route currently agreed upon by modern evangelicals.” While I do not agree with his overall sentiments, I do understand and respect where he is coming from, he seems well-informed about these issues and is fair in his presentation. Smith even refers to Clement as the “lonely defender” of “bible-literalism”; this is a key point because if Mr. Carr is looking for a non-resurrection Church father in Clement, he’s got the wrong guy. Smith also gives the context of Clement’s argument:

    Clement’s appeal to the phoenix comes as a part of his argument that when we apply our human reason to the study of the natural world, it testifies to the same truths as do the Christian scriptures.

    Lastly, folks should keep in mind that Clement is an early Christian leader writing around 96 AD but his letter is not canonical and therefore has no pretense of being inspired.

    vM!

    Source: http://chriscarrollsmith.blogspot.com/2008/03/clement-of-rome-lonely-defender-of.html

  5. vocab
    Clement was a man of his times in that he seemed to believe (as did many Romans) there was a real bird from Egypt called the Phoenix.

    CARR
    Strange.

    Clement was a leading Christian, and Vocab now laims leading Christians were ready to believe nonsense.

    VOCAB
    but his letter is not canonical and therefore has no pretense of being inspired.

    CARR
    Huh?

    Does Vocab seriously expect people not to notice that he is claiming that his test for whether we should believe things is ‘Is it in the Bible?’

    And Vocab has totally ducked my point that his OWN SOURCE said the resurrection of the Phoenix was proved because it left its old bones behind for people to see….

  6. Mr. Carr said, “Vocab has totally ducked my point that his OWN SOURCE said the resurrection of the Phoenix was proved because it left its old bones behind for people to see….

    No, I quoted Clement at length for proper context and also quoted a second reputable source (the first being NT Wright) in regards to this non-issue that Mr. Carr has raised. Mr. Carr seems to be having trouble properly representing those who he disagrees with and in the case, no one that I know of agrees with him. Just for further proof, though, let’s look at what some other Patristic scholars say about this…

    Louis Berkhof, “The Resurrection in the Patristic Period”, page 265:
    “Most of the early church fathers believed in the resurrection of the body, that is, in the identity of the future body with that of the present.” Berkhof then goes on to list the exceptions to the rule: Clement of Alexandria (he says his views are “somewhat uncertain”) and Origen, who “Described the resurrection body as a refined and spiritualized body.” The prevalent view, though, can be seen in Jerome, who “insisted on the identity of the very hairs and teeth.”

    JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, Rev. Ed., page 463:
    Both the author of the Epistle of Barnabas and “the author of 2 Clement insist on the necessity of our rising again in the self-same flesh we now possess …” Clement “teaches that Christ’s resurrection foreshadows ours, and is a pioneer in devising rational arguments … to make the idea of a resurrection plausible. The transition from night to day, he urges, and the transformation of dry, decaying seeds into vigorous plants supply analogies from the natural order, as does the legend of the phoenix from pagan mythology…” and Polycarp “roundly stated that ‘he who denies the resurrection and the judgment is the first-born of Satan’”.

    As far as Clement, I’d like to ask Mr. Carr if he can cite one Patristic scholar who agrees with him that Clement did not believe in a bodily resurrection. He will not be able to, I reckon. This is not to say that any one Patristic scholar’s reading of Clement is “definitive” but I ask Mr. Carr to cite one so that we can see he’s not simply butchering Clement’s content and context to suite his own polemical desires, as it currently appears he is doing. My point is that Mr. Carr is not reading Clement honestly … if indeed he has read Clement.

    Mr. Carr said, “We have not one single Christian in the first century who ever wrote a document claiming to have seen a flesh and blood Jesus. In fact, we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that Christian converts scoffed at the idea of their god raising corpses. Paul tries to explain what a resurrected body was like, and uses not one single detail of any alleged eyewitness testimony…”

    We have already dealt with this in other places at the debate so it doesn’t make sense for me to answer again here just because Mr. Carr has apparently not read through the other cross examination questions (nor opening statements or rebuttals for that matter) with any seriousness. Unfortunately, he also read 1 Clement and 1 Corinthians this way.

    Further, I would like to ask Mr. Carr a question about this Pliny passage: “They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god…”

    If the phrase ‘certain fixed day’ doesn’t refer to Sunday, then what day does he think it does refer to? Is he under the impression that early Christians met on some other ‘certain fixed day’? If so, why does he think that and what was their reason for meeting on that ‘certain fixed day’ as opposed to Sunday?

    The weird thing about this whole exchange is that Mr. Carr is so intensely self-satisfied with himself and his supposed massive debating skills … but there is no scholarly research to support many of his bombastic claims.

    vM!

  7. VOCAB
    If the phrase ‘certain fixed day’ doesn’t refer to Sunday, then what day does he think it does refer to?

    CARR
    So Vocab admits there is NOT ONE WORD in Pliny to say that this fixed day was Sunday, and the proof is that he demands that people say what day it was, as the day is not mentioned….

    VOCAB
    JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, Rev. Ed., page 463:
    Both the author of the Epistle of Barnabas and “the author of 2 Clement insist on the necessity of our rising again in the self-same flesh we now possess …”

    CARR
    2 Clement is not 1 Clement…

    I see that ONCE AGAIN Vocab is unable to produce ONE WORD from 1 Clement which says that the resurrected Jesus had a flesh and blood body, as opposed to being the ‘life-giving spirit’ that Paul says Jesus became.

    Does the guy not feel embarrassed by his inability to substantiate what he says?

    VOCAB
    …” Clement “teaches that Christ’s resurrection foreshadows ours, and is a pioneer in devising rational arguments … to make the idea of a resurrection plausible. The transition from night to day,…

    CARR
    The transition from night to day is like Jesus’s resurrection?

    Just how can a change from night to day be an analogy for a flesh and blood resurrection where the teeth and hair are identical?

    Just how different are night and day from each other?

    They are the exact OPPOSITE of each other, and yet Vocab thinks a body going into a tomb and the same body coming out is like day turning into night…..

    Huh? Why do Christians talk such gibberish?

    VOCAB
    The prevalent view, though, can be seen in Jerome, who “insisted on the identity of the very hairs and teeth.”

    CARR
    SO Vocab , when asked about 1st century Christians, quotes a 4th century writer….

    The guy just spews stuff out, of no relevance to my points, no matter what date it comes from.

    Notice that the sorts of arguments LATER Christians made when they really did believe in a flesh and blood Jesus being resurrected are missing from Paul, who says ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of god’ , and says the earthly body is destroyed.

    In the first century, Christian converts SCOFFED at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses.

    Which is why Paul wrote a letter to them explaining that they would still be resurrected even if their earthly body is destroyed, because they would get a heavenly body.

    ‘Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’

    ‘Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.’

    Paul likens our body to a tent or clothes.

    Now any rational person knows that you change houses by moving from one house to another.

    And when Vocab changes his clothes, he takes off his old clothes and puts on new ones.

    Paul’s analogies mean he thought Jesus discarded his old body and put on a new, spiritual body.

    I bet Vocab has changed his clothes today by taking off the old ones and putting on new ones!

  8. Vocab claims to know about Patristic scholars, yet he honestly thinks that ’1 Clement’ and ’2 Clement’ were by the same author.

    He should try to get his money back on the books he is copying out of.

  9. Mr. Carr has yet again proven his inability to actually read what other people write. Here are the Kelly quotes I gave broken down in a more obvious fashion:

    1. Both the author of the Epistle of Barnabas and “the author of 2 Clement insist on the necessity of our rising again in the self-same flesh we now possess …”

    2. Clement “teaches that Christ’s resurrection foreshadows ours, and is a pioneer in devising rational arguments … to make the idea of a resurrection plausible. The transition from night to day, he urges, and the transformation of dry, decaying seeds into vigorous plants supply analogies from the natural order, as does the legend of the phoenix from pagan mythology…”

    3. and Polycarp “roundly stated that ‘he who denies the resurrection and the judgment is the first-born of Satan’”.

    Perhaps those among us who know how to do what scholars call a ‘close reading’ can see that I have three different quotes and only the first deals with 2 Clement. In the second, Kelly *is* specifically talking about Clement of Rome’s *first* letter to the Corinthian church. In fact, it is commonly known that 2 Clement is probably a misnomer and therefore is often referred to as ‘Psuedo-Clement’ or some variation thereof because Clement of Rome probably did not write it. Neither Kelly nor myself ever claimed that he did and Mr. Carr making a deal out of something I did not even say (or imply) is a misguided attempt at a diversionary tactic, since he will not meet any of the challenges I put forth.

    Now that we have cleared the obvious up, perhaps Mr. Carr would like to deal with the Wright, Smith, and Kelly quotes – all 3 of which attest to Clement’s belief in a bodily resurrection. Or better yet, perhaps Mr. Carr could actually read Clement in its entirety – it’s free online! OR maybe Mr. Carr can meet my challenge of citing a Patristic scholar who holds to his view.

    In a similar fashion, Mr. Carr completely dodged my ‘Pliny inquiry’ about what Pliny meant by a ‘certain fixed day’, most likely because the answer is obvious and therefore shows that early Christians commemorated the resurrection by meeting on the day Jesus resurrected – Sunday!

    Lastly, Mr. Carr takes issue with Kelly’s quote on Jerome and the resurrection because Jerome is a 4th Century writer but Mr. Carr never even attempts to deal with the quote about Polycarp, an early 2nd-Century writer.

    vM!

  10. SO Vocab STILL cannot produce ONE WORD from Clement saying he believed the body which went into the ground was the body which came out.

    NOT ONE WORD!

    The guy is an embarrassment to Christianity!

    And Vocab still cannot produce ONE WORD from Pliny which says this ‘fixed day’ was Sunday.

    Does Vocab not feel his inability to back up what he says is bringing Christianity into disrepute?

    Vocab’s OWN SOURCE claimed a resurrection was proved because the old body was left behind.

    I quoted Vocab’s OWN SOURCE saying that.

    And Vocab has not been able to find ONE WORD from his OWN SOURCE which says the body which went into the ground also came out of the ground.

    Vocab is an amateur who does not know how logic works.

    If he claims that person A said X, he has to produce a quote of person A saying X.

    This is how we know that person A said X, by producing a quote of person A saying X.

    Vocab can’t produce a quote of Clement saying there was an empty tomb, or a body went into the ground and came out.

    But Vocab hasn’t yet been learned that if he cannot produce a quote of person A saying X, then he cannot claim that person A said X.

    We all have to learn gradually, so I will cut him some slack.

    Can he produce a quote from 1 Clement saying a flesh and blood Jesus was resurrected?

    Can he produce a word from Pliny saying this fixed day was a Sunday, and that these Christians were commerating the resurrection on a Sunday? (BTW, the Eucharist does NOT commemorate the resurrection)

    Vocab will find the technique of looking for quotes of people saying what he claims they say very educational, and it will help him when talking to other sceptics.

    At present, he is just making himself look silly with his inability to produce a quote of person A saying X, to back up his claims that person A said X.

    But this will be his last free lesson… I will charge for further lessons in teaching him how to argue logically.

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