Sunday, September 30, 2018

Self-Attention and Self-Abuse Cease When Honor/Shame Hierarchies Are Removed

Detroit

(This is an idea in progress...)

When Jesus came he did away with cultural honor-shame hierarchies. You see this in Luke chapter 1. Mary sings her song of the new status-realities her son is going to bring in. With Jesus it will be an upside-down world of inverted hierarchies.

Eventually this will be seen as the abolition of hierarchies in the Pauline observation that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.

With this the gate is opened whereby subhumanity might enter into true humanity, where the false self might be exchanged for the true self. This is because self-adoration, self-hate, self-pity, self-centeredness, self-will, self-hiding, and self-ignorance all depend for their existence on the honor-shame hierarchy. All such punishing aspects of the false self are rooted in the comparative evaluation of the self as essentially against other subhuman selves. (One is always, simultaneously, "above" and "below" others.)

The honor-shame hierarchy excludes and never embraces. This is where questions like "Who is the greatest?" are asked, and people say "Thank God I am not like that other person." On the honor-shame hierarchy the "other" is essentially one's opponent.

But in the incarnation, the Greatest became the Least to bestow kingdom status on all who come to him. (This, BTW, is the core idea behind James Cone's theology of the Christ as black.)

Note:

On the "reversal motif" in the song of Mary see R. John Vijayaraj, "Human Rights Concerns In the Lukan Infancy Narratives (Luke 1:5 - 2:52)."

On honor-shame hierarchies in New Testament times see Joel Green,The Gospel of LukeOf the four gospels Luke is the most socially concerned.


To further study honor/shame hierarchies see honorshame.com.

***
My two books are:


Friday, September 28, 2018

Pray for America


Recently I was watching a professional sporting event. One team was not doing well. A few of the players were turning on each other. One player was in the face of the coach, angrily pointing his finger and shouting obscenities. This team is in trouble.

Years ago I did a weekend conference at a church. As I spoke the first evening, the people seemed attentive and friendly. But below the surface there was tension. Some of the leaders were fighting. Anger levels were high. Conflict was losing the day. This church was in trouble, perched on the precipice of ruin.

Linda and I are privileged to meet with many marital couples. Sometimes we engage in healing these relationships. When a marital couple cannot coexist in loving unity (not total uniformity), their marriage is in trouble. Hopelessness occupies their house.

Jesus understood this when he said,


Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, 
and a house divided against itself will fall.
Luke 11:17

It's morning in an America that is deeply divided against itself. If America remains this way, it will be ruined. If America remains this way, it will fall.

To my fellow followers of Jesus: Let us pray for America. For our leaders. 

More specifically, pray for our churches, 

that they would be awakened and revived to exemplify communicating the truth in love, 

that they would seek first God's kingdom before all earthly powers, 

that God would come upon us in heavenly power,

and that the Church would rise up, 

for such a time as this.

***
My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.
I'm working on:
How God Changes the Human Heart
Technology and Spiritual Formation
Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

Thursday, September 27, 2018

REVIVAL - Why Not You?

Leaving Christianity for All the Wrong Reasons

Literati Bookstore, in Ann Arbor

When I was a child, I thought like a child.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13

I have met people who say this: "I once was a Christian. But I have left Christianity because _____________." 

You can fill in the blank. The answers vary, on the surface. But mostly the core is the same. Correctly, it should read: "I left Christianity because my faith was childish."

This is what Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, calls a classic "subtraction story." Taylor writes:

“The core of the subtraction story consists in this, that we only needed to get these perverse and illusory condemnations off our back, and the value of ordinary human desire shines out, in its true nature, as it has always been.” (Secular Age, 253)

Behind such deconversions often lies an intellectually restrictive fundamentalism. This makes the transformation more likely. As Taylor says, "the more childish one's faith, the easier the flip-over." (Ib., 307)

I meet deconverted students in my philosophy classes. I see that they have never seriously studied Mere Christianity and its advocates. I have talked with people who:

1. Had a childish version of Christianity.
2. Believed their childish version was real Christianity.
3. Knocked down their straw-man version of Christianity.
4. Declared "Christianity" false and became an atheist.

Their defense of 2 is fundamentalist. This makes them impossible to reason with. 

Taylor asks us to look deeper into the dynamics of the "secular age" we inhabit. Commenting on Taylor, Collin Hanson writes:

"Faith is now more difficult than unbelief. We’re adrift in stormy seas of doubt—every man, woman, and child fighting for the lifeboat of belief. Something fundamental has shifted in Western culture that runs deeper than outward changes in technology. So what happened? That’s the question Taylor seeks to answer." (In 
Hansen, Collin. Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor, p. 4.)

***
My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.
I'm working on:
How God Changes the Human Heart
Technology and Spiritual Formation
Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

The Bible Gives Us a Story That is True

Detroit Public Library

Stories more easily stay in me than logical arguments. I value logic. I like formulating and evaluating arguments. I taught logic and critical thinking for seventeen years at Monroe County Community College. But I remember a good story after the first hearing.

Eugene Peterson, in Subversive Spirituality, reasons that stories are revolutionary and subversive precisely because they are so memorable. A story can get inside a person and, like a Trojan horse, capture a human heart from the inside.

Like N. T. Wright and many others, Peterson sees the Bible as essentially a story that conveys truth. "The Bible as a whole comes to us in the form of a narrative." (5) 

A tale, replete with fire and wind, signifying truth.
    For example, it is within a "large, sprawling narrative" that Mark writes his Gospel. (Note: compare Peterson with N.T. Wright's The Last Word, and the Bible as a "5-Act Play.")
      Stories convey truth in ways prose and sheer logical arguments cannot. I teach logic to undergraduates, so I have some idea of what I'm talking about. Peterson writes:

      "Storytelling creates a world of presuppositions, assumptions, and relations into which we enter. Stories invite us into a world other than ourselves, and, if they are good and true stories, a world larger than ourselves. Bible stories are good and true stories, and the world that they invite us into is the world of God's creation and salvation and blessing." (5)
        Stories master us, rather than us mastering them.
          The biblical story (the Wrightian "Grand Narrative") is "large" and "capacious." That is, the biblical narrative has "great containing capacity." Within this capacious story "we learn to think accurately, behave morally, preach passionately, sing joyfully, pray honestly, obey faithfully." (5)
            Dare not to abandon the story! Do so and you've reduced "reality to the [meagre, non-capacious] dimensions of our minds and feelings and experience." (5)

            Peterson writes: "The moment we formulate our doctrines, draw up our moral codes, and throw ourselves into a life of ministry apart from a continuous re-immersion in the story itself, we walk right out of the presence and activity of God and set up our own shop." (5)
              Centuries of Hebrew storytelling find their mature completion in the story of Jesus. 
                If I was God, and wanted the best mode of communicating to my children, would I choose logical argumentation or stories? Obviously, stories. People go to the movies to watch narratives, not monological argumentation. (A good example is "Dunkirk" last week, which weaves three stories together.)

                "'Story'," writes Peterson, "is the Holy Spirit's dominant form of revelation. [It's] why we adults, who like posing as experts and managers of life, so often prefer explanation and information." (4)

                Wednesday, September 26, 2018

                One Day Jesus Was Praying

                Detroit

                I am reading, slowly, through the Gospel of Luke. This morning I began in Luke 11:1:


                One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.

                I can't get past this verse. It's enough for me.

                The verse does not say:

                One day Jesus thought about praying.

                It doesn't read:

                One day Jesus desired to pray, but didn't have time for it.

                It's not:

                One day Jesus read a book about praying.

                Nor:

                One day Jesus said "I believe in the power of prayer."

                It does say:


                One day Jesus was praying.

                One day Jesus was actually doing it.

                One day Jesus was engaged in praying. 


                One day Jesus, my Lord, my exemplar, my mentor, was spending considerable time talking with God. 

                One of his followers saw him doing this. This follower was so impressed that he wanted to do what Jesus was doing. Which was: communicating with the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

                When Jesus finished dialoguing with God, the follower who desired to do the same said to Jesus, "Mentor, teach us to do what you just did."

                ***
                Everything I have to say about praying is in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

                Tuesday, September 25, 2018

                My Photo Book - A Missions Project


                I've created a book of some of my photos, plus quotes from my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church. (Hardcover. 12X12.)

                It costs me $48 to make one book (includes S&H).

                For $100 you can have one - the $52 profit goes entirely to missionaries we support at Redeemer.

                Send a check for $100 payable to Redeemer Fellowship Church. Please indicate: "for photo book."

                Redeemer Fellowship Church
                5305 Evergreen
                Monroe, MI
                48162

                Include a note with your mailing (shipping) address.

                If you are with our Redeemer family and want to do this please give your check to Stella, our office manager. I'll order a book for you.

                Thanks!

                The Neural Highway that Flows from the Throne of God



                Lake Erie shoreline

                One of my former seminary students wrote me and said: "You may not remember me but I took your spiritual formation and I fell off the wagon in my daily prayer and meditation! Are there any words of wisdom on how you have been able to maintain your daily commitment!"

                I responded:

                Here's how I've been able to maintain my commitment.
                1. Forty-two years ago I was feeling tired and burned out in ministry. I read Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. I felt moved to carve out time to get alone with God and talk with Him and listen. So, I did.
                2. To my surprise and delight, God powerfully and personally met me. God spoke to me, and I journaled like a mad person. This made me want to meet alone with God more.
                3. A desire, a fire, was kindled in my heart. I chose to tend it, to keep it burning. So I continued regularly meeting with God. 
                4. I began to see God changing my heart. Most of this was slow growth. It was real, enduring progress in the spiritual life. My journal became a record of all that God was doing within me.
                5. My ministry more and more became God ministering to and through me. Being a follower of Jesus began to look and feel different. I liked the feeling. I liked what I saw happening. I saw that this was all on the part of God, what God was doing within me. I found my worship increasing as I easily gave glory and credit to God for any good fruit produced in and through me.
                6. As the months and years passed by a "holy habit" was formed in me. A new, living, neural pathway was created by God, through which his living waters of grace and love and power flowed. I did not, and have since not, wanted to stop meeting with God to experience him. I meet with God regularly because God has met with me and transformed my desires, experience, and knowledge.
                7. I heard there was supposedly a sign on the Alaskan highway where the pavement turned to dirt. It read: "Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for the next hundred miles." I have chosen a good rut. I live in the groove, swim in the neural highway that flows from the throne of God.
                ***
                My two books are:


                Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

                Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

                I'm working on:

                How God Changes the Human Heart

                Technology and Spiritual Formation

                Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

                Saturday, September 22, 2018

                My Favorite Conference

                My favorite conference is the yearly Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. 

                For details go HERE.


                Thursday, September 20, 2018

                Revival - Why Not Us? Why Not Now?






                johnpiippo@msn.com

                Finger of God 2 @ Redeemer - Sept. 30





                Darren Wilson's new movie "Finger of God 2" will premiere at Redeemer, Sunday evening, Sept. 30, 6 PM.

                Darren grew up in our church - we're so thankful for how God is using him to spread the Kingdom message of God's power and love!

                Monday, September 17, 2018

                Scientism Exceeds its Grasp

                Lake Michigan shoreline, Michigan

                I meet, on occasion, someone who says, "Science explains everything." From this follows the idea that: If science cannot in principle explain something, then that "something" does not exist. This is called "scientism."

                "Scientism" is the belief, indeed the worldview, that claims science is the only valid way of seeking knowledge and truth in any field. On scientism, science explains or will explain (at least in principle) everything there is to be known.

                University of South Carolina biologist Austin Hughes (deceased 2015) addressed this in his essay "The Folly of Scientism." He quotes Peter Atkins, who says that science has "universal competence."


                Hughes scoffs at this and writes:


                "Central to scientism is the grabbing of nearly the entire territory of what were once considered questions that properly belong to philosophy. Scientism takes science to be not only better than philosophy at answering such questions, but the only means of answering them. For most of those who dabble in scientism, this shift is unacknowledged, and may not even be recognized. But for others, it is explicit."

                Atkins, for example, says, “I consider it to be a defensible proposition that no philosopher has helped to elucidate nature; philosophy is but the refinement of hindrance.”"


                Hughes shows how this kind of thinking over-reaches. Scientism "exceeds its grasp." To get at this Hughes takes us to the roots, the foundation, of certain scientific and philosophical ideas in which scientism is grounded.

                He makes a nice distinction between science per se and what scientists say. For example, there has been a good deal of controversy over stem cell research. While many in the discussion are scientists, there is "little science being disputed: the central controversy was between two opposing views on a particular ethical dilemma, neither of which was inherently more scientific than the other. If we confine our definition of the scientific to the falsifiable, we clearly will not conclude that a particular ethical view is dictated by science just because it is the view of a substantial number of scientists."

                Hughes questions the idea that science is essentially "self-correcting," in the sense that self-correction will necessarily occur. He writes:

                "Alas, in the thirty or so years I have been watching, I have observed quite a few scientific sub-fields (such as behavioral ecology) oscillating happily and showing every sign of continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. The history of science provides examples of the eventual discarding of erroneous theories. But we should not be overly confident that such self-correction will inevitably occur, nor that the institutional mechanisms of science will be so robust as to preclude the occurrence of long dark ages in which false theories hold sway."

                Hughes rightly dismisses the idea that science and scientists are above political, petty, and irrational thinking. Those who think science to be epistemtically or metaphysically neutral attain a status quite like cult leaders. It's time to debunk the scientistic "aura of hero worship." Science does not possess some special, transcendent epistemic reliability. And it fails to explain everything, to include the claim that science explains everything.

                Friday, September 14, 2018

                Jesus Is Looking for Followers, Not People Who "Make a Decision"

                Custer Airport, Monroe

                To the Church in America: Focus on making disciples, rather than providing programs to entertain and hopefully retain the deciders

                Jesus commanded us to make followers. Invest resources in this. 


                Many make "decisions" for Christ and stop there, or fade out. Some of these deciders become disciples - praise God! Others don't.

                Jesus is not trying to get people to some decision point, with discipleship as a nice, but unnecessary, add-on. For Jesus it's all about being a disciple and following after him. It's in following Jesus that we come to see that a person's decision was real.

                Is it possible to make a decision to follow Christ as Lord and not follow him? No, it's not. It makes as much sense as saying, "I have decided to take up the game of golf," and then not take up the game of golf. Or, proclaiming in front of hundreds of people, "I have decided to eat this banana," and then proceeding to not eat it.

                Here is Dallas Willard's definition of a "disciple" of Jesus:

                "A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus."

                Disciple-making is not popular in American entertainment-driven, consumer churches. For one reason, disciples cannot be microwaved. But a life of slow-cooked Jesus-following is vastly more satisfying, as any of Jesus' disciples know.

                ***
                My two books are:


                Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

                Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

                Thursday, September 13, 2018

                A Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Christ

                Cable gondola shuttle to the top of Masada, Israel (near the Dead Sea)


                I'm re-posting this for my Philosophy of Religion students.

                This is largely taken from William Lane Craig's work, with other scholarship added as I saw fit, plus my own comments.


                DID JESUS RISE FROM THE DEAD?

                (Adapted from William Lane Craig, debate with Richard Carrier; Question 103 at reasonablefaith.orgContemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” at reasonablefaith.org)

                A FEW PRELIMINARIES:


                · Focus on the historical case for the resurrection of Jesus.


                o Argue NOT from the Bible as God’s Word, but argue HISTORICALLY using the ancient texts as historical records, historical documents.


                · All historical truths are probableistic (inductive). The historian asks, re. historical facts – what is the best, most probable explanation for the facts?


                · Presuppose the existence of God.


                o An atheist will not share this presupposition.


                o The atheist will assume, therefore, that supernatural events are impossible.


                Defend two major contentions.


                #1 – There are 4 historical facts that must be explained by any historical hypothesis.


                · Jesus’ burial (Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb)


                · The discovery of his empty tomb


                · Jesus’ post-mortem appearances


                · The origin of his disciples’ belief in the resurrection

                #2 – The best explanation of those facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

                #1 – the following 4 facts are accepted by the majority of New Testament scholars. (NOTE: If a person wants to study the historicity of the New Testament documents, read the works of New Testament scholars. But aren’t they biased? And, if they are biased, can we trust them? A few points: 1) everyone is biased; 2) bias is helpful, even necessary; 3) a world-famous brain surgeon is biased – if you want to study brain surgery study with those who spend their life on the subject; if you want to study and learn about the guitar do not learn from someone who claims to be “neutral” about the guitar (I think “neutrality” is not an option…).

                Fact 1 – after the crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.

                Evidence: Jesus’ burial is multiply-attested in various independent sources. 

                This does NOT mean that the burial stories are in the 4 Gospels. It means that the source material Mark used is different from the source material of Matthew and Luke, and they are all different from John, and these are all different from Paul’s sources.

                The burial account is part of Mark's source material for the story of Jesus' Passion. 
                This is a very early source which is probably based on eyewitness testimonyand dates to within several years of Jesus' crucifixion.


                Moreover, Paul in his first letter to the church of Corinth also cites an extremely early source for Jesus' burial which most scholars date to within a few years or even months of the crucifixion.


                Independent testimony to Jesus' burial by Joseph is also found in the special sources used by Matthew and Luke and in the Gospel of John. Historians consider themselves to have hit historical pay dirt when they have twoindependent accounts of the same event. But we have the remarkable number of at least five independent sources for Jesus' burial, some of which are extraordinarily early.


                Mark's Passion source didn't end with Jesus' burial, but with the story of the empty tomb, which is tied to the burial account verbally and grammatically. Moreover, Matthew and John rely on independent sources about the empty tomb. Jesus' empty tomb is also mentioned in the early sermons independently preserved in the Acts of the Apostles (2.29; 13.36), and it's implied by the very old tradition handed on by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church (I Cor. 15.4). Thus, we have multiple, early attestation of the fact of the empty tomb in at least four independent sources. (See reasonablefaith.org, Question 103)


                Craig writes:


                Notice the focus is on the early, independent sources used by the New Testament authors.


                First and foremost is the Passion source which Mark used in writing his Gospel. Whereas most of Mark's Gospel consists of short anecdotal stories strung like pearls on a string, when we get to the final week of Jesus' life we encounter a continuous narrative of events from the Jewish plot during the Feast of Unleavened Bread through Jesus' burial and empty tomb.


                The events of the Last Supper, arrest, execution, burial, and empty tomb were central to the identity of early Christian communities. According to James D. G. Dunn, "The most obvious explanation of this feature is that the framework was early on fixed within the tradition process and remained so throughout the transition to written Gospels. This suggests in turn a tradition rooted in the memory of the participants and put into that framework by them" (J. D. G. Dunn,Jesus Remembered, 2003, pp. 765-6.)


                The dominant view among NT scholars is therefore that the Passion narratives are early and based on eyewitness testimony (Mark Allen Powell, JAAR 68 [2000]: 171). Indeed, according to Richard Bauckham, many scholars date Mark's Passion narrative no later than the 40s (recall that Jesus died in A.D. 30) (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 2006, p. 243). So we're dealing here with an extraordinarily early source.


                Matthew and Luke, re. the burial story, draw on resources different from Mark. Craig writes:


                Now Matthew and Luke probably knew Mark's Gospel, as you note, and used it as one of their sources. But the differences between Mark and the other Synoptics point to other independent sources behind Matthew and Luke. These differences are not plausibly explained as due to editorial changes introduced by Matthew and Luke because of (i) their sporadic and uneven nature (e.g., Mark: "tomb which had been hewn out of rock"; Matthew: "tomb which he hewed in the rock"; (ii) the inexplicable omission of events like Pilate's interrogating the centurion; and (iii) Matthew and Luke's agreeing in their wording in contrast to Mark (e.g., Matt. 27.58 = Lk. 23.52 "This man went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus." Also the phrase translated "wrapped it in linen" is identical in Matthew and Luke. How could Matthew and Luke have independently chosen exactly the same wording in contrast to Mark? They both probably had another source. Indeed, as we'll see when we get to the empty tomb account, differences between Matthew and Luke emerge that suggest multiple sources.


                What about the Gospel of John? Craig writes:


                John is generally believed to be independent of the Synoptic Gospels. As Paul Barnett points out, "Careful comparison of the texts of Mark and John indicate that neither of these Gospels is dependent on the other. Yet they have a number of incidents in common: For example, . . . the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" (Jesus and the Logic of History, 1997, pp. 104-5).


                Paul:


                Finally, the old tradition handed on by Paul to the Corinthian church, which is among the earliest traditions identifiable in the NT, refers to Jesus' burial in the second line of the tradition. That this is the same event as the burial described in the Gospels becomes evident by comparing Paul's tradition with the Passion narratives on the one hand and the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles on the other. The four-line tradition handed on by Paul is a summary of the central events of Jesus' crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, and his appearances to the disciples.


                As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that was against Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention.


                NT scholar Raymond Brown says burial by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable. Why? Because: It is almost inexplicable why Christians would make up a story about a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who does what is right by Jesus.


                So most NT scholars say it is highly likely that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.

                Fact #2 – on the Sunday after the crucifixion the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of His women followers.

                Most NT scholars also agree with the fact of the empty tomb.

                Some who argue against this claim that the story of the empty tomb was a fictional, literary creation of Mark.

                1 – The historical reliability of the burial account supports the empty tomb.
                If the account of Jesus’ burial is accurate, then the site of Jesus’ tomb was known to Jew and Christian alike.


                In that case it’s a very short inference to the historicity of the empty tomb.


                Because in that case, the tomb must have been empty when the disciples began to preach that Jesus was risen.


                Why? Because the disciples could not have believed in Jesus’ resurrection if his corpse still was lying in the tomb.


                As long as the corpse of Jesus lay in the tomb, a Christian movement in Jerusalem, founded on the resurrection of Jesus, would never have arisen.

                If the disciples went around preaching “Jesus is risen from the dead,” but his body lay in the tomb, hardly anyone would have believed them. Remember that early Christian belief in the resurrection flourished in Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified.

                More than this, even if a lot of people believed this while the body of Jesus was still in the tomb, the Jewish authorities could have exposed the whole thing by pointing to Jesus’ tomb, even perhaps exhuming Jesus’ dead body.

                2 – the empty tomb is multiply attested in independent early sources.

                The account of Jesus' burial in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea is part of Mark's source material for the passion story. This is a very early source which is probably based on eyewitness testimony. (Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, Kindle Locations 6492-6493).
                Moreover, Matthew and John rely on independent sources about the empty tomb.

                The empty tomb tradition is independently preserved in the early sermons in the book of Acts.
                And, it’s implied in the very old tradition cited by Paul.in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

                Thus we have multiple early attestation of the fact of the empty tomb, in at least 4 independent sources.

                So, the story of the empty tomb can’t be a literary creation of Mark.

                Craig writes:
                What about the empty tomb account? First, it was also part of the pre-Markan Passion narrative. The empty tomb story is syntactically tied to the burial story; indeed, they are just one story. E.g., the antecedent of "him" (Jesus) in Mk. 16:1 is in the burial account (15:43); the women's discussion of the stone presupposes the stone's being rolled over the tomb's entrance; their visiting the tomb presupposes their noting its location in 15.47; the words of the angel "see the place where they laid him" refer back to Joseph's laying body in the tomb.

                As for the other Gospels, that Matthew has an independent tradition of the empty tomb is evident not only from the non-Matthean vocabulary (e.g., the words translated "on the next day," "the preparation day," "deceiver," "guard [of soldiers]," "to make secure," "to seal"; the expression "on the third day" is also non-Matthean, for he everywhere else uses "after three days;" the expression "chief priests and Pharisees" never appears in Mark or Luke and is also unusual for Matthew), but also from Matt. 28.15: "this story has been spread among Jews till this day," indicative of a tradition history of disputes with Jewish non-Christians. Luke and John have the non-Markan story of Peter and another disciple inspecting the tomb, which, given John's independence of Luke, indicates a separate tradition behind the story. Moreover, we have already seen that John's independence of Mark shows that he has a separate source for the empty tomb.
                The early sermons in Acts are likely not created by Luke out of whole cloth but represent early apostolic preaching. We find the empty tomb implied in the contrast between David's tomb and Jesus': "David died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day." But "this Jesus God has raised up" (2:29-32; cf. 13.36-7).

                Finally, the third line of the tradition handed on by Paul summarizes, as I have said, the empty tomb story. The German NT critic Klaus Berger concludes: "Without a doubt the grave of Jesus was found to be empty, and, moreover, the texts about it are not in general dependent upon Mark" (ZKT, 1993, p. 436).

                Thus, the burial and empty tomb of Jesus enjoy multiple, early, independent attestation. While some of these traditions could be variations on a common tradition (such as Luke and John's tradition of the disciples' inspection of the empty tomb in response to the women's report), they cannot all be so regarded because they narrate different events. Even in the case of variations on a common tradition, we are pushed back so early, as Dunn emphasizes, that we must now ask what events occurred to leave such an early impression on the tradition, and the obvious explanation is the burial of Jesus in the tomb and the discovery of the empty tomb. While multiple, independent attestation alone would not render the burial and empty tomb "virtually certain," keep in mind that this is but one line of evidence among many, so that the cumulative case for these facts is very powerful, indeed.

                3 – The tomb was discovered empty by women.

                In patriarchal Jewish society the testimony of women was not highly regarded.

                In fact, the ancient Jewish historian Josephus says that, on account of their boldness and levity, women should not even be allowed to serve as witnesses in a Jewish court of law.
                In light of this fact how remarkable it is that it is women who were the discoverers of Jesus’ empty tomb.

                Any later legendary account would surely have made male disciples find the empty tomb.

                The fact that it is women rather than men who are the chief witnesses to the empty tomb is best explained by the fact that they were the discoverers of the empty tomb.

                The Gospel writers faithfully record what for them was an awkward and embarrassing fact.

                4 – the story of the empty tomb is simple and lacks theological embellishment.

                Mark’s story of the empty tomb is uncolored by the theological and apologetical motifs that would be present if the story was a Christian creation.

                For example, it’s remarkable that in Mark’s account the resurrection of Jesus is not actually described at all.

                Contrast later, forged “gospels,” in which Jesus is seen emerging from the tomb in glory to multitudes of crowds.

                In Mark we have little or no embellishment. At most, the critical historian might want to call the angel a later embellishment.

                But Mark’s account of the resurrection is stark. Simple.

                Mark’s story has all the earmarks of a very primitive tradition which is free from theological and apologetical reflection.

                This is powerful evidence against those critics who argue that Mark’s account of the empty tomb is a literary creation.

                5 – The early church polemic presupposes the empty tomb.

                In Matthew 28 we find a Christian attempt to refute a Jewish polemic against the resurrection.

                Disciples of Jesus were in Jerusalem proclaiming “Jesus is risen from the dead!”

                How did Jews respond to this?

                By saying Jesus’ body is still in the tomb?

                By say the disciples are crazy?

                No – what they did say was this: “The disciples stole away the body.”

                Think about that for a moment.

                The earliest Jewish response to the situation was itself an attempt to explain the fact that the tomb was empty.

                Fact #3 – Jesus’ post-mortem appearances.

                On different occasions and under various circumstances individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus now alive from the dead.

                This is a fact that’s acknowledged by virtually all NT scholars, for the following reasons.

                1 – Paul’s list of resurrection appearances guarantees that such appearances occurred.

                · Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to his chief disciple, Peter.

                · Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to the 12.

                · Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to 500 at once.

                · Paul tells us that Jesus ten appeared to his younger brother James, who apparently at that time was not a believer.

                · Paul then tells us that Jesus appeared to all the apostles.

                · Finally, Paul adds, “Jesus appeared also to me.” And Paul was at that time still an unbeliever.

                Craig writes:

                Undoubtedly the major impetus for the reassessment of the appearance tradition was the demonstration by Joachim Jeremias that in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5 Paul is quoting an old Christian formula which he received and in turn passed on to his converts According to Galatians 1:18 Paul was in Jerusalem three years after his conversion on a fact-finding mission, during which he conferred with Peter and James over a two week period, and he probably received the formula at this time, if not before. Since Paul was converted in AD 33, this means that the list of witnesses goes back to within the first five years after Jesus' death. Thus, it is idle to dismiss these appearances as legendary. We can try to explain them away as hallucinations if we wish, but we cannot deny they occurred. Paul's information makes it certain that on separate occasions various individuals and groups saw Jesus alive from the dead. According to Norman Perrin, the late NT critic of the University of Chicago: "The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based." This conclusion is virtually indisputable.

                Given the early date of Paul’s writing this, plus Paul’s personal acquaintance with the persons involved, these appearances cannot be dismissed as unhistorical.

                NOTE: the early date ensures that the appearance stories cannot be “legendary.” Legends take many years to develop. Craig writes: “For in order for these stories to be in the main legendary, a very considerable length of time must be available for the evolution and development of the traditions until the historical elements have been supplanted by unhistorical.”
                2 – The appearance narratives in the Gospels provide multiple independent attestation of the appearances.

                The appearance narratives span such a breadth of independent sources that it cannot be reasonably denied that the original disciples had such appearances.

                Even the skeptical scholar Gerd Ludemann says it cannot be denied that these early followers of Jesus did have such experiences.

                N.T. Wright, in The Resurrection of the Son of God, gives a 7-step argument in support of these two claims. 
                1. When early Christians are asked why they believed in the resurrection of Christ, “their answers hone in on two things”:
                  1. Stories about Jesus’ tomb being empty.
                  2. Stories about Jesus appearing to people, alive again.
                  3. These stories were formulated within the context and worldview of Second-Temple Judaism. “No second-Temple Jews came up with anything remotely like them.” (688)


              • Neither the empty tomb by itself, nor the appearances by themselves, would have generated early Christian belief in the resurrection.
                1. The empty tomb, by itself, would be a puzzle and a tragedy.
              • i. Perhaps, e.g., the grace had been robbed? “Tombs were often robbed in the ancient world, adding to grief both insult and injury.” (688)

                ii. “Nobody in the pagan world would have interpreted an empty tomb as implying resurrection; everyone knew such a thing was out of the question.” (688-689)

                iii. “Certainly… the disciples were not expecting any such thing to happen to Jesus.” (689)

                  1. The appearances, by themselves, would have been classified as visions or hallucinations, which were well known in the ancient world.
                  2. Individually, the empty tomb and the appearances are insufficient to explain the belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
                1. “However, an empty tomb and appearances of a living Jesus, taken together, would have presented a powerful reason for the emergence of the belief.” (Ib.)
                  1. Together, the empty tomb and the appearances provide a sufficient reason for early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection.
                  2. “From


              • “The meaning of resurrection within Second-Temple Judaism makes it impossible to conceive of this reshaped resurrection belief emerging without it being known that a body had disappeared, and that the person had been discovered to be thoroughly alive again.” (Ib.)
              • Alternative explanations for the emergence of the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead do not have the same explanatory power.
              • “It is therefore historically highly probable that Jesus’ tomb was indeed empty on the third day after his execution, and that the disciples did indeed encounter him giving every appearance of being well and truly alive.” (687)
              • The past and most important question is: What explanation can be given for these two phenomena?

              • Fact #4 – The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus is risen from the dead despite them having every predisposition to the contrary.

                Think of the situation these followers of Jesus faced after his crucifixion.

                1 – Their leader was dead. Jewish Messianic expectations had no idea of a Messiah who would triumph over his enemies by being humiliated and executed by them as a criminal.
                2 – Jewish beliefs about the afterlife did not allow for some individual to rise from the dead before the expected general resurrection from the dead.

                But the early disciples felt so strongly that God had raised the individual man Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for the truth of that belief.
                Then… the question arises… what caused them to believe such an un-Jewish, outlandish thing?

                N.T. Wright says – “That is why, as an historian, that I cannot explain the arising of Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind.”


                SUMMING UP

                The following 4 facts are agreed upon by the majority of New Testament scholars.

                1. Jesus’ burial

                2. Jesus’ empty tomb

                3. Jesus’ post-mortem appearances

                4. The origin of the disciples’ belief

                This brings us to the second major contention, which is: the best explanation for these facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

                6 Tests Historians Use to Discover What Is the Best Explanation For a Given Historical Fact (from historian C.B McCullough)

                The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” passes all of these tests.
                1. It has great explanatory scope – it explains all 4 of the facts before us

                2. It has great explanatory power – it explains each fact well

                3. It is plausible – give the historical context of Jesus’ own life and claims, the resurrection occurs as divine confirmation of those claims.

                4. It is not ad hoc or contrived – it requires only 1 additional hypothesis; viz., that God exists.

                5. It is in accord with accepted beliefs – the hypothesis God raised Jesus from the dead does not conflict with the accepted belief that people don’t rise naturally from the dead.

                6. It far outstrips any rival theories in meeting conditions 1-5. No natural hypothesis does as good a job at explaining the 4 facts.

                I think the best explanation for the historical facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead.


                *****
                ADDITION - N.T. Wright on the Resurrection of Jesus, from his The Resurrection of the Son of God.
                These two things must be regarded as historically secure:

                1. The emptiness of the tomb

                2. The meetings with the risen Jesus

                “These two phenomena are firmly warranted.” (686)

                Wright gives a 7-step argument in support of these two claims.

                1. When early Christians are asked why they believed in the resurrection of Christ, “their answers hone in on two things”:

                a. Stories about Jesus’ tomb being empty.

                b. Stories about Jesus appearing to people, alive again.

                c. These stories were formulated within the context and worldview of Second-Temple Judaism. “No second-Temple Jews came up with anything remotely like them.” (688)

                2. Neither the empty tomb by itself, nor the appearances by themselves, would have generated early Christian belief in the resurrection.

                a. The empty tomb, by itself, would be a puzzle and a tragedy.

                i. Perhaps, e.g., the grace had been robbed? “Tombs were often robbed in the ancient world, adding to grief both insult and injury.” (688)

                ii. “Nobody in the pagan world would have interpreted an empty tomb as implying resurrection; everyone knew such a thing was out of the question.” (688-689)
                iii. “Certainly… the disciples were not expecting any such thing to happen to Jesus.” (689)

                b. The appearances, by themselves, would have been classified as visions or hallucinations, which were well known in the ancient world.

                c. Individually, the empty tomb and the appearances are insufficient to explain the belief in the resurrection of Jesus.

                3. “However, an empty tomb and appearances of a living Jesus, taken together, would have presented a powerful reason for the emergence of the belief.” (Ib.)

                a. Together, the empty tomb and the appearances provide a sufficient reason for early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

                4. “The meaning of resurrection within Second-Temple Judaism makes it impossible to conceive of this reshaped resurrection belief emerging without it being known that a body had disappeared, and that the person had been discovered to be thoroughly alive again.” (Ib.)
                5. Alternative explanations for the emergence of the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead do not have the same explanatory power.

                6. “It is therefore historically highly probable that Jesus’ tomb was indeed empty on the third day after his execution, and that the disciples did indeed encounter him giving every appearance of being well and truly alive.” (687)

                7. The past and most important question is: What explanation can be given for these two phenomena?